Indie pop soul singer Vanessa “VV” Brown first entered the scene in 2009 and has since sold out her UK tours, toured with Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige, and has become a complete international sensation. Now she looks to continue to grow that success with her sophomore album ‘Lollipops & Politics,’ which is due out next month. Led by the playful-sounding “Children,” VV looks to delve into more political issues on this project, allowing fans to see a more personal side of her. Speaking exclusively with Singersroom, VV talked to us about her transition of sounds for the new LP, the creative process, and what new ventures she has lined up for 2012.
Singersroom: Now your newest single “Children” featuring Chiddy is getting airplay throughout the nation. Right off the bat, you can almost hear a different sound from you on the single. Was this a conscious move?
VV Brown: Yeah, it was. I just experimented a lot and listened to new music and stuff while I was growing up. I’ve evolved as an artist, which I think is a natural progression, I guess. I think this new album is reflecting where I’m going.
Singersroom: What inspired the direction for the album?
VV Brown: Well I was reading a lot of books and watching a lot of film. Just being really involved in what was going on in real life, and became concerned about things, with the economy, the recession, the new generation. These kind of ideas made me want to make a new album that has more of a say, more of a message. I was also listening to a lot of electronic music, and more 80s music like Cyndi Lauper. That’s how I came up with that title ‘Lollipops & Politics.’
Singersroom: On the subject of the album title, can you explain to me how you came up with the title and what it means to you?
VV Brown: I was in SoHo in New York, and I already had an existing title, which just wasn’t the right one. I was racking my brain on how I can find something that encompasses what the album is all about. I thought to myself, “What am I trying to say? What is the sound?” I’m a huge fan of pop music, so the album still has a pop-sensibility about it. But if you listen to the lyrical content like “Children” and “Famous,” they’re all quite based on things that are quite political and question the world and kind of have a statement about specific issues. I kind of took the two together â pop music and then where it was going lyrically and conceptually. Then I came up with “lollipop” and kind of put the two together.
Singersroom: How was it transitioning from your retro musical style to this new sound?
VV Brown: It was quite difficult. There was a lot of experimenting between November and March. A lot of just being in the studio at home just making up lots of different sounds and playing around with lots of different instruments. I kind of had to find myself again. I almost got lost into a life where I wasn’t creating anymore. I just came up with so many different ideas. It was hard cause I had to find myself again, but eventually you just find what you can go towards and follow it through. The transition is generally really hard.
Singersroom: Are you at all worried about the supposed “sophomore slump”?
VV Brown: I think I’ve got to a point in my life where things will be what they’ll be, and you can’t control anything. Once you make something, you have to let it go into the universe. I’m really proud of my record, and I feel there’s no point in worrying. Life is funny like that, but it’s also cool to just be chillin.’ [Laughs]
Singersroom: You mentioned earlier about going back to London to work on this album. How influential and important was it to do so?
VV Brown: Well I actually spent a lot of the time making the album in London because
being surrounded by the things that I’m used to kind of meant a lot to me. I just needed to be at home really. I needed to experience home again. I’ve been in America for so long that it wasn’t home. In order for me to capture something that felt real, I had to be where real [was] felt, and that was the UK. I did spend a lot of time in Sweden working with Bjorn, and time in L.A. I’m not really a fan of posh studios. I like to be surrounded in an environment where it feels kind of honest, where I can write. And there’s no place than to do that at home, writing.
Singersroom: How different would you think the album would have been if you didn’t go back?
VV Brown: I don’t know. I have no idea. You can never know. [Laughs] I think I’m quite strong-minded about the direction that I wanted to go in. I think it probably would have ended up being the same, but simply might have taken a bit longer to find it.
Singersroom: We already mentioned how there’s more talk about politics in your music. Was it at all difficult to combine that into your music?
VV Brown: No, I didn’t find it difficult because I wanted to talk about what I wanted to talk about. I actually found it quite easy because I feel like I was talking about my political interest and I feel like I wanted to question the world. I think when people get to know me, I’m naturally quite inquisitive. I’m into conspiracy theories and always on YouTube finding out about [the] world. I spend a lot of time reading newspapers. I love it.
I think on the first album, I didn’t show that side of me. It was very much about love and a sentimental record. I kind of wanted this record to let people get to know me more and find out more about my personality. That’s a huge part of my personality.
Singersroom: Definitely. I wondered because sometimes people get caught up in the up-tempo sound and forget to actually listen to the lyrical meaning in the words. Were you worried that the message would go over people’s heads?
VV Brown: I was definitely worried about that for sure in “Children” because it’s got such a happy song to it and has a ice cream van in it. People might listen to the ice cream van and instantly think that it’s just a novelty record, another pop record. I was worried definitely. But I find it as a contradiction and I love mixing pop melodies with dark lyrics. I think at the end of the day, you just have to be real about what you want to do. I’m a huge fan of development, and hopefully as your album grows, there will be videos online or live performances for you to explain what the album was really about. That way they can go back to the song and say “Oh, now I get what she was trying to do.” It’s a process and I have to be patient to let people discover what it is. I feel like I want to be the album artist, and the songs that complement are pushed more in the forefront and the whole body record will be everything extensive.
Singersroom: Which song would you say has the strongest and/or most personal message behind it?
VV Brown: I think for me, my favorite song on the record is “Famous”…I think we live in a huge generation where everyone can be famous for five minutes. It’s really weird I’m talking about fame because it’s quite critical of the industry that I’m in. I just felt that I always wanted to make music because I wanted to make music and not for the fame side. There are worlds where fame becomes the main denominator for everything, rather than about what you’re making, doing, or who you are. It’s just fame. That song means a lot to me, and I think it’s one of my favorite tracks of the record.
Singersroom: Will that be the next single?
VV Brown: I don’t know. We’re actually talking about what should be the next single. I’d love it to be “Famous” but there are so many tracks on the album that I love. To me, a lot of the singles that I’d like to choose also depend on the visual aspects. Like some songs have an amazing visual idea to it that I believe in, so I think that will factor into what the next single will be as well. I mean the first video was kind of low budget, where we went to LA with a 5D camera. We just shot a video about real life. I wanted it to be a real video, and I didn’t want it to take away from the message. The second video will probably be more fashion-led, so the single might be… I don’t know! We’ll see.
Singersroom: I recently read that you said you took a risk with your video for “Children” because your label wanted to do a more fashion-related concept.
VV Brown: Yeah! There was a little bit of conflict about what kind of video was to be done. I was really nervous about doing a fashion-led typical video because the song is about children and the economy and people. I was nervous because I was known for fashion, I guess, and I love fashion. I was worried if I came out with a video where it wasn’t fashion, I would lose sight of my personality. I just felt like it would be funny of me, big shoulder-padded, very couture outfit, walking down the street talking about the economy and kids and with an ice cream van in the back. It needed to be told for what it is. I’m glad we shot the video. That’s the beauty of videos. When you do your next song, you can then play with other concepts. Fashion will definitely be in the next one.
Singersroom: Before music, you were known as a model. Do you struggle with people still seeing you as a fashion icon before a musician anymore?
VV Brown: Yeah I do! I think sometimes you get frustrated but I think I’m blessed. I’m happy that I’m involved in the creative art. I can play with creative things. It can be frustrating, but you have to pinch yourself and remember what you’re doing and there are so many things that you could be doing. I’m very grateful that I have fashion and I have music. They complement each other. We’re in an industry now where the two go hand-in-hand, so whether the fashion blows up or the music blows up, eventually, one will catch up with itself. I’m willing to be patient and get there.
Singersroom: With your album dropping in February, what do you have planned until then?
VV Brown: I’m going to be promoting it. I’m a huge fan of the Internet, so I really believe in online media and there will be a lot of new video content coming out, and even short films to go with the record. There will also be lots of live music, like seeing me perform live. Hopefully, I’ll also be doing SXSW as well and in the future, hopefully we’ll be going on tour. So yeah… No idea what I’ll be doing next. It’s a bit scary. [Laughs]
Singersroom: What else do you have planned for this year aside from the album? Any side projects?
VV Brown: Yeah. I’m starting a new business. It’s a fashion company, and we go live this month. It’s called VVVintage.com. I’m putting a lot of energy into that business. I’m actually sitting by the computer right now playing with the clothes and wordpress, which is really difficult. [Laughs] It’s a huge passion of mine.
But just music and touring, and yeah. It’s funny. When you get to 27, 28, your life starts to change and you grow. You want to be encompassed in art and it all be about wanting to being what you love and enjoy. I think I’ve always wanted to be that kind of woman, and I’ll always strive for that.
Singersroom: Christmas just passed, but what was on your wish list?
VV Brown: A goldfish in those circular bowls. They’re gorgeous and they’re so orange. They sort of shimmer in the light and they swim around. Their life looks so… I mean I guess it’s not the best life since you’re just swimming around and you don’t know what’s going on, but it’s hypnotizing watching them. I just want to put it on my shelf and just watch it swim around, and feed it and look after it. Maybe even get more fish and build an aquarium in the house.
Singersroom: What were your New Year’s resolutions?
VV Brown: Not to worry, to be true to what you believe in from a creative point of view, to give more, and to spend more time with friends because I travel a lot and I haven’t hung out with my friends much. And this is a big thing for me… monopolizing on this new media. I think the Internet is such an amazing platform for creativity, and I think I can monopolize on it so much more than I am now with videos. I really, really want to do a short film and I’m definitely going to do that this year.
—— By: Interview By Connie Tang