TUNED IN to VV Brown
Our featured Tuned In artist this week is VV Brown. Music critics across the globe are describing her as a pop music phenom. Her current album "Travelling Like The Light" is filled with songs in almost every imaginable genre.
Her ability to write, produce, and perform on a level that is on par with some of our greatest artists is impressive. Her ability to do this with multiple genres has been even more impressive to music critics who have called her one of our most gifted current artists.
We caught up with her at Johnny Brenda's in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. She spoke candidly to us about her passion for music, fashion, and diversity. She attributes part of her interest in eclectic sounds to her diverse background. She was born and raised in the U.K. where her parents, who are Puerto Rican and Jamaican, exposed her to a variety of music.
Please enjoy her biography courtesy of her record label, EMI/Capital Records.
Track by track, the insanely singable, danceable and memorable songs of TRAVELLING LIKE THE LIGHT claim V V's personal and artistic turf among the most gifted of today's singer-songwriters, and even suggest the career peaks of the young Bette Midler and comeback-era Tina Turner. As the songwriter and co-producer of her own music, it's impossible to miss V V's deep appreciation of pop, soul and rock music's breadth, stretching from the very foundation grooves of rock-and-roll, to the kinds of video-game and analog synth sounds that turned up in 80s hip-hop and the post-2K crunk.
V V's smart, fluent, intuitive fusion of timeless influences shines throughout this album of highlights: "Crying Blood," with its primal punch and futuristic speed-freak energy; "Shark in the Water," an impressive pop composition made extraordinary through its contemporary interpretation of our collective pop memory; the eclectic yet coherent "LEAVE!"; the charming 60s west-coast-style stroll "Bottles;" the blithe, "Heart and Soul"-quoting "Crazy Amazing;" and the heart-tugging title track album closer.
To tune in more precisely to the quirky yet emotionally resonant references of the album, think more Shangri-Las (as in the intro to the pounding "L.O.V.E.") than Dusty in Memphis. And certainly, think more the jagged, intensely-felt psychodramas of Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry/Phil Spector/George "Shadow" Morton ("Back in Time," and the achingly sincere, classic-styled "I Love You") than the sleeker confections of Holland- Dozier-Holland. Moreover, V V's generational identity can be heard woven into the album in the unmistakable indie and DIY feel of her compositions, particularly in the punkish energy of "Quick Fix," and the transformed P-Funk elements of "Game Over."
Although V V has been heard to call her mix a "musical mashed potatoes," betraying her unassuming side, the truth is that with TRAVELLING LIKE THE LIGHT, she does justice to a long tradition of strong, individual female voices that have had the power to define their times -- Alicia Keys and Amy Winehouse, prominent among V V's immediate inspirations. Since the European release of her album in mid-2008, V V has left an exciting visual trail of official video clips and fan-posted television, online, and festival appearances all over the cybersphere. In all of these, she's an absolutely luminous presence, vocally, visually and creatively.
"I can't remember a time when music was not a part of me," she says of her Northampton, England childhood. "When I was five, I remember writing my first song on the piano. I played the same notes over and over again and from that moment I just knew that music would be a huge part of my life." As a youngster, she daydreamed with her five siblings about being on Top Of The Pops; yet, "I've always felt slightly on the edge of the circle." Every Sunday she sang in church choir; at home she heard Aretha, The Rolling Stones, Ruth Brown, Elvis Presley, and Queen in her parents' collection, and also the video game music from Super Mario Land.
By her own admission, the early pursuit of a music career left her alone and thoroughly off-course. The teachers' daughter skipped university, and signed to a major label at the age of 19 in Los Angeles, gathering pseudononymous co-writer and background vocal credits on the albums of platinum artists. But after three years in the mill, she felt profoundly bereft of purpose, not to mention devastated by a bad break-up. "I lost myself completely," she remembers. "I lost my identity. My voice. Everything."
But she woke up and found her voice, in every respect: "Artists I love, from Alicia Keys through to Amy Winehouse, connect with people because they do not compromise," she realized. "They make music which reflects who they are, and when you're honest on all levels, people will connect with that. People can tell. The way you walk, talk, wear your hair and breathe. Everything that's happened in the last few years has taught me to value the idea of knowing yourself, and being yourself." The far wiser, deal-less V V was so broke that she sold her keyboard to pay for her flight home from California -- but she was not broken. Back home with her aunt and sisters, "every day was spent making music. Every hour, every day from nine in the morning until two the next morning." Money was so tight that V V bought a one-stringed guitar in a charity shop -- and wrote "Crying Blood" about her ex the very next day. She later continued that story in "Crazy Amazing," inspired by a new friend who "made me feel like a princess," and put her in the mood to write a joyful song based on the piano-beginner and doo-wop standard "Heart and Soul."
Now, V V Brown is a dynamo self-starter: a songwriter and producer; an absolute trouper through two European music festival seasons; a fashion maven with a retail website devoted to her personal eye for retro style in the 21st century, and even a model, first signed through a chance in-flight meeting, and now represented by Next Models. But be aware that these are all deeply integrated, under her creative ownership, not the scattered branding efforts of a newbie with a "360" deal. "It's honest - it's not about being festooned with 10-million-pound diamonds or having perfect hair. It's about letting out all these ideas I've had locked up in my mind," V V states.
Signed in 2008 to write and produce her own album, V V now lives in London in a quaint cottage with her sisters. "I can't see myself moving any time soon. Why should I change? I'll wake up in the morning and have no idea what I'm going to write," she says, with obvious anticipation and excitement. "I just want a simple life, with extraordinary music in it." As V V's interviews explain the absolute necessity of singing, songwriting, performing and visuals as expressions in her own life, her album makes an open-andshut case that the passions and pleasures of TRAVELLING LIKE THE LIGHT are about to become necessities in ours. You are now Tuned In to VV Brown
On the web-
More on the venue-
Johnny Brenda's is a bar, restaurant, and music venue located in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. Featuring a world-class sound system, and a balcony (a rarity for a room it's size), it is unlike any performance space in Philadelphia. It maintains the feel of an elegant, iconic historical social hall with design elements reminiscent of a turn of the century burlesque club or theater.
Built on a philosophy of supporting the local community, Johnny Brenda's serves all-draft high quality beer from local brewers as well as an eclectic menu using fresh ingredients supplied from area farmers.
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