Detroit’s own John Brown wants to make you scream…or cry, or laugh – any kind of emotion will do, so long as you feel something when you hear his music. “Good music is about passion,” says the R&B singer/songwriter. “When I write or sing a song, I put my all into it. And I want people to feel that.”
Brown knows a thing or two about passion and good music. Born and raised in the Motor City, Brown, the youngest of five, was a preacher’s kid who sang in his father’s church every Sunday from the age of eight. His mom- who at the age of 17 had her own deal with Motown Records- would play hours of classical music in the house, “basically to calm us down,” Brown recalls.
In middle school, little J.B. joined a local youth theater group, which nurtured his vocal and acting skills and granted him the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Pistons and Lions games. In fact, on five different occasions he was chosen to perform for President Clinton.
Brown competed in numerous talent shows in high school and won them all. Word spread fast around town about the precocious singer, who began to pursue a record deal. One day, an acquaintance contacted Brown and best friend Robert Curry (now of Day 26 fame) and informed them that musician/producer extraordinaire Wyclef Jean was looking to sign a group. Springing into action, Brown called two additional singers, formed the male foursome E2G, and drove to New Jersey, where they auditioned for Wyclef and were signed to Clef Records/J Records. A year later, however, the group disbanded, citing “creative differences.”
“Clef had a vision for the group that didn’t really suit us,” says Brown. “It was definitely a friendly split though. Clef actually wanted to keep me on as a solo artist, but I wanted to finish high school and he respected that.”
Brown remained in New Jersey long enough to graduate from Linden High School in 2004. That fall, he enrolled at Grambling State University on a full academic choir scholarship. He spent the next four years transferring to different schools (“I was constantly searching for a program that had high standards”), performing and recording music. While he hadn’t completely abandoned the idea of a record deal, the hard-working artist –now back in Detroit – didn’t prioritize it. That is, until someone hit him up on Myspace.
“I’d posted an ad on Myspace looking for management and producers and two weeks later, this random guy reaches out and says he knows some people who could help me. I was suspicious at first because people say that kind of stuff all the time, but something told me to take him seriously.”
Despite several reservations, Brown met with the mysterious man – known only as “Rico” – in the summer of 2009. Rico led Brown to a coffee shop, where Phillip Ragan, a successful Detroit-based entertainment attorney, was waiting. Impressed by the singer’s talent and background, Ragan signed Brown to his Mophillin Entertainment label. Within weeks, Brown was in Atlanta, where he recorded “Imma Love You Right.” The song became a radio hit in Detroit, piquing the interest of numerous record labels. Brown eventually signed with Universal Republic, only six months after that fateful coffee shop meeting.
Now, faced with high expectations and aggressive goals, Brown is preparing for the release of his debut album. A subtle mix of R&B with a hint of Hip Hop and Rock influences, the album is designed to uniquely showcase Brown’s distinct voice.
“I don’t focus on any one genre,” he maintains. “I can sing classical, rock, pop—pretty much anything… I don’t have to use Auto-Tune on a record. I’m a real singer. I can sing on the spot without any technology, just like the old school cats did.”
Brown seamlessly infuses his multi-faceted vocals on the breezy, sensuous first single “Imma Love You Right,” produced by Bei Major (Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Chrisette Michelle) and Larry “Detroit” Nix (Jagged Edge, Heather Hedley, Lil’ Jon, R. Kelly) and written by The Council. The song describes the many ways Brown will love a woman – with his eyes, his hands, his voice and his time – as Brown’s silky tenor glides over the mid-tempo rhythm.
“This song is for every girl who’s ever been in a hurtful situation with a guy,” he explains. “Good guys do exist in this world.”
Indeed, no R&B album is complete without a few club joints, and when it comes to the dance floor, this album will not disappoint. “I wanted to make a fun record that described a scenario everyone can relate to,” says Brown. “It’s feel-good music.”
And he certainly wants to continue making this feel-good music for years to come, just as his icons Tank, Usher, Coldplay, Jimi Hendrix, Sting, Jay-Z and Nas have done before him. Brown acknowledges that the secret to their success is focus and perseverance, qualities he’s incorporated into his own journey.
“From the time I was a kid, I’ve had my eyes set on winning – not losing. I’m not the guy who does a lot of random stuff. I’ve always stayed on a positive path so I can have longevity. Nothing takes me off focus. I’m determined to make it.”
Now that’s passion you can really feel.
Listen to “Imma Love Your Right”
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