Following in the footsteps of legendary performers like Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye who found their voice in the Gospel church, London’s latest singing and songwriting wunderkind, VV Brown, is giving pop some soul. Indigo Clarke writes.
(Photography Will Sanders, Art Direction Indigo Clarke)
“A lot of great soul, jazz and R&B, folk and blues artists originated from the church – they all started there,” begins VV Brown – the 24 year old songstress, who with just one ‘soft-release’ single behind her, the self-reflective ‘Crying Blood’, is gaining critical recognition and an instant fan-base for her ‘honest’ and eclectic sound. “And I feel blessed to be part of a culture that generates musicians naturally,” she continues, “it’s a lifestyle – you don’t just listen to a CD and imitate it, you express yourself and find your own voice.”
Growing up attending Gospel church every Sunday, “You were almost forced to find a talent in music,” VV laughs. “There were just so many amazing singers – you’d be next to a 60 year old woman who sounded just like Aretha Franklin. I learnt to play all kinds of instruments there – piano, organ and guitar, and it was all about improvisation, being thrown into the deep-end and staying on your toes.”
With a musical background far removed from commercial constraints, VV honed a unique style representative of her personality and taste – an upbeat, popping fusion of multiple eras and genres. Describing her sound as “Doo-wop Indie” – a term referencing 50s and 60s doowop and Lindy-pop (swing-dancing music), combined with contemporary punk, indie and rock, VV explains that she’s driven to, “Create music that is different – but mostly, I want to create music that represents me. Music hits you on so many levels, and I believe people can sense when it is contrived or manufactured – I want people to know that whatever I’m making has to be art for me – it has to be credible, innovative, creative and fun.”
Fusing synthesizers (owing to a self-confessed penchant for vintage keyboards) with more traditional instruments, VV’s mashed-up sound takes her wide-ranging inspirations into a new direction – much like her retro-inspired look. “My style is a fusion of 50s vintage with designer pieces. I don’t like to wear just vintage – I like to clash styles, like mix up a 50s dress with hip-hop jewellery. I’m obsessed with Ashish,” she beams, standing in one of Ashish’s SS09 sequinned numbers, “and I’m wearing a lot of his designs, they’re just so glamorous and tongue-in-cheek at the same time.” And that signature cartoon-like quiff-do? “I call my hair-do the ‘evolution of the quiff’” VV Laughs. “The thing just grew and grew until I had this big sausage roll on the front of my head!”
Already having toured with Amy Winehouse and most recently with Franz Ferdinand, Damon Alban and the Magic Numbers among others for London’s Electric Prom, VV Brown has a one track mind, “Gigging, gigging, gigging – I’m just doing every venue I can, performing to every possible audience,” she says emphatically. “Playing live is so important – it allows people to connect with the music in a magical way. Some artists make amazing music that just can’t be translated live – but, I want people to know when they see me, they will get exactly what they heard on my album and more.”
VV Brown’s single “Crying Blood’ is available on itunes, her full-length debut out March/April 2009 through Universal.