*Recently EURweb.com, along with other media gatekeepers and industry taste-makers, were invited to a small club just off Canal St. in NYC to check out the BET Music Matters Showcase. Featured therein was a young man name Austin Brown. He is the heir to music royalty.
His mother is Rebbie Jackson, older sister to Janet Jackson and the late Michael Joseph Jackson. After a rousing set that drew a standing ovation I got a chance to speak with Brown about his sound and his inspirations. But how much pressure is there being a next generation Jackson performer?
“None at all because if I wasn’t from the family that I’m from I would still be doing this,” said Brown. “I really love making music. The most pressure I put on myself is how can I grow and get better. Success is how you measure and if I create a great body of work that’s what’s successful.”
Fair enough! There’s currently a buzz regarding Brown and the fact that he’s finally releasing an album, but those that are in the know are aware that this offering has actually been a long time coming. He has had some business dealings with producer Rodney Jerkins and has even been signed to a major label (Interscope) since 2004, but had to hit the proverbial reset button.
“I’ve been doing music for about 10 or 12 years and I’ve just been getting better along the way, just trying to grow and articulate what I want to communicate to my audience,” he explained. “It was definitely a long time coming. I’ve had some bumps in the road and some different ideas come along the way. It’s just overall growth and I’m getting better. I’m still growing, still learning. You never stop getting better, ever!”
“For me it’s that you never know what people are and aren’t going to like,” Brown continued. “The only thing you can do is be your best and try to be different from the rest of the crowd, in your own special way. Be good at what it is you do. That’s how I approach my music and that’s how i approach my creativity. I try to do the best that I can do, and the best work that I can do, and I don’t like to put up any barriers.”
I’ve seen this young man live and can honestly say he puts on a show filled with soaring vocals, funky bass players and dance moves reminiscent of … well, you know who. Each layer of his artistry pays homage to those that came before him.
“I’m the type of artist that likes to take the real music of the past and mix it in with the revolutionary spirit of what pop culture is today,” Austin told EURweb.com. “It’s young, it’s expressive, it’s free and kind of creating a cult following of expression and creativity. It’s really paying homage to everyone who inspired me to be the person that I am today.”
Sometimes it is difficult for a reporter to be original, especially when you’re covering the same stories that the outlets are covering. But when it comes to a nephew of the late King of Pop, and Janet Jackson, pop royalty in her own right, I wouldn’t be worth my weight in Associated Press Style guides if I didn’t ask Brown what influence his family members had on him artistically.
“Musically, what I love about what Janet does is how she has a very sweet, soft tone. I love her harmonies and they use a lot of chord changes with her. When you hear those chord changes and her harmonizing over them they’re really going to hit you,” said Brown.
“My Uncle Michael, his voice was like a trumpet the way he could maneuver it. That’s what’s amazing. Then when he slows down I don’t think there’s ever been a falsetto as beautiful as his. Then, when it comes to another person in my family I respect, it’s my Uncle Randy’s musicianship. You’re talking about a guy who at 16 helped write one of the greatest disco songs ever, ‘Shake Your Body To the Ground’. I really got to see all the aspects of their music and how they dug in deep and kept growing and growing.”
Both Janet and Michael, as well as most other Jacksons, were all known for cutting a rug to shreds. Translation: they could dance! During the BET Showcase I witnessed Austin Brown’s footwork up close and can honestly say he has his own flavor up there. A flavor worth savoring.
“It depends upon what you wanna do. I’m more schizo with my dance moves. I just move and groove and go on pure feeling. The music is what moves me. There are a lot of guys that dance very, very well. Usher, Chris Brown and others, but that’s more choreographed dancing. I just like to feel it. I just like to go and I do so much on stage that I just can’t remember everything.”
Some people might feel like Brown will automatically be handed the keys to the industry just because he’s the offspring of a Jackson but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Fact it that because his family is who they are, Brown will be scrutinized and criticized even more. But don’t take ‘their’ word for it, or even ‘our’ word for that matter. She can check out his sound on your own.
“The first single that just premiere on 106th and Park is called ‘Menage A Trois’. It’s about being in love with two people and you have to make a choice. It was an abstract, fun story and we wanted to do it kind of like a Stax Records sound or an early Motown vibe, combined with what might sound like a J. Dilla beat with the baseline that makes you feeling like you’re standing next to James Jamerson. We really dig deep.”
“I’m part of BET Music Matters, so I’m putting all of that together right now. The album is called ‘Highway 85’. The name comes from the fact that I was born in 1985 and it’s been a long journey. You kind of go through life and travel the road to get to where you want to go. But you realize you really don’t know where you’re going but you’re getting better all the time.”