Gary Allan, Drake Milligan, EmiSunshine — Country producer Tony Brown is back in business

Jeremy Roberts
7 min readJul 1, 2021
The stars are out tonight as former MCA Nashville President Tony Brown embarks on his next production. Image Credit: Tony Brown’s official Facebook

The Tony Brown Interview, Part Six

What projects are occupying your calendar these days?

Now that I’m not working at a record label [i.e. RCA, MCA Nashville, or Universal South], it’s become such a young man’s world. I’m starting all over again, which is fine with me. In the beginning I had no idea that you could make real money producing records. That finally happened when George Strait’s Pure Country soundtrack sold six million and Wynonna’s self-titled debut sold five [both albums were issued in 1992 on MCA Nashville when Brown was quickly rising through the ranks on his way to assume CEO duties]. Vince Gill’s I Still Believe in You, When Love Finds You, and the best-of Souvenirs [1992–1995] were certified between 3 and 5x platinum. A handful of my albums with Reba McEntire — Rumor Has It, For My Broken Heart, It’s Your Call, Read My Mind, and Greatest Hits Volume Two [1990–1994] — shifted similar units.

I’ve always wanted to be known as a producer. If somebody stops me on the street and goes, “Hey, did you do that record on Reba? That’s my favorite record on the radio!” It makes you feel like a million bucks, even better than money.

EmiSunshine

EmiSunshine [Hamilton] is from East Tennessee [Madisonville] and entered my orbit in the summer of 2017. She sings with her family and is a prodigy. She writes all her own songs. She’s like two of my past collaborators — Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle — that Americana left-of-center kinda artist. She doesn’t fit in any box. All the labels have told me, “Emi is awesome, but I don’t know what she is.” Déjà vu — Lyle Lovett. I remember when I signed Lyle the head of RCA’s A&R said, “Who’s gonna play that?” I said, “Somebody will.” The three albums I produced for Lyle [his self-titled debut, Pontiac, and Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, 1986–1989] flew into the C&W Top 20, with the latter two accomplishing gold certification [500,000 units sold]. “Cowboy Man” was a Top Ten single.

I produced Emi’s sixth studio album Family Wars [credited to EmiSunshine and the Rain, 2019] without the support of a major label. Her dad Randall plays bass, her brother John supplies mandolin, and her…

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Jeremy Roberts

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ something fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net