To be frank, I am not the ideal audience member for 99% of current, indie female singers. I most often find myself being sent into the inevitable insulin shock at the sound of their cliché chorus’, over the top emotional love ballads and Fran Drescher sounding voices—(nothing against Fran, but it’s a voice that should not be in song). So, hold on to your country hats, and hold on for a game-changer that gets you excited about indie music again; and not just indie music, but indie music with a strong, feisty female lead. Meet Deanna Brown, who is a female with real talent, real songs, a real voice and the one with real legs; in other words, the one with staying power.
Deanna Brown hails from Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, (not named because of the music, but because the fertile soil makes the grass appear blue). It is a state filled with expansive rivers, immense parks, tons of wildlife and the longest cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave. At the age of five, Deanna’s mother had her try out for a singing part in an Oscar Meyer Bologna commercial. Although she wasn’t selected, it was a love affair at first sight between Deanna, singing and the camera. She began writing words to instrumental Christian music and recording them into a karaoke style machine. From there she began singing in school choirs, talent shows and local fair competitions. In the years 2002, 2004 and 2008, she participated in the television program American Idol, where she wowed the judges with a sultry rendition of Otis Redding’s Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, and she made it to the finals.
Today, we find Deanna, nestled away in the tropical climate, perfectly baked US Virgin Islands. But she has not exactly been ‘sittin’ on the dock of the bay’. A year after Idol, she inked her first record deal with Ocean Records and released Traveler, her debut album. It was a bluesy, thought provoking piece of work, which firmly planted her voice, her sound and her sentiment in the hearts of fans, new and old. “The type of music I write chooses me,” she says, her Kentucky drawl hanging loosely in the air. “The framework for my musical style was developed by growing up in Kentucky and listening to soulful southern rock. Somewhere around high school, in the late 90′s, I discovered Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette. These ballsy women showed me how to find my voice.”
And finding her voice is exactly what she’s done. Her latest release, The Plunge, amplifies the elements that made Traveler so alluring. “Traveling and immersing myself amidst eclectic musicians has given me the ability to write artsy songs as well as radio friendly pop numbers,” she says. The Plunge plays like a Greatest Hits album, waiting for us to discover our next favorite song. It’s extraordinarily assured, polished and highly appealing. And in the album, you hear hints of her influences; coupled with her own strength as an artist and musician, she creates a sound that is uniquely and authentically her own. “My influences include musicians such as Fiona Apple, Alanis, Jewel, PJ Harvey, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Coldplay and Radiohead,” she says. “Also, many of my favorite books and movies have influenced strong feelings and have turned into songs for me. Some of those are Crime and Punishment, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, Anna Karenina and movies like The Notebook and True Romance.” It also helps that some of Deanna’s favored song topics include; Leaving, Traveling, Living Life to the Fullest, Taking the Plunge, Rediscovering Oneself, Love Won and Love Lost.
And as the notoriety of Idol, gathers dust in her rearview mirror, Deanna faces the challenges and rewards of being an independent artist on a daily basis. “Some of the benefits of being an indie artist are having full control over the creative process,” she says. “You are involved in every aspect of getting a song written and recorded; being aware of the massive amount of behind the scenes work that goes into making music, getting to connect one on one with fans and being able to sell your merchandise independently.” It is a double edged sword. “Some disadvantages include not fully knowing where to start when you are first getting your name out there, keeping up momentum and not letting yourself think one or two goals getting reached is going to propel you for an extended amount of time, and having every decision come down to you (although great sometimes) can be overwhelming at times too. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up.”
Deanna is a seasoned road veteran, once again gearing up for a tour next month. She knows what it takes to cultivate a loyal following and have her audience invest, now and in the future. In her trademark, down home charm, the sort of charm that makes you expect a freshly baked apple pie, she concludes with—well, that trademark down home charm. “Stories and emotions have been passed through music for generations and we all seem to relate to at least some genre of music or another, even if we don’t understand what’s being said sometimes. That to me is awesome and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to share my little personal vignettes with the world. Thank you.” And we thank you for sharing them with us.
Vixen of Vocabulary who likes to wax poetic about the world of street art, music,busking and all things indie. She has earned two college degrees, traveled extensively and written three books. She is currently finishing the multi-media project, The Noise Beneath the Apple Art-Style Book, to be released in NYC, Spring 2013.