LA vocalist Harriet Brown has a deep, abiding love of music.
When a song touches him, it goes in deep; even years later, he can recall lyrics, melodic shifts, and the way it impacted on his life.
21st century soul music, the American artist's new album 'Mall Of Fortune' will be released on February 1st.
Ahead of this, Clash spoke to Harriet Brown about his creative touchstones, the abiding influence of Janet Jackson, and how Kanye's darkness brought out new light in his own music...
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702 - 'Finally'
I listened to so much 702 during the making of 'Mall Of Fortune'. This song is from their self-titled, second album, released in 1999, and the drum programming is insane and perfect! For the longest time I thought it was produced by Timbaland, but it’s actually by Greg Charley, who I really know very little about.
The production and writing in this song (and across this whole album) really inspired a lot of the album. There’s so many crazy sounds going on, but the way it grooves is so catchy and natural, and 100% supportive of the actual written song.
It’s still very emotional and sentimental despite how technical the production is. I focused pretty hard on the drum programming in 'Mall Of Fortune', and this was one of the songs that really inspired me to do so.
702 - 'Places'
I couldn’t choose just one 702 song, or even just one 702 album, so this is my favorite song from the other 702 album that I was listening to very, very heavily during the making of 'Mall Of Fortune' – their third album, 'Star', from 2003, which is a pretty different sound than what they did in the previous album.
I love what it takes from certain atmospheric late 90s neo-soul, like Maxwell and Groove Theory, with a little more 2000s R&B flavour. Its enveloping and ethereal, very otherworldly and sensual and sexy. I often like to write about going to some sort of imagined surreality, some sort of escape, and this song to me does that perfectly.
The part that makes me lose my breath and has brought me to tears of pleasure quite a bit is when the whole song has a switch that drops at around 5:55, starting with a little water drop, and then chords coming in so heavy, followed by the ladies singing, “Let me show you how it feels to be loved by an angel…" Jesus!! This shit is hot!! It really feels like the most epic, angelic climax of the most heavenly orgasm, no joke.
Wow… for some people this track might take a little too much patience to get into, but for me, it really sucks me into its world, takes me on a long ride, and the payoff is so, so, so worth it. These are the kinds of worlds I often try to make in my own music.
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Janet Jackson - 'Someone To Call My Lover'
I love this whole album, 'All For You' – probably my favourite Janet album at the moment (though I really love her so much in all eras!). One of my favourite artists ever, and as usual working with my other heroes Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
The way they use that acoustic guitar sample from America’s 'Ventura Highway' is so amazing and iconic to me, paired with the somewhat garage-like drum beats and sounds. The juxtaposition between the two works perfectly, and is something I really tried to bring about across 'Mall Of Fortune' as well, this sort of bluesy, Americana feeling paired with technical electronic drum programming, a very fun sentiment that was pretty abundant in the early 2000s, I think.
This song always makes me feel hopeful and excited, and honestly pretty giddy.
Kanye West - 'Paranoid'
Though this song is kinda the most sonically different from the other ones on the list and also from the sounds on my album in general, just the message of the song and the overall attitude was very influential to me during this past album process.
I really got into revisiting '808s And Heartbreak' in general during the album process – I love how bold it is, how raw the sentiment is. I know Kanye in recent years has taken kind of a dark turn, but I must admit, I do really love this early dark Kanye. The combo of having these cathartic inspirational moments still swimming amidst deep self-doubt is something I really related to, and a sentiment I wrote a ton about across the entirety of 'Mall Of Fortune'.
In a way it’s a sentiment that’s purposefully somewhat confusing for both the listener and the narrator – like, is this him celebrating, or mourning, or giving up, or an apathetic ignorance, and what is going on anyway? Who knows!
Ciara - '1-2 Step'
Whew! What a hit. Again, the production of this track really influenced what I was doing with Mall of Fortune – the almost abrasive drum sounds and bare synths. And, most importantly, I wanted to channel the irresistibly catchy vibe of the song, how it really forces you to get up and dance!
The way this song makes moving pretty much unavoidable was always my goal on all the more dance-oriented tracks on the album, especially 'Driver’s Seat' – I just really wanted to make it easy for people to dance, and I’d say Ciara and Jazze Pha score an 11 out of 10 for this one.
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'Mall Of Fortune' is set to be released on February 1st.
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