If you were listening close enough last season during an especially emotional moment on NBC’s Parenthood, you may have heard Allman Brown’s beautifully written song Sons and Daughters playing in the background. For me, it was when vocalist Liz Lawrence joined him on the chorus, filling his melodies with wonderfully placed harmonies, that I knew I had to hear more. Since Shazam’ing the song, it has been on rotation regularly, shared with coworkers and on social media sites and has led me to his new four-song EP.
His raw sound drips with heartfelt emotion, so much so that it's easy to connect with him even after the first listen. Recently, Brown spoke with us about Ancient Light which was released on June 16, 2014 with Akira Records, where he sees himself fitting into today’s music scene and his favorite spot to write music (you'll never guess where).
Having released a prior EP back in September 2013, his Sons & Daughters trio of songs, Brown shared how the process for this EP through Akira Records was a new experience. “The EP was different because I was suddenly in an environment with lots of producers and managers and talking to labels, there was a lot of business to it which I wasn’t used to,” shared Brown. “The recording was quite laborious, there was a lot of self-referential editing. You know it has to be three minutes for the radio, it has to sound like this…I don’t think that’s very organic. So my first EP, for me in my heart, is Sons and Daughters.”
When listening to the title track to his 2013 EP, the lyrics seem at once effortlessly simple and wonderfully powerful. Brown paints a picture of a couple doing nothing more than living, experiencing the day-to-day by taking care of the small things like setting the table and enjoying red wine together.
“I found when I was writing songs I was choosing sort of larger-than-life moments, or really extraordinary moments like your first kiss, these really big romantic ideals. I just tried to sort of distill it and think, the stuff that’s really important to me [are the] everyday things,” said Brown. “So the whole idea is just two people in the house, because when you’re really close to someone —it happens to be a romantic relationship in this case—but when you’re really close to someone, you kind of then view objects in your life or the space that you occupy with that meaning.” This snapshot argues Brown's point that love is not only found in chocolates and roses, but in everyday conversations over homemade dinners.
From recording the first track to its final release, Sons & Daughters was his project. He loved the songs and believed in them, making it much easier to produce. “[It] was like a bullet from a gun; I sat down and said these are the songs I love and there was no pressure on it, so we just released it.” As he explained, it was clear he saw the benefits of working with Akira Records, but also understood the changes that come with growing in your career professionally.
On Ancient Light, Brown makes a noticeable shift from melancholic songs to more upbeat melodies, which may be due to his current relationship status. Crediting his girlfriend and a more contented environment, Brown admitted that he has tried to tap into those brighter feelings in order to feed into his music.
“I listened to the old EP and thought, ‘Oh those are all kinds of sad,’ so just musically I thought it’d be fun to try and write something upbeat,” said Brown. “I thought that I’d done the whole slow song thing and would try to get a drum beat in there. Also when you play live, if you play five lovely slow songs in a row, that’s all great but a crowd usually wants something they can move a little bit to, a little bit of variety.”
Showcasing a more mature sound, Ancient Light is filled with velvety vocals and strong instrumentation, even recalling the likes of Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow. Lyrically, the London-born artist knows his way around words; in the interview alone his thoughts rang poetic for many of his answers. In describing his favorite lyric which is heard on Foolish Love, he had this to say, “I recently watched the entirety of Lost again on Netflix from start to finish. And that lyric 'Do you stare at the lights, lost but happy to be so?,’ I really like that because [it’s the] idea of when you’re enraptured by something, kind of like a cityscape when you’re just looking at it and you sort of just vanish into the feeling.”
“Which is kind of what music is for me, when you are spellbound by something, whether it’s Hall & Oates or AC/DC […] you are captivated by it for a second or five minutes and you just fall into it. And that lyric for me, that’s what that is about. You see something, you feel something and then you vanish into it for a few moments and then you materialize back out of it,” finished Brown.
Speaking of music writing, where does the unsigned artist like to create his art? His bathroom. Of course, for anyone who enjoys really good acoustics, this should come as no surprise. But Brown correlates it to Baz Luhrmann films, explaining why having to play softly as to not disturb the neighbors is to his benefit.
“I really love Baz Luhrmann but I love his older movies like Romeo and Juliet, Strictly Ballroom he was in some way restrained, […] where as in his later movies like Australia and The Great Gatsby more recently, he has all this money and all this time and he kind of splurges,” explained Brown. “And the bathroom is kind of like a producer saying, ‘No try harder,’ it forces you to be quiet and listen to the lyrics and think about, ‘Am I going to go faster at this point?’ If I go faster and louder then I have to risk disturbing the people upstairs, so it has to really be worth it.”
Now that Brown has released his EP, he hopes to tour in October and record a full length album in 2015. That is, only if he’s written more songs. He isn’t content regurgitating older pieces but would rather create new ones for an upcoming album. Brown draws inspiration from his "musical god" Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), as well as Ryan Adams, Ben Harper, Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga (okay, he may have thrown that in there as a joke). But with those powerhouses as his backdrop, he’s likely to put out a great record in the future.
Leaving off with advice to budding musicians looking to turn their art into a career, he stressed the importance of never giving up. “It sounds weird, but say ‘Yes’ to everything. If someone offers you a gig, play the gig. […] Never give up just always play, always try, if someone says ‘You wanna write a song together?’ just say ‘Yes,’’ declared Brown. “You know maybe it won’t work out but all you’ve wasted is time. Never be intimidated by a scenario. If something feels like ‘Oh I can’t do this,’ and then you do it, you realize ‘Oh okay, I can do that.’ You will never not learn something from trying, you will always learn something”
Both Ancient Light and Sons & Daughters are available on iTunes and we highly recommend purchasing both to get a better idea of Brown as an artist. Allman Brown is still relatively new in the music world and hasn’t fully been discovered yet, so do yourself a favor and impress your friends by finding him before the masses.