Aussie artist Beth Brown has called Nashville home for a little under two years now, being one of the Australian crop of musicians to have made the jump into the Stateside pool in pursuing their musical career. So while coming to SXSW wasn’t necessarily a stretch – geography wise – for Brown, the experience was still one if immense significance.
We’re by the busy Sixth Street on the final day of SXSW 2017. It has been a long week for me. When did you get in?
I was here a week ago and I spent my first day mentally preparing for what was coming, just checking out the scene, checking out the vibes. I got the tail end of the film festival, which was fantastic.
Did you pop into any films?
I was hoping I would run into Ryan Gosling, so I did stalk him quite vigilantly in his screening shows. Then you could notice that the musicians were coming into town so by Monday, I was with my people. They were arriving from all over the world, so I connected in with the Sounds Australia crew from then on.
You’re based in Nashville now, a long way from home. What took you there?
I randomly had a song emailed to a producer in Nashville, and didn’t think much of it until I received an email six months later. It was by a producer called Brad Jones. At that point I didn’t realise that he had recorded all of my favourite Australian artists such as Missy Higgins, Bob Evans, Busby Marou. He was the genius, production genius, behind a lot of my favourite albums that I’ve been listening to growing up. When I realised that, I said, “Yes, I would love to come to Nashville.” I was staying there for a week, and now it’s a year and a half later. I’ve just moved out there full time. It’s an incredible journey, and a real success story actually.
It’s an incredible music scene in Nashville. You’ve got, obviously it’s heavily in the country scene. It’s also not. You’ve got music being embraced from kind of all walks of life there, especially once you go down to folk and Americana singer/songwriter route.
It’s an incredible scene. We started talking about something that happened for you at the Blue Bird Café. Those reading this will know the Blue Bird potentially from the TV show Nashville, if they don’t know it from having to been to Nashville. Can you tell the story about Blue Bird Café?
This was in my first week in Nashville, and I played the Blue Bird. Some guy stood up and yelled out across the room, “We want you to move to Nashville.” I think that was where the seed was planted. From that point on I was like, I have to get really serious about moving back here, and being on the forefront here. As you say, it’s a melting pot of different styles of music. I love gospel and old school R&B and blues, but there is a beautiful fresh new wave of Indie pop, which is arriving from LA.
There is a spillage happening. No one can afford to live in LA anymore. Nashville itself is very community based. It’s very open handed, so you’re welcomed into communities there. Even Justin Timberlake is moving to Franklin now, which is a great thing. Production levels, writing levels in Indie pop world are only going to get greater and richer. I think it’s a good time for indie pop in Nashville right now.
You’ve got a new single out, “Easy”. Is this a pretty good indication of what you’ve got coming up? It sounds like you’ve been making quite bit of music in Nashville.
Definitely. I have been given a grant by the Australian Arts Council last year to be based as a writer in Nashville. What that allowed me to do was to work on my own catalogue, and own album Dream Coat, but also infiltrate into the gospel world. I’ve worked with Shannon Sanders, who’s behind India.Arie, John Legend, [and] is an amazing soul singer and pianist himself. I’ve worked at RCH Studios with Steve Cropper. He’s country and wrote “The Dock of the Bay”, Wilson Pickett‘s “Midnight Hour”. It’s been an opportunity for me to really get amongst great writers in different genres, to work on a song catalogue, as well as create and write for an album.
These are songs that are going on their records as well?
The thing in Nashville is, we create. You take it into studio and do a demo. Then basically when you go into a publishing house; you can either pitch it to a publisher, which is a great avenue for young song writers to actually head in, introduce your body of work to your publishing house, and then if you fall into favour with the creative director of a publishing house, then they’ll invite you into an extensive network of their writers. Potentially what it is, is a dating service to potentially work that relationship and get better at your song writing and one day, be under their banner at a publishing house.
That’s kind of the goal. In Nashville, because it’s based on relationships, these things take time. I think a lot of Aussie artists, they come out and then they have to leave. I am so passionate about staying and building momentum in Nashville, and being on the ground. I think that’s really where it’s at. I feel like a lot of young artists falter in that. If you’re serious, get your 01 Visa sorted and come out and commit, commit. They want to see commitment to the community there. That’s what they want to see.
There’s only so much you can do from Australia if that’s the direction you want to take.
Absolutely. It doesn’t matter how big you are as an artist, Americans are sometimes tunnel visioned …
As are Australians.
Yeah. They think they’re the best. It’s hard to break through. I think the best thing is is to be accessible on the ground. That’s the best weapon that you have.
After SXSW, firstly, have the shows gone well here? Have you felt like there’s been some good performances?
Oh my gosh, we started off in Houston actually. I had an absolute ball playing a show at the Intercontinental. We played for a group of Aussies, so that warmed me up. Then we had our official showcase on Wednesday at Stephen F’s Bar, and it was really just a beautiful vibe. It was an intimate setting, so I felt like I could interact with the audience more.
Down on the street here, you understand you’re competing with a lot of sound, and there’s lots of things going on around you. I felt like Wednesday night was a beautiful moment of intimacy with an audience. Today is just have fun, rock out, get amongst it, and get amongst the crowd here. I love it. I love it.
Where do you head to from here? What’s next for you?
My heart is to connecting to an audience in Texas, Dallas, Austin, and Houston, and San Antonio are actually real meccas for music lovers. I’m coming from a point where I want to connect one on one with my audiences and build something organically right now.
I’m going to Dallas from here. Then I’m heading to Little Rock, Arkansas, and then I’m heading back to Nashville and straight into writing mode because we’ve got an album to record in June. I’m trying to get as much content together and start editing, and head into pre-production, and make the best album I possibly can.
Find out more about Beth Brown at www.bethbrownmusic.com.