Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!
J. Brown is here to keep real R&B alive. Hailing from Detroit, the place that Motown was birthed, the singer-songwriter prides himself on love in all aspects of his life and career. With music ingrained in his blood, the rising star continues to put in the work necessary to make it to the big leagues, one heartfelt ballad at a time.
Describing himself as a “young R&B cat, hard worker, and believer in his craft,” J.Brown is someone who’s genuinely trying his best to make it in this industry, simultaneously preserving his love for music and the overall art of creating while doing it. As the youngest of 5 children, with his father being a preacher and his mom musically-ambitious, J.Brown fondly remembers singing in the church choir at just 8 years old. Inspired by the likes of Usher, Jay Z, Jimi Hendrix, Nas, and Sting, his wide array of influences yield his own contemporary R&B and pop fusion, something that listeners can’t get enough of.
Now, he returns with his newest single titled “VIBE,” holding fans over until the release of his sophomore EP later this summer. Flaunt caught up with J.Brown via FaceTime to discuss roots in R&B, his upbringing in Detroit, growing up in a musical household, the turning point in music, the creation of “VIBE,” shooting the visual, studio essentials, his forthcoming EP, goals, and more!
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
As of right now, I’m in a good place because R&B is now coming back. At first years back, a lot of people weren’t really trying to feel R&B like that. A lot of people are starting to make that possible with the various artists coming out now. It’s becoming a little more acceptable in a sense, versus people straying away from it. I fit in that category pretty decently at this point, considering what I sing about and who I am as a person.
Being from Detroit, what was the household like growing up?
At times, it was rough. With Detroit, only the strong survive in a sense, like New York or any place in the world. I’ve had certain trials and tribulations that I overcame, but my overall experience as a child growing up was pretty good. Both parents in my household: my mother was involved in music. My dad, he’s a Baptist pastor. That’s where it all originated from, in his church. My mom with her experience, it all gelled together. Music‘s always been a part of me.
Your mom was close to Motown, how did that influence your own life and career?
She ended up pregnant with my older brother. Smokey Robinson wanted to sign them both her and my aunt, he wanted them bad. Smokey signed them, he even managed them. He was going to present them to Barry Gordy, which I think he did at one point. But when my mom ended up pregnant, everything went downhill.
Biggest influences coming up?
Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Luther Vandross, Usher, D’Angelo, Gerald Levert, and ultimately Babyface. Babyface by far: if I could ever meet him or do something with him, that’d be phenomenal because that’s my most impactful influence.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
When I first figured “okay, maybe women will enjoy my singing,” it started on the playground when I was a kid. In the fourth grade, I was singing outside of the playground and all the girls was circling around me. I said “aw man, this is pretty cool.” I was always in groups all my life, but I never ventured off and did a solo project. Once I attended undergrad, one of my friends signed me up for the talent show. My school is known for boo-ing people. Think, this is my school’s version of The Apollo. Any small, minuscule thing you do that doesn’t look good in their eyes or doesn’t sound good, they’ll boo you.
I was kind of scared, but she died before the talent show so I dedicated the entire show to her. I successfully did pretty well. The women were crying and on their knees, I still have the video footage. People to this day talk about it like “man, we’ve never seen nobody perform like that at that school.” Swear to God. That was that moment like “man, I could do this solo.” A lot of people there, like 2000 students. They’re all on their feet, cheering, going crazy. That was the moment I knew.
“VIBE” out now, how are you feeling?
I’m on this R&B wave right now, it’s doing pretty well. It’s a groovy track. Something that not only older or middle-aged folks can listen to, kids can enjoy too. It’s a nice groove. You get together with friends and want to have some mature fun, nothing degrading. It’s all about love, that’s what I’m always talking about. I finally decided to up the tempo a little bit, I figured I’m pretty good at it. Because all my other stuff has been pretty slow, almost ballad-y type music. This one has a little bounce to it. Why not give people a little groove they can have fun with? Versus feeling heartbreak and sad times all the time. I wanted to do something that people not only enjoy, but be able to dance to and have fun while listening.
What were the vibes you were on creating the record?
The vibe I was on at that particular moment in time… again, all my songs talk about love. I was more so thinking about a woman, no one in particular. If there comes a time, I’d like for the words that I’m talking about in this song to be something that I implement in my relationship. Someone that you can spend time with, have fun with, focus all your time on, and ultimately have a successful relationship. That’s what all of my songs are about: love and the possibility of me finding it.
How’s it feel to have your third Billboard Top 20 song in the last 15 months?
That’s a huge blessing. I’ma tell you, God is good because as an independent artist, it doesn’t happen all the time. I’m always excited over it, and willing to work even harder so I can maintain that consistency. It’s a blessing, a humbling experience if you will. It’s something I’m really appreciative of overall, completely thankful for myself and my team.
Best memory from the video shoot?
Alright, so I suck at dancing right? [laughs] I can do a little something, but… I don’t even know why we didn’t add that to the video. There’s a scene where one of the women in my video, we had a nice groove going. I was hesitant: “I don’t want to do too much moving because I have two left feet at certain points.” I didn’t want to show that on camera, but I did pretty good. She said “wow, who said you couldn’t dance?” I said “oh thanks!”, so I felt happy over that but it never made the video. That’s the most memorable point of the video, but we did have fun.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I want fans to know I’m a guy who has a dream like any other person, as cliche as that may sound. I’m a person who really works hard to strive for not excellence, but strives for something I’ve been focusing on for so long. I’m focusing on things that matter, things of substance. Things that people don’t necessarily like to talk about, which is love and treating women right, trying to do the right thing. Putting out a positive message. I want people to walk away with “okay he not only has some good music, but it’s quality music. Music that not only I could listen to, but I’d feel comfortable with my children listening to.” I’m a cool dude trying to put out some good music.
What can we expect from your sophomore EP, arriving this summer?
For my EP, I’ma focus on relatable topics. Things that you might have experienced, things that you may say “oh I went through that,” or anyone for that matter. I want things to be really relatable, considering I’ve been through a lot. Some things that I’ve been through, other people have been through the same thing. I needed to make this one a little more personal. I want people to walk away knowing “he’s not only a singer, but someone who thinks about things he writes about and sings about, things that are relatable and things that people don’t commonly voice.” I want people to walk away with a story that’ll give them a better idea as to who I am as an artist and how I feel about certain situations.
Is there a name yet?
Nope but if you have one, I will gladly take it because I’m lost with a title right now. It’s so hard right now, I’m still thinking about it.
Talk about being able to sing R&B in Mandarin, that’s impressive.
I lived in China for a year and a half, that’s how I learned. It was something I wanted to learn. It’s amazing, I need to start implementing it into my music. I want to do a Chinese R&B-type EP, that’d be dope. It’s something that I can do, I can incorporate that. I had a Chinese girlfriend, so I was over there doing music.
Was she a boss bitch?
She was, and she was a sweetheart. She was really nice. She was all about her business, but she was a really sweet person.
3 things you need in the studio?
Candles, incense, good energy no matter who’s in there. Whether it’s the engineer or some of my boys, everyone has to be on the same frequency. I also need some Red Vine licorice. Chances are I’ll go out every 20 minutes to get something at the store anyways, so I might as well have it. [laughs]
Are you enjoying TikTok?
I’m trying to, I’m starting to catch onto it now. At first, I’d post videos like “I’m not receiving any likes or anything on this. What the heck is going on?” But now, I figured you have to look at what’s trending, do those videos, and that’s how you get your numbers up. I’m liking it because it’s creative. It’s a way for people to express whatever talents they have, they think is cool.
Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I want to win a Grammy or two. I want to make it to #1 on the Billboard so I can eventually have my own artist once I’m done with my own career, help mold them so they can be successful. Constantly striving for excellence to take me to where I want to be, that’s my goal. Longevity.
Anything else you’d like to let us know?
I’d like people to support me, I’ll support you back. Hit me up on Instagram @jbrownmusiconly, same is Twitter. Check me out on Youtube, type in J.Brown. Support my EP Forever Yours, that’s my first one that I released last year. My new one will be out later this summer. I appreciate you taking the time out!