Kameron Marlowe tells his life story in his sprawling, 16-track debut album, We Were Cowboys, which arrived on Aug. 26.

Authenticity is a common buzzword for a country project, especially a debut album, which serves as an artist's first introduction to his or her fanbase. But Marlowe sets his sights on rigorous, personal truth-telling in every element of We Were Cowboys, from the fact that he's a co-writer on over half its songs to his commitment to making sure the stories he tells are powerful, vibrant and true, even — in one track — at the light-hearted expense of his grandmother's reputation at church.

The song, "Granny's Got a Garden (For G'Maw Jan)," comes late in the tracklist, and Marlowe got the idea to write it after telling his co-writer Rob Williford a story about a time that his grandma caught him smoking weed. He was in his late teens at the time, and he arrived at his grandmother's house soon after smoking.

"I was like, 'She'll never know. She'll never smell it,'" the singer tells Taste of Country. "I gave her a hug and she said, 'Have you been smoking?' I said 'Yes, Grandma. I apologize. I didn't mean to let you down. It won't happen again.'"

Marlowe's grandmother replied that she needed to talk to him, and led him into a back bedroom.

"I thought I was gonna get pretty good and yelled at," he admits. "And we go back, and she pulls out this little Crown Royal bag — you know the [bag] the whiskey bottle comes in, the little purple bag? She pulls out one of those, and it had a big ol' jar of weed and rolling papers."

In an unexpected turn of events, it happened that Marlowe's grandmother shared his penchant for pot. "Rolled up a joint, and that was the first time I ever smoked at my grandma's," he concludes.

The singer says his grandmother had her doubts when she learned that the song was going on his album. "She's a little nervous. Her church friends might look at her a little different," he jokes. Still, in addition to being a great story for a country song, the track has an important underlying message: Marlowe's grandparents have always been an important part of his life — they even gave him the money to record his first song — and at heart, he's a huge family guy.

"It's such a fun song, and something that means so much to me. Family is everything to me," he relates.

Equally nostalgic — if less surprising — is the title track of We Were Cowboys, a song that brings Marlowe's childhood back to life, complete with an image of the exact car he drove as a teen, a 1993 Chevy Silverado. He wrote the song during a trip to Wyoming, where he and some of his close collaborators — including Wyatt McCubbin, Marlowe's frequent songwriting partner, good friend and opener for his current headlining tour — were planning to write some material for Tyler Farr. But against the backdrop of wide open spaces in Montana, something clicked, and they began to write for Marlowe's own project.

"And that song ['We Were Cowboys'] is what really changed my whole record," the singer details. "There were a lot of songs that were gonna be on the record that I decided to remove to make room for some of the newer songs I was writing. When we wrote 'We Were Cowboys,' it kinda gave me that direction of which way I really wanted the record to go, and kind of solidified what I was trying to do."

Evocative, cinematic and deeply personal, the song helped Marlowe create a world inspired by the one in which he grew up. Making things even more meaningful was the fact that he connected with his co-writers — including McCubbin, as well as Farr — over his memories of early formative experiences.

"It's a 'growing up' song, and it's so cool, because we all came from different families but we all had the same kind of raising," he continues. "So it was something very special to us when we wrote it."

Marlowe's resolve to keep true to those personal, true-to-life stories also played into his selection for the first single off the album, "Giving You Up." The singer admits he was tempted to select another track to set to radio: "Burn 'Em All," an uptempo live favorite, which he knew would deliver big, anthemic energy. But "Giving You Up" was his grassroots breakout hit, a solo write that he'd first put out as an independent artist, and it also shared another important piece of his past.

"That song has changed my life from the beginning," Marlowe says of "Giving You Up." "From when I wrote this song and it gave me peace from a girl I was planning on getting married to, to absolutely changing my life in the sense of being my first record."

Now, he's found that it's had a life-changing effect on listeners, too.

"I've gotten so many reactions from fans, messages from fans, saying 'This song helped me through such a tough time,'" Marlowe adds. "I really wanted to put another song out — I'm not gonna lie. But I felt like this song wasn't done yet, if that makes sense. The song is still doing its thing, so I wanted to get it out there and let that be my first single, because it's already changed my life so much."

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