A Place in the Heart

Renaissance man County Brown steps out.

Feb 14, 2007 at 4:00 am
As I first posted on our blog last week (www.riverfronttimes.com/blogs/?p=194), St. Louis so far has five representatives scheduled to attend: Undertow Records stalwarts Waterloo and Magnolia Summer, riotous punk-a-billy rockers 7 Shot Screamers, and Scat Records denizens Prisonshake (who have a double-LP in the works for later this year) and Finn's Motel.

Speaking of the latter, things are going swimmingly for Joe Thebeau's band. Hot on the heels of a very nice writeup in Magnet magazine, the group posted a video for the Guided by Voices-esque song "Recent Linear Landscapes" on YouTube (view it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5KbkrVoR9I). And finally, the band's playing a free, all-ages gig at Saint Louis University's Billiken Club (Busch Student Center, 20 North Grand Boulevard; 314-977-2020) on Saturday, February 17, with Gentleman Auction House.

Also, a clarification: The Jumbling Towers gig at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (3301 Lemp Avenue; 314-771-1096) at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 16, isn't a CD-release show quite yet. But it will be a fabulous night of rock, as Berlin Whale, Say Panther and the ubiquitous Gentleman Auction House round out the bill. County Brown is no stranger to entrepreneurial enterprise. In junior high the hip-hopper came up with the name of his current production company — Addicted Dopeness Productions — around the same time he started selling tapes of music to classmates ("I used to maybe get ten dollars for five songs," he recalls). And so by the time the 25-year-old started attending Hazelwood Central High School, his business was booming.

"I made, like, $5,000 when I was sixteen!" Brown exclaims. "In high school, I used to sell CDs all the time. That's how people know me from — from making my own CDs and distributing and selling them. I used to go to Target and buy these stickers that said, "$12.99" and [then tell people], ‘Hey, you buy it now for $10, you don't have to pay as much as in the store.' [I was] trying to make a hustle and a living out of this."

Almost a decade later, making a living from his art is exactly what County Brown is doing. Although he's released several albums in the past as a member of groups such as Fadel Level and E.Q., he decided to leave a steady job working for the government and focus exclusively on music.

Unlike many in town, he has ties to various aspects of the scene: production (Nelly compatriots Derrty DJs), engineering/mixing/mastering (he has a state-of-the-art home studio, Green Room Studios, and one called South Studios at the edge of the Delmar Loop) and, of course, his big-selling mixtapes (they've sold 4,000 to 5,000 copies each). But for right now, County Brown is focusing on self-releasing an album, which he hopes will see the light of day this summer.

Musically, he says, he's inspired by the jazziness of the South (his grandmother was Creole) along with live instrumentation (he's working with guitarist J.L., the man responsible for the riff on Nelly's "Ride Wit Me") and the innovative production of artists such as Kanye West. But his lyrics tend to hit closer to home.

"I'm really inspired by my peers," Brown says. "To have so many friends that believe in you, to see the dreams start developing and coming true. A lot of my inspiration comes from that. I'm writing about our situations and what's going on. It's bringing people into my world. That's the thing about being your own artist and having your own sound — it's your own world, what's going on in your own mind."

Brown will have plenty of room to stretch out when he plays a 45-minute set at the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard; 314-726-6161) as part of the Loop Underground show on Friday, February 16. Expect the unexpected — although, rest assured, boldness is a given.

"People know that I've taken a lot of chances, stepping out and doing my own thing," he says. "I had a great job and I walked away from that to give this more of a chance.

"The biggest thing as far as advice I give artists is, ‘Don't be scared to start over.' Sometimes it might take a while to start, but never be scared to start over, something you want to do in life. You gotta take chances and risks.

"I really had a chance of becoming something else, I walked away from that on my own," he concludes. "I knew this was still in me. I wanted to reinvent myself to the fullest. Everything's been going the way I wanted. I've been blessed."

The powers-that-be at Austin's annual South by Southwest music festival have finally announced a preliminary list of artists tapped to attend the event, which takes place this year March 14 through 18.