MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When I first met Chastity Brown, late afternoon traffic was just reaching its peak outside WCCO-TV’s front door. After walking inside and quick introductions, Chastity immediately said with a smile something to the tune of, “Man, it’s way too busy down here…”
That approach to life — that relax-and-take-your-time spirit — is ingrained in Chastity’s music. It’s especially apparent in her newest album, 2012’s Back-Road Highways. It’s an album that meanders and rolls along (in a good way), featuring roots blues songs like “House Been Burning,” soulful ballads like “Solely” and the upbeat hit “After You.”
According to Chastity, her lyrics tend “to be more working-class, landscape based.” If she had been raised in Minneapolis, which she wasn’t, she says everything would be different.
“I feel like my music would more reflect the city sounds. Not to say that’s always the case, but that’s the kind of person I am. Because I was raised in the South, raised in a more storytelling environment, my music really reflects that. How the landscape can mold a person,” Chastity said.
It’s true that Chastity isn’t technically from Minneapolis — or Minnesota (see interview below), but it’s here where she says she honed her craft, embraced her roots and composed local music with a unique southern twist.
Now, Chastity’s is spending time working on a new record, but is taking it slow.
“I do want to be patient with the process and not rush it. I want to give myself deadlines, but at the same time, just allow that to flow,” Chastity said.
In the meantime, Chastity wants to tour as much as possible while giving herself time to write. She also teaches at Watershed High School, offering a “School Of Rock”-type class for youngsters.
For more on Chastity, watch her Local Music Tap performance of “Solely” above and read the interview below!
4 Questions, 4 Answers
Q: Could you give me just a little history of your growing up in Tennessee, coming to Minnesota (how was that?) and your development as a singer and instrumentalist?
A: I grew up north of Memphis in a town (Union City) just a little bit bigger than Stillwater I’d think (and) started playing music when I was 19 or 20 on the other side of the state in Knoxville, Tenn. Played there for four or five years. It was there that I got the invitation from a friend to come up here, to Minnesota. That was almost seven years ago and I only intended on spending a year, but obviously I’ve stayed much longer than that. (laughs)
I was really obsessed with the saxophone at an early age until I discovered the acoustic guitar – just the simplicity of the notes ringing out. I think there was just a yearning to create and write and just learn. Music is endlessly fascinating to me. Songwriting, the beats, like, all of it is endlessly fascinating. I think I just developed from that need to create.
Q: I see that musically, you’ve said you “like exploring the fine, tangled line between the gospel and the blues.” Could you explain that a bit more? How about lyrically? What topics/themes/messages do you tend to write about?
A: Just the history of them (is) really entangled, especially in the South … the line between them is emotion and so whatever the essence of the song, I want to bring an honest amount of emotion. Those two types of music for me really represent always having emotion behind the story.
… (Lyrically), it’s not strictly autobiographical, but you can still get that yearning for the mountains. And I also think we can all share the same sentiment of trying to make ends meet, the struggle, perseverance — even contradiction in yourself. You feel like you’re one way, but you actually contradict yourself. Just a basic human existence of struggle and pain.
Q: I’ve seen that you’ve talked about the struggle of living between two worlds as a biracial woman. Now, I can’t say I fully understand the struggle, but as a half Native American and half Scandinavian dude, I certainly recognize the “two worlds.” How has that influenced your music?
A: It influences it in every sort of way. For instance, this show I’m working on with Kevin Kling, it’s pseudo-set with Irish background and my mother is full-blooded Irish. I have this tremendous love for the Irish folk ballad. And there are so many Irish tunes that are so soulful. It’s just so similar to soul music for me.
So, I was always drawn to folk music and contemporary folk music, as well as roots music, which is like the blues or even parts of jazz. I was always at war with that. But that history is my make-up. The past couple years of my life, I’ve finally let go of what that war feels like.
In my experience, I’ve tried to bring what I felt like were two severed selves, I’ve tried to pull them in and unite them in the way I play my music.
Q: I know a lot of musicians enjoy all of their songs, but if you had to choose, which of your songs is closest to your heart … and why?
A: I guess the closest to my heart is “Solely.” It’s the one song that’s really poignantly specific to an experience that I had, but again, it’s a shared sentiment in the fact that I don’t know a person who hasn’t experienced something (where) they felt like they lacked the words to explain it and so you’re like, “I guess that was just for me.” It means something to me beyond what I’m capable to say in the song.
Watch her perform that very song on the Local Music Tap above or watch high-quality version here.
Local Music Tap is a new blog aimed at promoting Minnesota-based musicians, bands, shows and events. If you have music blog ideas, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Also, follow the Local Music Tap on Twitter and on YouTube.