#Unboxed Vol. 6: Austin Brown Created His Own Path Outside The Jackson Family By Breaking the Rules
During BET’s interview with Austin Brown, several things become abundantly clear. Brown understands the legacy he’s born into while pin-pointing every step of his own artistic individuality. That journey has built him a serious resume through his work with Ariana Grande, Macy Gray, Tank and the Bangas, Snoop Dogg, DJ Tony Touch, Stylez P, and others. The day Brown’s interview was done, he’d just received credits on Masego’s self-titled sophomore album through tracks like “Remember Sundays'' and “Afraid of Water”.
That doesn’t even count the body of projects Brown has released as a solo artist as well from 2013’s Highway 85 to projects with rock-inspired group BLVK CVSTLE, with members Brian London and Ron Allen. Most recently, he’s set the stage for his next album with a few singles dropping late last year through “Lay Low” and “Fire.” Meanwhile, he’s interviewing and putting on jam sessions with friends and legends through his LATV series Freequency. One thing is for sure, the son of Rebbie Jackson is successfully working overtime to preserve his family’s legacy while becoming a dynamic artist of his own merit.
Speaking with BET.com, Brown talks about his rise as a songwriter and producer, the pressures of being a Jackson, and his upcoming solo project.
BET.com: You’ve built an incredibly respectable catalog of songwriting and producer credits from Ariana Grande to Masego and Jordan Ward’s most recent projects. Can you describe your decades-long journey in songwriting and being an instrumentalist?
Austin Brown: It’s been a humbling experience that involves consistently learning. Whatever you’re feeling inside has to be the thing that I feel when trying to create the most authentic expression. It’s been a lot of getting to know myself within that journey and then musically having it all align and sync up which is a dynamic within itself.
I started always producing first and learned from my brother-in-law Rex Salas who was also a producer. My journey was programming and sequencing as a kid. When it came to my own music, I was always producing on my records rather than collaborating with friends of mine or on my own. Producing has always kind of been the way I stayed current within the musical journey because it allowed me to have my own voice. When you’re in a constant flow in creation, you never know who’s going to be the one to take what you're doing. Me and my production partner kept working and working. That’s when other artists started coming to the fold. Regardless of whether it's either your records or someone else’s records, people are going to connect with the music. Just make as much shit as you can.
BET.com: Many Jackson fans remember your first appearance on the 2300 Jackson Street album and single video as a kid. What were some of your early memories as a child working as a member of such a famous family?
Austin Brown: A friend of mine brought up that video with me in the suspenders and all of that. I really missed those days a lot. Those were the days that I missed so much because my grandfather was still around and uncle Michael was still around. Those were really, really good times because we were still a family that came together when we really needed each other and it was a warmth there. So those are my greatest memories of us all being together. I was definitely afraid of MJ at that time. He called it the Thriller phase because I thought he was going to turn into a werewolf. I’m looking at my family like ‘is it going to happen yet?’
BET.com: How did it feel to have your work with Tank & The Bangas on their Red Balloon album be recognized last month at The Grammys? I really love “Why Try” by the way.
Austin Brown: It just felt great for so many reasons that the type of band that we were able to come in within Tank and the Bangas and Tank is just a phenomenal genius. The work that we did came about so organically for the fact that it was by accident that we all even started writing songs together. To be recognized with that Grammy nomination really validated my level of love for this because it’s always what you don’t expect ends up turning into more. It made me really happy for me and my production partner.
BET.com: Most recently you dropped solo singles “Fire” and “Lay Low.” What are the plans in terms of a project and where’s your head at creatively?
Austin Brown: I am feeling the most creative that I’ve ever felt in my life right now. I’ve never felt this creative and I’m so thankful that I can say this at this stage. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now. “Fire” and “Lay Low'' alongside this next single that’s going to be coming out called “California” are part of an album that we’re putting together called The Festival alongside my band BLVK CVSTLE. It’s a genre-blending soul, rock and funk album for people to enjoy and express life to. I’m really proud of the work that we’re doing on it. Once “California” is out, we’ll drop another single by the spring and then roll the album out by summer.
BET.com: You have your Freequency show on LATV. How does that show serve as another extension of your creativity?
Austin Brown: Freequence has been great. We have always done little jam sessions called Canyon Sessions back when I lived on Beverly Glen Boulevard. We used to have musicians come out, play and express themselves. There is such a creative pool and force here in L.A. but you tend to only see the industry aspect of it. There're so many musicians, singers and songwriters who need a platform just to be heard that I connect with that aren’t necessarily the ones that always get out to the mainstream. So, Freequency represents a way for me to talk to them and ask them about their journey and story while letting them perform. We also get legends like Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s just a way for me to geek out with all the people I’ve looked up to in music while giving props to my friends who are going through their journey. It’s really a culmination of people coming together and expressing themselves.
BET.com: Considering your family background, you have a very artistic indie slant to you. Was there any pressure to go mainstream pop or lean on your family’s legacy?
Austin Brown: I put that pressure on myself years ago and then I realized that I’m not good at being in boxes. It’s naturally my personality. I just like too many different things. I love making music and collaborating and it’s all part of the sound of what I’ve heard my entire life. I’ve had a theory that traditional pop is just a great song. If the songs are great, it doesn’t matter what style they are. They’ll cut through and people are going to enjoy them. That’s my thought process on that.
At the end of the day, I went through many years of no(s) and I want to be known for me. That’s a lot of the reason why I went to producing records is that I wanted to prove to myself this was all about me. I wanted to prove that my music can actually hit people in a way that people wouldn’t expect and not because of who my family is. I needed that clarity because when you love it so much, you don’t want it to be something that people degrade to just nepotism. I study the art, love the art, learn about the history of art, and study its actual frequency of it. When you do that, you want your own personal relationship with the outcomes. That for me was huge.
BET.com: Any thoughts on your cousin Jaafar Jackson portraying Micheal in the upcoming biopic?
Austin Brown: I’m very proud of what I saw Jaafar do. He’s very gifted and good. I feel that this is going to be probably the best representation you’ll ever get of MJ and who he is from personality to natural inflections. I don’t know when the movie is coming out or anything like that but I will say my cousin is going to kill it.
Read more of the #Unboxed profiles here.
Austin Brown's site: https://www.austinbrown.com/
Austin Brown & BLVK CVSTLE
Core Members: Austin Brown, Brian London & Ron Allen