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Likes It Like This
by Jay S. Jacobs
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
October 6, 2005.
She doesn't do it.
Never has. Never will.
Kaci Brown has been
performing since she was three and lived in the tiny town of Sulphur
Springs, Texas. She writes her own songs and plays her own
instruments. She recorded her first album, a country album, when she
was thirteen. It ended up not getting released, when it was finished
right after the September 11th attacks. Now as Brown hits sweet
seventeen and finally her new pop disk has been released and the debut
single "Unbelievable" has been making serious headway on the radio.
Still she has heard the
whispers. Brown knows that it is kind of an industry standard these
days, but as a singer who has thrown herself into performing for longer than
she remembers, she still hates the idea that people might believe it of her.
a real artist," Brown insists.
"I play all my own instruments. I write my own material. And I do
not lip-synch. I sing live."
It seems like such a simple thing that it
should be the norm, however lots of pop singers over the years have been
caught leaning on the tape, culminating in last year's Saturday Night
Live performance by Ashlee Simpson. So every young singer has been
suspect. However, that would be a betrayal of her audience to Kaci
Brown. She is a singer, not a dancer. She wants to be heard.
"I really love live performing,"
she says. "That is my thing.
Whether people come watch me or donít want to come
watch me Iíll be performing live for the rest of my life. Someway or
somehow. Thatís my favorite part of all of this. Connecting with the
people, right there in that moment"
The closest she ever came was on her
recent tour with the Backstreet Boys. Not that there was even a second
of consideration that she would not sing. However, as a young artist
just releasing her first album and going on her first major tour, they were
not able to afford bringing her band with her, and it killed her. It
made one of the most exciting breakthroughs in her career a mixed blessing.
was forced to sing with backup tracks," Brown recalls,
"which I hated! I do not like doing that. I want
the real music. But, Iím a brand new artist. I
was fortunate enough to go on a big production tour. I couldnít take the
band. So people were saying, ĎOh, it sounded too good to be live. She had
to be lip-synching.í Iím like, no! That is the one thing I do not do!"
She has pretty much done it all otherwise,
at least as far as performing goes. Kaci Brown did her first live
performance before 2,000 people in her hometown when she was just a toddler.
(The song she performed? "Men" by the Forrester Sisters.) By the
time she was hitting pubescence, her parents knew that she was going to be a
singer, so they uprooted the family, moving from Sulphur Springs to Music
City, USA -- Nashville. Not that this move didn't cause some friction
with her relatives.
lot of family really didnít agree with it," Brown
acknowledges. "People said she needs to
have a normal life and stay in high school and go to college.
Become an accountant, you know? That
kind of thing. Be a cheerleader. Do the normal thing. Because, I played
softball and all that stuff. But, always, growing up, I wasnít normal. I
always wanted to be the center of attention and entertaining people in any
way possible. When I was twelve, my mother and my stepfather came to
Nashville. It was specifically for that, but I think it was also for them,
in a lot of ways. They needed to get out of the small town.Ē
Making her way to the big town, Brown
quickly scored a publishing deal. She wrote and recorded a full album
of country tunes with Nashville cat Tommy Lee James. However, when
producer and exec Tony Brown (then the head of MCA Records-Nashville) heard
her performing, he made a pronouncement which would change Brown's life.
stopped me and said, ĎYou are going to be a star,í"
Brown recalls. "My heart dropped, my
throat got dry, I couldnít swallow. I was, yes, heís going to sign me.
Heís like, ĎBut, youíre going to be a pop star. Youíre not country.í I was
like, what??? Heís like, ĎYour voice, the way you phrase things, it
was too much like Tori Amos or Vanessa Carlton mixed with Sheryl Crow,
rather than having this twangy country thing going.í So, I was,
man, now what? Iíve spent a year and a half doing this country album.
for about six or seven months I started writing on my own. By myself. No
country writers. No pop writers. Just me. I picked up the piano a little
bit. I picked up the guitar a little bit. I was like, now what? Again,
now what? I saw that my music was going more towards the pop element. I
told my publisher I really would like to write with a pop producer. Just to
see what comes out of it."
That pop producer was Toby
Gad (Willa Ford, Jaci Velasquez), who was in Nashville for a writing session
which was cancelled at the last minute.
all history from there," Brown says.
"We wrote one time, he built the track that night,
we recorded it the next day, and then he ended up coming back a week later
and spending ten days with me. We wrote and recorded six songs in ten
days. One of the songs which we wrote was ĎSOS,í which is now on the
album. Thatís how it happened. We just did three
or four more fourteen-day writing trips. We would write that day, heíd do
the track that night and weíd record the next day. All of the original
recordings are whatís on the album.Ē
album is called Instigator, and it shows that Brown had an
adventurous streak hidden underneath that country clothing. On the
song she experiments with styles and tempos with the abandon of a child with
a new toy. Yet, every song works somehow, no matter how varied and
eclectic it gets. The first song which is receiving notice is the
single "Unbelievable," the booming-to-the-back-of-the-hall power ballad
which pulls off the pretty neat trick of sounding concurrently a little
bombastic and winningly vulnerable.
ability to mix up styles and genres turns out to be Brown's neatest trick, a
musical device that she uses with clever results on several songs. For
example, the lovely "Cadillac Hotel" mixes a lovely tropical lilt with just
a hint of Brown's country roots in a tribute to an inn that she visited in
the recording process.
"We were staying at the
Cadillac Hotel in Venice Beach
[California]," she recalls. "If you listen
to the lyrics, it says Ďon the corner of Rose and Dudley.í Thatís the
corner, thatís the street names. We wrote the song on the roof of the
hotel. We recorded the song in the hotel room.Ē
"Instigator" is the kind of dance jam that Britney Spears and Mandy Moore
just can't seem to pull off anymore. "SOS" channels retro-chic and
"Like 'Em Like That" rides a rocking guitar line. "Body Language"
pulls off a mix of dance pop and traditional Arabic-sounding background.
(In fact, it is the most interesting meld of those two styles since the
death of Ofra Haza.) "The Waltz" is even more eclectic, a surprisingly
facile smash-up of classical music and hip-hop.
All of which, Brown admits,
was rather new to her as a songwriter. "Before
my producer I wasnít much of an experimenter at all. He really got me out
of my box. We didnít really know what direction was perfect for me. Still,
to this day, if you can see, I donít know what direction is perfect for me.
Iím still growing. Iím still finding myself. What happened was a very
natural thing. It wasnít ever, ĎOkay, well letís do a classical sound mixed
with hip-hop.' We didnít plan that. We just let
it be what it was. Weíd play around with melodies and weíre like, ĎOh, I
like thatÖí Anything that I liked, we just did.
I was very fortunate that our managers and the record label understood it.
Instead of saying, Ďwell, okay, what shelf are we going to put you on?í
When they asked me that, I said if I donít fit on the pop, if I donít fit
on the rock, if I donít fit on the hip-hop, Iíll make my own. The Kaci
Brown shelf. Thereís no telling what my second
album is going to sound like. Iím going to just continue to be me. Thatís
all Iím good at, really."
So now, finally Brown has
made it into the record shops. Even though it is the only thing she
has been working towards since she was three, it still freaks her out a
weird," Brown whispers and then laughs.
"Really. Itís crazy. I walk into Best Buy
shopping for any CD I want, or Media Play or Target or K-Mart. Everywhere.
My face is everywhere. It is very weird, because Iíve always wanted to be
on the shelves and..." she
laughs again "...I
wasnít. Because Iím making music, just like these
other people. But, my friends, they go crazy, too. They call me like every
new place they see a CD. Theyíll call me like, ĎOh, I saw you today.í
Especially doing the mall tours and my face is everywhere. Thatís crazy.Ē
Perhaps, but it's all part of the job. It's a part of the music
business that Brown finds in equal parts enthralling and intimidating.
When asked if she feels more comfortable in the limelight Brown laughs and
ďNo. It is all that I expected and some.
And then less than. You think that as soon as you have an album out then
everyone is going to love you and everyoneís going to understand your music
and want to buy the album. I knew that a lot of hard work would be
involved, but I didnít really realize how harsh some of the critics can be.
Actually, I got a really good review in USA Today. I was excited
about that. But, some are likeÖ it wasnít about the album as much as the
performances and stuff. Yeah, itís harder than I thought, but itís just as
easy as I thought, too. I havenít really formed an opinion on if itís what
I thought it would be yet. I havenít experienced enough of it. But, I
really am loving what I do. Though what I just said doesnít sound like it.Ē
the things she is loving most is the connection that she has made with her
musicians have so many more ways to reach out to their fans,
from the forum on Brown's
official site, to her MySpace page.
She is digging being able to communicate with the
fans through avenues like that.
ďThatís my favorite
part," Brown says. "Thatís
one of the things that is more than I expected. Because, when you think
about the word fan, you think about someone that really admires you that you
donít know anything about. A lot of the fans, the really sweet fans that
have kind of reached out to me first by the forum, because I have no idea
who they are, have really become more friends. They love the album. They
want to help me out. They want to tell all their friends about it. And Iím
no different than they are.
of the girls, she worked at a pet store and sheís amazing with animals. I
love animals, but the way they go to her and the way they come to me is
completely different. I admire her for that, the same way she admires me
for my music and the way I go about expressing it and the way people hear
it. So, that means Iím a fan of hers. But, she doesnít say, ĎOoh, sheís my
fan.í She says, ĎOoh, sheís my friend.í Thatís amazing, especially when
you hear the stories about how a certain song helped them through
situations. Seriously, Iíve got fan letters and stuff and I never expected
that to come that soon. I never expected someone to say that I helped them
through the most difficult week of their life and they really just wanted to
say thank you. That stuff really just hits you hard and makes you cry.
Because, all Iím doing is singing how I feel. Knowing that itís relating to
people that way, that theyíre connecting with that emotion, itís justÖ ahh,
Not that some of the fans
can't misunderstand her as well. The internet is famous for flamers
who just go onto a site to wreak havoc and be negative. However, Brown
finds these people to be the exception, not the rule.
think that the people that really stop and theyíre open minded,"
she says, "theyíre not like, ĎOoh, sheís just another Hollywood girl
trying to be a celebrity.í Iím not materialistic at all. All of my clothes
that I have right now, that are actually in style, [were]
given to me. I donít go out and spend tons of money. I like what everybody
else likes. I may like some things different, but Iím no different. I
think that the people that really are open minded, they see that Iím just a
normal girl. Iím just doing what I love to do. Iím more fortunate in that
area, because a lot of people donít get to do what they want to do. But,
there are the people that... you know, I had some
forum site somewhere, I read they were like, ĎOh, I met her and sheís just
stuck up. Sheís just a stuck-up rich girl.í Iím like, well, first of
all, Iím not rich. Second of all, how in the world can you say Iím stuck
up, you know? But, itís just people talking.Ē
the old saying goes, in the long run it is good if they are talking about
you. Kaci Brown hopes that people will be talking about her for a long
ďI want them to take my music seriously,"
she says. "The same way I want them to
take me seriously. I want them to look at my music as kind of like an open
book to who I am inside. Thatís why Iím biting at the bit to start my
second album. Iím already writing for it. I had to start somewhere to get
where I am, but my first album isnít even half of who I am. Iím planning on
making music for the rest of my life. Because it is an open book and the
story keeps going. It doesnít just stop at Ďboys are cute.í It doesnít
stop there at all. There are a lot of things that I want to write about
that I have never been able to write about. But I can and I will. And
hopefully Iíll have the support from the record label and my manager so that
everyone gets to hear the second album.
donít think that Iím any different than anyone else. All I want to do is do
what I love. Hopefully people will accept me. Iím not a judging person.
Iím pretty easy to get along with. I just want to be happy and I want
everybody else to be happy. Thatís it.Ē
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