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Interview - V V Brown

Lifestyle | Article

A record deal at 19 sent Vanessa Brown to L.A. 18-months later, with her dreams shattered, she fell “like a comet from a broken sky”.

Back in London she reinvented herself as, well…herself actually.
Under the name V V Brown, she was given a second bite of the cherry. Simon Stabler interviews the come back kid, who feels it’s time to make music exciting again.

VV Brown

For the past 10 years, I have felt that new guitar music is either too noisy or just plain boring. To avoid sounding like a cross between my Dad and an 18-year old, I turned my back on Rock and Indie, immersing myself in the world of not-so-throwaway pop. Someone who shares my belief that music should be fun, describing the colour of her music as “red, yellow and orange as opposed to grey, brown and beige” is V V Brown. It was her debut single Crying Blood that made me love music again.
Trying to avoid lazy journalistic cliches, this tale of a relationship gone wrong sounds like a phenomenal soul talent singing on a Fatboy Slim remix of the Monster Mash. V V assures me that while “there is a similarity, I’d never heard of the Monster Mash until people mentioned it. While the structure is very 50s other artists such as Duffy and Amy Winehouse have nods to little known songs from the 60s and 70s. Even if those structures were used deliberately they’re less likely to be recognised.”
Hailing from Northampton, V V, the daughter of two schoolteachers, was something of a child prodigy - learning the organ at her gospel church and classical piano and the trumpet at school. Completing and gaining 4 As, at A Level, a year early, she took a year off to concentrate on her music with the intention to study law at university later on.
Relocating to London, she embarked on session work. Singing backing vocals for Westlife and Madonna, before being offered a deal with Polydor, under her real name Vanessa Brown. A name she “hasn’t been called for a long time.”  The 18-months with the label saw her move to L.A and begin writing songs for her debut album Into The Music. Featuring musicians who’d worked with Earth, Wind and Fire, Whitney Houston and Joni Mitchell, the album never saw the light of day. Although a single called Whipped was released and promoted on Top of the Pops, a show “I used to watch religiously”.
Reviews at the time said that she had “a truly fantastic voice - rather like a more mature Joss Stone with greater range and power.” While the song itself was a “funked up kind of soul that's hard to forget.” Despite the positive noises V V felt she was being compromised, hating the sound. “The production took my songs somewhere I had never envisioned, the more strings they added, the more the music lost its honesty and innocence.” She wasn’t keen on the way she looked either, with her record label dictating the way they thought she should be. “In my case it was a UK soul diva – which I’m not at all.”
With her dreams shattered, she found herself “in a confusing lost place”. Unsure what she wanted to do, V V killed time writing and performing backing vocals for Pussycat Dolls. A return to London coincided with her ending a romance with a booking agent. “He was a real arsehole, I loved him, but I knew he was no good.” Skint and heartbroken she brought a guitar from a charity shop. She stripped it down to a single string, marking the notes out in nail varnish, and set about writing new material.
She wrote Denial for the Sugababes and taking the pain and confusion of the last few years wrote Crying Blood and found a new deal with Island. After the track entered the national radar, V V began performing live. In October she supported the Sugababes at The Forum, Kentish Town as part of the Q Awards: The Gigs season. While November saw her first headline gig at the Soho Review Bar and as support to Ida Maria of “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” fame, she embarked on her first tour of the UK.
Blur’s Damon Albarn is such a fan that he invited her to join his Africa Express collective on a tour of Lagos. And for someone who feels “there aren’t enough TV shows promoting the performance of music” a slot on Later with Jools Holland must have been the icing on the cake?
“I felt like an invader. There were all these people like Metallica up there. It was like a dream come true.” During her appearance, she played two tracks, Crying Blood (obviously) and Bottles, the Chopsticks borrowing track from her forthcoming album Travelling Like the Light. Released in June 2009, the album features more examples of V V’s diverse music tastes, including follow-up single Leave.
“My range of styles are so different, I’m into everything, I love the B52s,” which is evident to anyone who has heard the track Quick Fix.  “And I love Ruth Brown, who didn’t have the recognition she deserved. She was fun, she always had a tambourine and her clothes were so cool.”
For someone who has an individual style that makes a statement, it’s no surprise that V V is also influenced by Grace Jones. But who is she loving at the moment?  “I think the Kings Of Leon are really good and I'm really loving Vampire Weekend. They are really interesting. Their album has an amazing fusion of musical styles. It’s time for music to be fun and exciting again.”  

For someone who refuses to compromise V V has no worries about missing out on awards. “Fame is delusional, it’s not real. I just want to make good music, be able to pay my rent and eat. I’m the kind of person who’ll tour forever. People will know my music from experiencing it, not record company hype.”


May 2009 - Peterborough UK Community Website




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