How Kane Brown Went from Army Hopeful to FedEx Employee to Country Stardom

When Kane Brown thought about life after graduation while attending Chattanooga High School in Tennessee, he certainly wasn’t planning on a career as a country star.

“Me and my mom thought I’d be an athlete,” Brown, 25, tells PEOPLE in the Dec. 3 issue. “I played sports since I was 3. I was the quarterback of the football team; I was captain of the basketball team; I was a pitcher in baseball. I was always one of the best players on the team.”

Once Brown realized “I wasn’t going to get a scholarship to college,” he followed his friends’ lead and joined the Army. “I ended up doing my test and I was about to get sent off,” Brown recalls. “They told me I had to get my tattoos removed first. I was like, ‘Hell no!’ So then I ended up getting a job at FedEx.”

While working at FedEx, Brown strived to make top dollar as a truck driver. “At that time, music wasn’t even an option,” the “Heaven” singer admits.

Brown — who took choir in middle school and grew up listening to country music — continued to post cover songs on YouTube, and his boss eventually encouraged him to pursue music full-time.

“My manager was like, ‘It’s time for you to quit,’ “ the country star says. “I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I was nervous.”

For more on Kane Brown, pick up the current issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

He went on to get a publishing deal, which earned Brown enough money to afford an apartment in Nashville. When his cover of George Strait’s “Check Yes or No” went viral in 2015, Brown continued to keep his head down.

“I never really took it all in because I was too busy worrying,” Brown says. “I was like, ‘Do they like me? Do they not like me?’ I was just trying to adapt to the music world.”

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The newcomer got support from country legends like Jason Aldean, whom Brown joined on tour in 2017, and Florida Georgia Line, who helped pen Brown’s song “Hometown” off his self-titled debut album.

“I didn’t feel like the new artists liked me that much,” Brown reveals. “But all the people who were basically legends, they loved it.”

Now following the release of his second album Experiment, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts and made Brown one of just three country artists to achieve the feat this year, he looks forward to his first arena tour in 2019 with supporting acts Danielle Bradbery, RaeLynn, and Jimmie Allen.

“We play a lot of cornhole!” Brown says of time on the road. “My fans are basically family and the artists that I’m bringing out are family too. So hopefully we’ll all just hang out, drink a few beers, play some cornhole and have a good show.”

Despite his success, Brown — who married music management student and fellows singer Katelyn Jae in October — doesn’t quite feel like he’s made it.

“I always used to say, I’ll say I made it when I hit a million followers on Instagram,” the newlywed shares. “I hit a million followers on Instagram, and I was like, ‘When I get my first number one, then I’ll say I made it.’ And I just keep pushing it. I guess I’ll say I made it if I ever get to the Aldean level.”

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