Kane Brown and Chris Young closed out 2021 with a special accolade, as their chart-topping duet, "Famous Friends," was Billboard's most-played country radio single of the year. They're keeping the song's momentum going in 2022 with a new partnership with wireless carrier USCellular's ongoing "Locally Grown. Locally Live" campaign.

The two artists are interacting with the campaign through social media and offering a fan sweepstakes to win a meet and greet with them, but perhaps the part of the campaign closest to their hearts is their new artist feature: They'll help put a spotlight on seven rising musical acts from across the country.

Both Brown and Young have well-established passions for paying their success forward to talented emerging artists. Young recently stopped by a Nashville bar to offer some encouragement to a performer covering one of his songs, for example, and Brown's latest single, "One Mississippi" is a co-write with Levon Gray, who connected with Brown on Instagram and impressed the star so much that he signed Gray to his publishing company.

But they're especially excited about this particular campaign because both Young and Brown owe their first fan bases to unique, community-driven spotlights, the two artists explained in a recent interview with Taste of Country.

"You know, a lot of people forget, but I got my deal from Nashville Star," points out Young, who was the winner of Season 4 of the televised singing competition in 2006.

"[It] was an opportunity to get in front of a lot of people and play my music as an up-and-coming musician."

Meanwhile, Brown rose to fame with the help of social media. He performed cover songs by artists including Randy Travis, Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan, with many of his performances going viral.

Those covers were actually the beginning of what would eventually turn into his friendship with Young, ultimately spawning their "Famous Friends" duet.

"I probably did as many Chris covers as I did other people's covers," Brown notes. "And then when I got signed with Sony, it was the same label that Chris was on, and they knew I loved him right off the bat."

They finally met through Young's now-manager, Rob Beckham.

"Rob Beckham flew me out on his jet with him and introduced me to Chris down in Atlanta for the first time," Brown continues. "I got to meet him. I got to meet his mom. The first show in general I ever went to was Chris Young and Brad Paisley, so I go way back further with Chris than when Chris even knew who I was."

"I was actually lucky enough to find out about KB before we even met at that show," Young interjects. "Then what kind of kicked off me and him actually getting to know each other was a buddy of ours, Josh Hoge, who I've written a bunch of songs with. And obviously, he's written a bunch of songs with Kane. He was like, 'Man, we should all get together in a room and write sometime.'...In fact, the first time we collaborated together was a song we wrote together, that I sang, on one of Kane's records."

To Brown, Young is a hero-turned-friend and peer, and he gives him a lot of credit for teaching him about the craft of songwriting and artistry early on.

"Chris was a big help with that, just getting to sing his songs, and it made me really learn about him and fall in love with his craft," Brown explains. "Which led us to 'Famous Friends.' It's such a full-circle moment. It's amazing, the stuff you get to look back on. So we were blessed with this platform — why not give back and use it?"

To learn more about Young and Brown's campaign and sweepstakes, visit USCellular's website.

Best Country Albums of 2021 - Critic's Picks

This list of the best country albums of 2021 was curated by Taste of Country staff, with help from fans and with consideration of industry acclaim and mainstream accessibility.

The top album of the year is a traditional country record that makes subtle efforts to include more progressive-minded fans. Elsewhere, find projects from a dynamic mix of artists and and visionaries.

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