I got up to Harlem about 45 minutes before I was scheduled to meet Rachel Brown. It was raining, so I dived into the bland safety of a Starbucks on the corner of 125th and Malcom X Blvd. I bought a coffee and took a seat next to a Vietnam War Vet by the window, a perfect spot for some time honored people watching. I did not have to wait long. Within minutes a tranny, with a fabulous purple wig, pranced back and forth outside the window, talking animatedly into her small flip phone whilst flicking her hair back behind her shoulders. I wasn’t sure if anyone was on the other end of the line, not even when she pony stepped her way into Starbucks and continued her conversation nine octaves louder than any other conversation going on! My attention was then grabbed by the glint of gold fronts, with vampire fangs, blinging from the street corner, his smile big as he watched girls heading off to sports practice in tight, tight sweat pants. Behind me there suddenly appeared a man, a very tall and very wide man, with eyes so dead I was tempted to deliver mouth to mouth resuscitation, until he asked me for change, of which I did not have, and the look he gave me made me think I might need to save said resuscitation for myself. He shuffled off as the Vietnam War Vet next to me spied an acquaintance of his in line and for the next 15 mins they spoke at each other, mostly about the lack of manners in the youth of today! I tried to implant myself in the conversation with a knowing eye roll, but they barely listened to each other, let alone me. Once again outside the window I was drawn to the men in wheelchairs to whom the streets were most probably their home. A man with a clipboard went around trying to show them all the options that were available to them, but most of them stayed put. Beyond them a young couple, clothes filthy, were pushing along a newborn, trying to get a cab. With five minutes left until our meeting I went and waited down the road outside the supper club where I was meeting Rachel. I was joined by an old Spanish guy who hobbled over to me, on weary feet, and sat down beside me on the bench.
With a big smile he proceeded to mumble and laugh at me until the lovely, oh wow she is beautiful, Rachel showed up. I introduced my new friend to Rachel, but our conversation was cut short as a hip young lad walked thru us and thrust his card into our hands, a singer, before sauntering off, with a big grin, on his journey again. Gosh I’ve written over a whole page and the only thing you know about Rachel, thus far, is that she is lovely and breathtakingly beautiful! As of yet you do not know that the born and raised New Yorker, by way of Ethiopian and Bermudian roots, has a voice like a smokin’ 20 a day angel. It’s soft and beautiful but is saved from cuteness by a sexy raspy growl. It is also the reason why we are up town sitting outside Ginny’s Supper Club waiting to go in. This coming Saturday she will be performing up there with her band of wise old, been around the block and played with the likes of Kanye, men. With their years and skills they would be a formidable crew for even the most weathered artist to play with. But that is exactly what Rachel did when, as a young pup of 21, she hired them to play with her as she began to make the R ‘n B rounds. That was 5 years ago. I’m thinking she might have proven herself a worthwhile talent if they still hanging around. Then again if you have the likes of Wyclef Jean saying your sound “is the future” or you are opening for people like Mary J Blige, I think you can pretty much smoke from the same goddam pipe as those dudes!
In musical terms Rachel was late to the game. Too shy to do anything about it even though her whole being ached to sing and play guitar, It was not until she was 19 years old that she overcame her fears and began to follow her passion. She taught herself guitar and later on the Ukulele, shutting herself away in her bedroom writing and producing music on her computer. Finally her parents, who had absolutely no idea she could even sing one note, were summoned to listen. So surprised and impressed with their daughter they gave her their absolute support in the moving forward of her music career. Since then many record labels have approached
her, all eager to sign her, but she is not interested in playing that game. She’s seen the damage record labels can do to careers, witnessed the high jacking of dreams and decided she would go it alone until she was a big enough musician she could command contracts that benefited her. She’s a smart cookie that one, Harvard smart, which probably explains why she was able to produce, write, direct and star in her video “You got me” she made earlier this year..
The venue for her show this Saturday is from the bygone years of a Roger Rabbit movie. Upon entering the club I felt my lips starting to pout and my breasts rise ( yeah right, I wish!) and as we walked down into the dark, sexy basement, I could smell the memories of smokey nights, the husky laughter and could almost taste the scotch on my lips. This too felt like old school New York, there was mystery here, it promised dark corners, secrets and of course deep soulful music. Much like Rachel, who has the poise and beauty of a classic 1950’s Hollywood star and gives you just enough to keep you wanting more, but you know there is a whole treasure chest of stories, naughtiness and adventure hiding behind those big beautiful, liquid brown eyes that she is not gonna give up so easily. The way things are going though she might not be able to keep her secrets so secret for much longer. With the next year ahead filled with the writing of new music and her fan base growing steadily day by day, people are going to be delving into what makes this Jessica Rabbit tick ….. “you better believe it buster..”
Who is Rachel Brown?
A singing, songwriting, animal-loving, Netflix-watching, Ethiopian-Bermudian-American, New Yorker.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A singer! As confirmed by all my childhood diaries…
How did you get to be where you are?
Facing my fears. Along the way I was terrified of what lay ahead, but my passion and drive to do it outweighed the fear. I also, without question, would not be in the position I’m in without the support of my family, who always encouraged me to keep pushing.
If you could go back in time and give your 16-year-old self some advice what would it be?
Hurry up and get that guitar! I waited until after I finished high school to get a guitar (which I had been daydreaming about for years) and start songwriting.
If the cupboard in your bedroom would lead you to another world what would your Narnia look like?
Wall-to-wall cotton candy, a laptop with fast wifi, and lots of puppies.
By day you are ….? By night you are….?
A businessperson, an entertainer.
My day is in reverse. I do all the tedious non-creative music-related work in the daytime and at night I do a low-key Cinderella story and turn into a performer.
What was one of your favorite past projects?
I had so much fun creating my first EP Building Castles. It was my first real experience in the studio, carefully crafting each track, and so exciting to see these songs come to life.
What are you working on now. and what do you dream of happening in the future?
I just wrapped a couple music videos. I’m eager to start writing again. It’s been a little while because I’ve been so focused on The Band EP. Just trying to find my way into as many ears as possible!
What song do you love that you keep secret cause its too embarrassing to say publicly you like it?
I have no shame. Some people don’t like country music and some people don’t like the Backstreet Boys. I listen to both proudly!
Which version of “ make you feel my love” do you prefers. Adele’s or Bob Dylan?
With a great song, I always have respect for the original and the songwriter, but you can’t be a breathing human in 2015 and not chose Adele!
Are you a morning person or night person?
I love the concept of waking up early and getting things done, but I am most creative at night.
Any advice for peeps just starting out?
Work hard and be nice to everyone.
Is there a quote or mantra you live by?
The show must go on.