Interview and Show Review – Chastity Brown

Photo Credit - Wale Agboola

Within the music scene, the forces at work are often strong and varied. Listeners are bombarded with an endless stream of tunes from artists across the globe that work their magic well. However, one such musician seems to continually impress listeners with each new release. Chastity Brown, a folk star from Minnesota, has proven time and again to woo over fans by utilizing her lovely voice, captivating stories and smooth guitar skills all at once to great acclaim. Chasity’s music is full of soul, immensely catchy rhythms and sublime narratives. When she sings, her spirit shines through as her voice rises above the rest and brings some worthwhile perspective to the world. Tunes like, Say It, from her amazing album ‘Back-Road Highways’ and her new album release ‘Silhouettes of Sirens’ has an entire collection of songs that may be her best work yet.

Prior to her Rockwood Music Hall show this past Tuesday evening, Miss Brown took some time to elaborate a bit while walking through the busy Chelsea Market and famous New York City (NYC) High Line. With a long awaited warmth followed by a strong spring breeze, the walk was the epitome of the season. A bustling Monday night crowd basked in the bright sun as they wandered to and fro snagging snacks. After making it past the whirlwind of dust from street construction, Chelsea Market was a welcome recluse. Chastity stood tall with her shades and was able to make her way through the tourists to grab a small coffee. She seemed right at home in the city. From there, the High Line gave way to a slowly setting sun and the breeze took over once again. It is said that New York City is often the largest city to run into small circles of friends when least expected. Chastity proved it that night as a friend shouted her name from the wooden tanning benches early on. With smiles and hugs, the friends happily reunited and began chatting about days past. When asked about her stay in NYC, Chastity mentioned her pricey eating experiences. “Last night we ate at one of the Momofuku restaurants and all I got was a small salad but it was so damn expensive.” Welcome the struggle many New Yorkers face on a daily basis. A quick photo selfie was taken together and the walk commenced. Smoking on a handmade cigarette roll, Chastity’s cool suave demeanor oozed the essence of hip.  

A talk of the city of Buffalo, NY prompted Chastity to reminisce about her time touring with Ani DiFranco last year. “It was great playing with Ani, but it was a change going from hundreds to thousands to a small crowd of a few people on my own… As a folk musician, you have to earn your cut. We still get to play. [Each person who listens and comes to a show needs to earn your listen]. Last time I was at Rockwood was for that CMJ thing a few years back and it was, ‘go play for 25 minutes!’ This time we have the larger room [Stage 2]. I am really looking forward to it” True to her word, the show would end up being intimate as it was beautiful. More on that in a bit.

Gazing out at the Hudson River, the subject of modern music came up and its possible impact in the social stratosphere. “There is a lot of different music out there now. It’s the same way funk came about. Think about it, during the Civil Rights Movement, who would have thought that a genre like that would be created? It was the public opportunity to intervene with the systemic racism from within. It shows how imaginative people can be, not just black but humanity in general. I think new types of art will be created in the midst of all of this.”

Of course, Miss Brown is referring to the current political cacophony in the United States. It is an exciting time to see where art will go and how the upcoming current of artists across all genres will translate the unusual process. On the creation aspect of it, Chastity had a simple yet profound view. “Nowadays, people are compelled to share all the time. If people stop being drawn into their video screens and do art instead, maybe they will be less likely to destroy the world. That’s the power of art, it brings more love and awareness [to things that matter] …” Even as a musician, she realizes her own power and responsibility in the craft. “It’s the singer’s privilege. No one, on a given night, can be the loudest voice in the room except me on stage.” Musicians have a unique pedestal to reach new listeners and share thoughts that may only be shared as poets and novelists. With musical prose, Chastity and her contemporaries are prepared to continue speaking their minds.

On the following night of Miss Brown’s show at Rockwood Music Hall, it was one of those days where all the musicians seemed to be wandering about. Listeners were granted a rare surprise as Tony Kanal of No Doubt was spotted at Chelsea Market and Mike D of the Beastie Boys was heading west downtown. It was a night of ideal celebrity spotting with Chastity being the final one of the evening. Once fans finally reached the venue, many took their place on the balcony to catch an opportune seat. The inception of the night was quiet as a small collective of people walked on the floor sipping on their drinks. A pop radio station blared throughout the space and seated dancing was common among the audience. Stage 2 was perfectly set up and Chastity was to be the first performer of the night.

Upon her arrival, she said hello and hugged some friends in the space. With her colleague Luke Enyeart on electric guitar they both set up quickly with eager smiles on their faces. After a quick tune up with her guitar and harmonica the woman was ready to go. Her afro glowed red from the lights with added glamour. She gave the room a little introduction that followed with her signature slick guitar strumming. The gravelly soul voice was unleashed. A dedicated bounce ensued in tandem with a groovy flow. Luke’s flicker of electric guitar just added onto the already elevated sounds. When she sang, her shouts were clear and resonated with profound strength. Her use of echoes were ethereal and gorgeous. Chastity never failed to impress even when she began her paired orchestration with the guitar and harmonica to introduce a form of unique blues-folk. It was a wonderful combination to ease the mind. Listeners felt good and ready for anything in these moments. It was hard not to vibe with the soulful energy that emanated through her. Her live performance is a huge step up from her studio work in the fact that her emotions are easily reflected upon her face and eyes. The expressions were transparent and when she closed her eyes listeners knew there was something special they were witnessing. Rhythm was the essence of the music when her voice was not carrying the magic. Each lick was smooth and precise. It was content music with added feeling. Of course, aching depths were made audible as the solemn focus came belching out. There was spirit at the highest degree here.

An obvious blues element appeared as she seemed to not need any effort to win fans over. Her song, Colorado made an appearance and the soul never left from there. A scatting style of lyricism was heard full of grinding pleasure from the guitars in hand. Every bit of it was unforgettable, memorable and true to the Chastity Brown vein as one would expect. It was endless enjoyment from the first song one to the last, which was her newest single Carried Away.

Chastity Brown is a musician who makes music sound good. True, she can create original tunes, but her added motivation and kind demeanor makes the art valuable in the end. Listeners can hear in her voice and see it when she performs. She is not trying to fool anyone out there. What comes out of that art is the essence of Chastity and her grace. Each bit of her discography brings an added staple into the music world that will be referred by many in the years to come. Luckily, music is not the only medium she is attempting to master. The woman remains curious in all forms of art. “I just recently got into woodworking. I learned how to build a table from the help a friend who is an architect. I’m now always on the hunt for more wood. It took me four months to build. Since I couldn’t afford the one I wanted, I made one instead.” Maybe a line of Chastity Brown furniture will be available in the future? Fans will be sure to keep their fingers crossed.

Jam on.