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INTERVIEW: Singer-songwriter Chastity Brown reflects on personal experience in music

Singer-songwriter Chastity Brown tours her newest album “Silhouette of Sirens.” PHOTO COURTESY RED HOUSE RECORDS AND COMPASS RECORDS GROUP

Described as having “dexterous musicianship, thoughtful songwriting and careful attention to detail” in American Songwriter magazine, singer-songwriter Chastity Brown has been breaking boundaries. The praises are not unwarranted — 35-year-old Brown has raw talent, a strong work ethic and a commitment to activism rooted in what she calls “radical self-love.”

Brown’s music, influenced by her roots in Tennessee, dabbles in soul, folk and R&B. She said in an interview with The Daily Free Press that her songwriting was prompted by her first major heartbreak at age 18. As she grew older, she began exploring her feelings on a myriad of topics, including representation in the music industry.

“Songwriting, now, comes from my need to say something and the need to hear something being said,” Brown said. “As a woman of color, as a queer woman, there are certain things that I specifically feel are not being represented in our culture.”

Brown said that although she appreciates that the LGBTQ community is increasingly being accepted and gaining exposure, she still thinks there are improvements to be made on how society perceives them.

“I would like to see more queer voices that are not only celebrated for their queerness, but also distinctly praised for their artistry,” Brown said.

She noted that this is part of a larger issue in which any part of an individual’s identity that does not conform to white heteronormative standards is picked apart.

“My dear friend once assured me that queerness and blackness were part of my magic,” Brown said. “I personally would love for people to revere this qualities as such — it would be more respectful.”

Brown described her May 2017 album, “Silhouette of Sirens,” as one that compiles the most songs she has ever written, while being under increased scrutiny. Even so, she said she did not shy away from the authenticity she believes is essential to her music.

“Emotionally, I think I was at my most vulnerable and it took a lot of courage for me to be that way,” Brown said. “For me, memory is both lived and imagined, and a constant theme is different types of heartbreak and new ways of healing, especially as to how it pertains to the world and how I see the world.”

In considering listeners’ receptions of the album, Brown explained that she that she is surprised that her music has been dubbed as political.

“I think it comes from the fact that in America, when a woman dares to be vulnerable and honest, standing by her own truth, it is often perceived as political,” she said. “All I am doing is just loving myself, writing songs, and singing them for people. And at this point in time, this is seen as a radical act.”

However, the only radical act that Brown subscribes to is “radical self-love.” She said she believes that if one can take care of oneself, then one can take care of others.

In this fast-paced world full of societal pressures, for Brown, it all comes down to staying in the present and treating oneself with kindness. She said it may be difficult. Although she claims to be no expert herself, she uses her music to engage in this self-love and actively encourages her fans to do so as well.

Looking toward the future, Brown said that she is excited.

“Although I don’t have a manager and am solo on tour right now, I am proud to be an independent artist and hopeful for what’s ahead,” she said. “I think I am slowly carving my place in the music industry and the world at large.”

Wale Agboola, owner of cinematography and photography company DEENStudio, has collaborated with Brown on some of her music videos and shares her same optimism.

He has been working with the artist since 2015 and has produced two of her music videos, “Whisper” and “Wake Up.” In the time that he has known her, he said it’s exciting to work with an artist of such dichotomous nature.

“She has a very clear vision of what she wants and she is not afraid to verbalize when she doesn’t like something,” Agboola said. “She is informed on what’s going on in the world and is not afraid to speak her mind.”

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