VV Brown talks to eGigs

about The Brits, African Express, live shows, and the new album on Monday 23 February 2009

VV Brown, Madonna's former backing singer, has been tipped as one to watch. Not just on the stage, but the catwalk too, and she's also announced plans to launch an online clothes store. eGigs spoke to the 25 year old singer songwriter from Northampton, whose retro-flavoured forthcoming album 'Travelling Like The Light' on Monday 11th May 2009.

You're about to tour with The Ting Tings, and Ladyhwake are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, very much so, I really love The Ting Tings, and Ladyhawke are friends so it's going to be a fun one.

You were also invited by Damon Albarn to play African Express what do you remember most about that?
Just really good times with everyone on the beach playing music. Playing music in the garden singing with Fela Kuti's son Femi on stage in front of thousands of African people. It was just a great time of fellowship, and fun, and music. It was actually one of the best trips that I've ever experienced. I'd love to be a part of it every year. It would be presumptuous of me to say I would, we're all friends, everyone who went on the trip. So it is a case where I could ring up and say, "Hi, can I come on the next trip?" and if it was okay I could come.

You've recently done a photo shoot for Vogue, if someone was considering being a model or a songwriter what would your advice be?
I don't have much advice for the modelling side, because I kind of stumbled upon it, I never thought that I'd ever model. But I guess if you wanted to just be a model I guess you have to put together a great portfolio, and try and get a credible agency to represent you, then they can start getting you work.

If you want to start becoming a songwriter I think you need to constantly be writing all the time, and you need to make sure that you are networking in the right environments where you can meet producers, and artists, and other writers like yourself. Once you're socialising with those kind of people try and write songs with them and get on their albums. Then, once you get on their albums you have enough weight to try and get a publishing deal. That's where publishers put you in touch with loads and loads of writers, because that's what they do for a living.

You're opening a vintage clothes store soon, how is preparation for that going?
Fantastic, I was just on the phone to the web designers, just before I spoke to you. The website is called VVVintage.com and I love fashion. I want to basically do everything that I've ever wanted to do before I die. So, I've just got so many ideas, and projects that I want to put my hands on, and be creative with. This is a project that I can't wait for, it's not something that I'm expecting to be huge, or sell loads. It's kind of a hobby and even if I only sell two pieces in a year I'll be ecstatic.

VV Vintage specialises in special pieces. Sometimes when you go to vintage shops you really have to go through a lot of shit before you find that lovely thing. So this is is basically just speeding up the process to find that special unusual dress.

Have you finished work on your debut album?
Yeah we are just about to finish, I never like to say it's completed until the curtain closes, which is probably when we need to get the album out to press. I'm constantly writing, the album was finished in December, but then I wrote two new songs, which the record company really like, so now they are going on the album.

And, then we've just covered of The Smiths song 'This Charming Man' which is going alongside Marian Keyes (Rachel's Holiday, Anybody Out There) is bringing about a book called 'This Charming Man' and the song is going alongside that. The song came out so well that it's also going on the album.

It constantly keeps evolving, and I like that because it keeps people guessing, and people in the industry who have the samplers, it keeps them guessing too. They think they have all the singles on that sampler, when I've actually four more.

What are the inspirations behind the album?
50's music has inspired the album, and I'm great fan of electronic music as well. I guess when you hear the album it sounds like a clash of many things. The 50's thing is a very dominant theme, I loved GameBoys and Nintendo games and you can hear the odd sequenced melodic sound from those kind of synthesizers on the top, so it's quite a fusion.

You self produced it, and wrote the songs, and played the instruments, which part of putting the new album together, did you expect to be the most difficult, but found it was easy?
I think what was difficult, wasn't necessarily me learning to play the instruments, it was learning how to organise those instruments in a collective way that would come across like a professional sounding record. It's very easy to play instruments, but it's a whole other art form to produce and it took a while for me to get my head around understanding the beauty of the spaces within music, and understanding how to layer instruments in a way that would sound interesting.

Once I got my head around that and experimented, and understood the beauty of simplicity, and let each instrument be beautiful and simple in its own right. Then that allowed me to master the art of the sound I wanted. I still have so much to learn about production, I'm still at the early stages of mastering it.

So when you play live do you play the keyboard parts?
I must put my hands up I'm not not the greatest drummer, I'm not the greatest bassist, and not the greatest guitarist, I mean my guitar only has one string on it. So, there are much, much better musicians than myself, on the record what's captured is a very sincere, innocent sort of version. When I play live I can't, obviously, play all the instruments and all the people in my band are amazing musicians who make it sound about ten times better.

Do you use the same musicians every time?
Oh yeah, we're actually a band, we call ourselves VV Brown And The Brownettes. That's our nickname, because even though I'm fronting the band and it's VV Brown, collectively it's very much like a family, they're my friends I've known them for years. It's not just session musicians that I've found, it's people that genuinely I love, and although it's me as a solo artist, when we perform live it's very much as a unit, like an indie band or something.

I've been doing music for so long that I know a lot of musicians in the music industry and I wanted to make sure that we keep this family vibe. Because when you go on tour there's nothing worse than going on tour with a prick, or someone you don't really know, or like.

You played quite a few festivals last year, which one did you enjoy most and why?
I think as a band we think that the festival we played in Sweden was our most exciting. Because people from Sweden, Copenhagen and those sort of areas are so open minded. and it was one of our first festivals as well, and no one knew who the hell we were at all. We were completely new, and the tent ended up completely rammed, packed and it started off with no-one in our tent, and by the second song in there was at least a thousand people ramming our tent. I think that was really our most memorable experience, because we completely engaged people through music no press, ho hype. People just came in and had a fantastic time, people were dancing, and moshing. Although we had similar experiences to that at Glastonbury and V, the Sweden one sticks in our mind most because it was so new to us, and we were so well received.

Have you got any festivals lined up for this year yet?
Yes, we've got a few lined up. (They have been confirmed for Camden Crawl, The Great Escape, Evolution Music Festival, and Camp Bestival) We're just waiting on confirmation, I think we've been offered Glastonbury, but we're waiting for it to be an absolute yes. We're going to Japan to play the Supersonic festival, which I'm absolutely excited about, I can't wait for that one. It's amazing as an artist to have a career in one country and not in another. It would be brilliant for us to have a career in Japan, hopefully we'll have one in England as well. I never have presumptuous expectations because you never know how it's going to go. It's just so cool that you could have a number one record in Japan and no one know who you are in England, and I've just got a good feeling about Japan and I hope that they like our music.

Are you known over in America?
Not really, we've been tipped by the Los Angeles Times as one to watch, and I think there's a few people who know we are, but that's just because of the internet, we've not done any press out there. We've been offered a few gigs in America. The internet is such a global thing, you can find that artist in a small village in Japan, and become a fan of him, or you can find that artist who has never even had a record deal, but has an amazing voice, who puts his song up on YouTube, and become a fan. The discovery of music has become so accessible that it's easy for countries all over to find out who you are and become interested.

There's a clear retro look to you videos, if you could time travel back to any era, who would you go and see singing live?
I'd absolutely go and see two people. I'd go and see Ella Fitzgerald, and I'd go and see a singer called Ruth Brown, they're the tow, and maybe Frank Sinatra too because he's amazing. But, I think Ella for me probably is on the top of my list, because she was spectacular live, she shone on stage, she had magic on her records, but when you see those old live television clips it's just phenomenal. I'd have loved to have done a duet with her or just shake her hand and just thank her so much for all the inspiration.

You've written songs for The Pussycat Dolls and Sugabaes, who are both girl groups, would completely different genre of musician would you like to write songs for?
I'd love to write songs for an artist called Imogen Heap. She's a genius, and I don't think I'd ever have to write a song for her because she writes all her own music. But if she ever was tired one day and needed someone to write her a song, I would love to do it. I think she is just so innovative, and so unique, and so cool. She's one of my favourite artists.

You used to live in Los Angeles for a bit, would you ever go back and settle in the States again?
Never, it was bad and nothing against American culture but I'm an English girl, I was born here and I love everything about this country really. I would visit America and maybe stay there for a while, but I don't think I could ever live there again. I lived there once and it made me realise how much I love and appreciate Europe.

You were at The Brits, are you going to be nominated next year?
Yup, we went, it's really weird, we went just to watch, and I'd rather go if we were nominated. I don't know that would be a dream come true, it would be so arrogant for me to presume that we would. But if we were ever to be nominated for a Brit, or a Mercury, or a MOBO I think I would just be so happy. I've been watching the Brits since I was young, and sitting in front of the television with my legs crossed dreaming of one day performing there. Even going to the Brits launch was exciting for me.

That was my first red carpet as well, and it was really weird because I'd not experienced all the cameras and flashing, and them shouting out your name. Some guy even shouted out, "Your favourite colour's green." And I was how do you know that? It's a bit weird.

If you do get nominated who would you have on your table next to you?
I'd like Jarvis Cocker, I want him to misbehave, we'd both be bad and reckless, Peter Doherty, and maybe Common, the rapper from America, Courtney Love, Duffy because she's conservative and it would be interesting to see how she coped with us all being bad, and Beyonce. I just want that clash of personalities really, it would be fun.

Thanks very much for your time, I hope you have success with awards in the future.
Thanks a lot, bye.

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article by: Scott Williams

published: 23/02/2009 16:30

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