A bit more than two years ago, Chastity Brown decided to leave Knoxville, Tennessee, for the bigger city—in this case, Minneapolis. Brown recalls, “My first thought was, ‘Holy shit! I don’t know anyone here, and this is a big city’”
After a few months of exploring the ins and outs of the Twin Cities, singer-songwriter Brown started to perform. Reaching out to the deep local music community, she discovered a host of kindred spirits—and a band, The Sound (a two-piece consisting of Don Strong and Michael X. Johnson), to back up her soulful folk music.
The benefits of Brown’s decision to leave the comfort of Tennessee for the big and cold world of the Upper Midwest can be heard in the numerous live gigs she does each month, and on her latest CD, Do the Best You Can.
“My music is my own oral history,” Brown says, while drinking a cup of coffee at an Uptown Minneapolis shop before a recent gig
Brown’s music mixes influences from far and wide, reflecting an upbringing that was almost purely religious (in a strict Pentecostal household), followed by years exploring the spiritual side of “secular” music.
“A lot of my songs have been explorations of what I think of as my spirituality today. I’m really attached to rawness,” Brown explains. “It doesn’t matter what the style is.”
That rawness isn’t just in the stripped-down arrangements (live, Brown performs solo or with The Sound), but in the topics she explores: Seventy-five percent of my songs are from personal experience. Deep down, I personally feel vulnerable when I perform.”
Again, Brown’s spiritual sense comes to the rescue, as she shares, “I have the strength to do what I am doing, and that it is OK to exorcise these demons. That’s where that vulnerable rawness becomes power. My emotions are still tender, but I know I have pieces of myself I want to share.
Do the Best You Can is drawn from two distinct sessions. The bulk of the disc was recorded live with The Sound in the Twin Cities. But the last four tracks from a demo Brown made several years ago in Knoxville. These “lost” tracks (the original masters were destroyed when the studio was demolished) find Brown at her most vulnerable—alone with just a guitar. Though from multiple sources, the collection hangs together remarkably well, aided both by Don Strong’s light touch as a producer, and the sheer power of Brown’s musical and lyrical vision.
Brown is pleased with how the album came out, but she also wants to move on to the next project. Always restless, she yearns to get back to the studio to explore additional sides of her music.
“I have some songs that I do that are more rock ’n’ roll. They have a different flavor, and have a bit more attitude,” Brown notes. “I want to keep creating.”
Brown is happy with her current musical and, more importantly, life situation. She still contemplates change. She thought about moving away earlier this year, but has found Minneapolis to be a good new home.
“I fell in love here, and I’ve met a lot of good people in the city,” Brown states. “I’m so glad I came here two years ago.”
Chastity Brown performs at Acadia Café in Minneapolis on December 14. For more live shows and information on her music, visit www.chastitybrown.com.