Homegrown Tennessee roots, Midwestern inspiration and a voice that sounds as if it's lived through one hundred lifetimes — this is Chastity Brown.
At the age of 12, Brown took up the saxophone. She listened to the saxophone, played the saxophone and even slept alongside her saxophone. More than 20 years later, Brown has shaped her life around music.
Or rather, it has shaped her.
Brown's sound has been described as folk, pop and rock. But what sets the artist apart from the rest is her songwriting. She is unapologetic as she bares her soul with each verse. Her lyrics could move a cynic.
Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Brown moved to Minneapolis on a whim with a friend. She says genuine curiosity is what kept her here.
“I had never been to the Midwest... but I fell in love with the music scene,” Brown said.
As the diversity of Minneapolis’ music scene continues to evolve, so does Brown’s music.
“It blows my mind how many artist friends I have where we create completely different types of music, but we still support each other,” she said.
Sarah White, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, has supported Brown since 2006. White even sang backup for Brown for a brief time.
White classifies her own work as “neon soul” with hints of electronica and experimental sounds.
“Me and Chastity do a lot of song workshopping together, we work through our processes together,” White said.
While music originally brought them together, Brown and White also tackle non-melodic obstacles.
“We also have support for each other around the emotional labor that goes along with being an artist, an entertainer... different things that come up with your race, your heart, your process and your spirit,” White said.
Brown said her sound is repeatedly called into question.
“Being a woman, being a woman of color, being a queer woman... I have so often been asked, ‘What does it feel like to be a woman of color writing these types of songs for the world?’”
Brown said she has many white, male friends who are talented musicians that are never asked to answer these types of questions.
“It gets exhausting when the reality is that every person of color cannot just be good. You have to be better than the best,” she said. “There are no bootstraps.”
Despite these ongoing struggles, Brown is still finding a way to share her story through soul and rock.
“We met, we jammed and the rest was history,” said Robert Mulrennan, a longtime friend, co-songwriter, guitarist and producer for Brown. “I love creating music and building songs and sending them her way for inspiration. The ones that resonate with her, she’ll start to write lyrics for. And then we’ll do the arrangement and build the song up from there.”
Mulrennan said Brown has only sharpened her craft over the years, improving everything from lyrics to arrangement and production.
“She has made me such a better musician and composer,” Mulrennan said.
All of this painstaking work does come at a price for Brown. She's spent the last five years traveling back and forth between North America and Europe on tour.
Later this year, Brown is hoping to take a break to "rest and write.”
But before she takes some down-time, she'll be performing at Rock the Garden this Saturday.
“[Rock the Garden] is no small feat... that’s for sure,” Brown said of the upcoming performance.
Ultimately, Brown is extremely grateful to play for the community that has supported her through it all.
For Chastity Brown, playing in this festival will be like coming home.