When fans of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” first tuned into the popular summer talent contest back in July, they might have recognized a familiar voice from years gone by. Traditional country singer-songwriter Marty Brown, who enjoyed humble success as a recording artist on MCA Records in the early 1990’s, wowed judges comedian Howie Mandel, Spice Girl Mel B, supermodel Heidi Klum, and radio shock jock Howard Stern, as well as the audience around our great nation, when he performed a stunning rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” The rousing performance earned the carpenter-by-day and country crooner-by-night a spot in the Las Vegas round of the competition, where he continued to enchant the masses with his cover of fellow Kentuckian Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All.” Louisville Music News caught up with Brown during a recent private fan-appreciation show here in Louisville.
The Franklin, Kentucky resident’s story begins in Maceo, Kentucky, where he was born to country musicians and country fans Vincent and Barbara Brown, who gravitate toward the traditional sounds of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and George Jones. The elder Brown made a lasting impression upon his young son, who revered his father as a country music superstar when he played country music on the weekends. Being constantly surrounded by the sweet sounds of country music, Marty Brown began to hone his songwriting craft at a young age. His mother enjoyed her talented son’s early songwriting ventures but taught him a realistic life-lesson that radio would not be interested in 20-minute songs he had recorded while sitting on the edge of the tub in the family’s only bathroom. Once the family bought the loving mother her very first microwave oven, she’d set the aspiring country artist down in the kitchen, put a coffee cup of water in the microwave, and set the timer for three minutes, teaching him that once the microwave timer had sounded, his song should be over. Brown continued to write from the heart and his talents caught the attention of Nashville in 1991, which led to three MCA albums. Record executives eventually decided that the then-current flavor of country music and Brown’s ultra-traditional sound were not compatible, and his record contract was not extended past the original three-album agreement.
Despite Nashville’s changing sound, Brown never turned his back on his beloved style of music. He continued to write tunes (including Tracy Byrd’s “I’m from the Country”) and play any gig he could get, while picking up carpentry jobs to feed his growing family. Nine years ago, Brown’s life was forever changed when he married the love of his life, Shellie, whom he met in Nashville. The high school English teacher has supported her husband’s country music dream for the last decade and she knew it was time to share her husband’s passion with America when she took a vacation day last December for the couple to drive to downtown Nashville for a romantic lunch. Following the meal, Brown decided he would attempt to knock on some music executive doors to further pursue his dream, but Shellie broke the news to him that he couldn’t on that particular winter day because she had snuck his guitar into the trunk and he was going to the AGT auditions at the convention center that afternoon. Brown was reluctant, but eventually convinced to audition, and several hours later, the initial audition had wrapped and the couple drove back home to Kentucky. Months passed before Brown received a call from NBC producers and the couple was flown to San Antonio, Texas for the televised audition of “Make You Feel My Love”—it was during that audition that Brown’s talent and the genuine love between he and his sweet wife melted the hearts of America.
Although Brown was choked up from emotion after hearing his beloved father speak for one of the first times following throat surgery last year during a taped interview aired as an introduction to Brown’s most recent performance of Shania Twain’s “Still the One” on the famed stage of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, his dream is still alive as he remains in the competition. Country fans have diligently been voting and have secured the singer a spot in the show’s semi-finals round of competition. His next performance will be on Tuesday, September 3, and fans are encouraged to vote to help this Kentucky boy bring home the $1 million top prize, to land him a headlining show in Las Vegas, and to allow him to perform live for the fans during the America’s Got Talent Tour. Although he wasn’t at liberty to divulge to Louisville Music News what song he’ll perform in the next round of competition, he promises to make the fans proud, especially all his Kentucky fans back home. Whether it’s this next round or a future round (if fans successfully vote him through), Brown hopes to have the chance to perform one of his original tunes for America.
Following Brown’s September 3 performance on AGT (airing on NBC from 9 – 11p.m. EDT), fans can vote via phone, email, or Twitter. Brown will be assigned a toll-free phone number and immediately following the show, fans can call the number and vote 10 times per phone, so be sure to vote 10 times on your landline and 10 times from each cell phone in your household. Fans can also vote 10 times per email address, so be sure to vote using all email addresses in your household – online voting can be done via NBC.com, Facebook, Zeebox and the NBC app available on smartphones and tablets. Fans with Twitter accounts will be allowed one vote by tweeting “#voteAGT Marty Brown” following the show. Online voting will be open from 10:55p.m. Tuesday, September 3 – 6 a.m. EDT Wednesday, September 4. Telephone voting will be open from 10:55 p.m. that Tuesday – 1am Wednesday.
Congratulations and best wishes, Marty! Bring home the big win for Kentucky!