By Len Lear
Hardly a day goes by at work that I am not listening to Pandora.com (when the computer is working normally) and particularly to the all-time greatest blues and soul singers like Al Green, Beth Hart, Janis Joplin, BB King, Percy Sledge, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Son House, Bessie Smith, Wilson Pickett and my number one favorite, Otis Redding. But I am glad to report that I have just discovered a local guy who may just join this pantheon of blues and soul legends some day.
Soul singer-songwriter, Aaron Parnell Brown, 35, has released his new single “Can’t Stop,” which comes from his sophomore album, “The Tin Man,” set to release this month. But he has been getting lots of radio play with his song, “Just Leave,” as far away as Italy and Sydney, Australia, as well as favorable reviews in magazines and on websites around the U.S. and in England, Japan, Ireland, South Korea, Belgium and Germany, among others.
Brown, who grew up in East Mt. Airy and attended Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill from 1983 to 1990, has performed solo at a buffet of Philly area venues such as The Tin Angel, The Fire, World Cafe Live Downstairs, Fergie’s Pub, Burlap and Bean in Newtown Square, The Flash in Kennett Square and many others over the past five years or so.
Brown recently won the R&B Category of the inaugural Philadelphia Live Center Stage Competition, an initiative from City Councilman David Oh, and he won the 2014 Soul Artist of the Year Award in the Tri State Indie Awards, winning an Independent Music Award for his song, “A Beating Heart.” According to Bruce Warren, WXPN program director, “Aaron Parnell Brown is an exciting new name to add to the lineage of the city’s expressive and emotionally intense soul singers.”
Last Saturday night, July 11, Brown performed at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., featuring the music of Michael Jackson and Prince. 100% of concert proceeds and album sales of “The Tin Man” will go to a local nonprofit which helps young people achieve success in sports. (Ticket information at www.worldcafelive.com or 215-222-1400.)
“I always wanted to play music ever since I started playing flute at Jenks in third grade,” Aaron said last week. “For the longest time I just thought it was a dream beyond my reach, but in the last five years, that dream has become more and more of a reality…For the most part, I learned about music theory in school, but I learned the most about music while playing in a band, Alien Red, for years. We traveled all over Pennsylvania playing around four shows a week.”
Who are Aaron’s favorite singers? “Stevie Wonder, his tone, range, and control; Donny Hathaway, his tone and emotion; Frank Sinatra, his phrasing; Prince, his style; Nina Simone, all that emotion! And Mick Jagger; what a horrible singer, but I just can’t get enough of his style.”
Brown is wise enough not to have put all of his eggs in one musical basket. He also has a marketing degree from Penn State University, main campus, and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Marywood University in Scranton. He has worked at several nonprofit jobs, including a soup kitchen, an organization focused on the homeless, United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
His father worked in business in a management position, and his mother worked for a long time as a librarian in branches all over the city. “I actually spent a ton of time growing up in the libraries,” Aaron said. “I especially enjoyed spending time in the children’s section at the main library on Vine Street.”
If you Google Brown’s name, you will find articles in European magazines and websites praising his music. How did they find out about him? “In January of this year,” he explained, “I began to reach out to bloggers and radio DJs in Europe, which really started everything for me. A lot of people I reached loved my album, and now that has led to lots of exciting opportunities including some featured articles in the UK and France and a record deal with Expansion Records in the UK. In addition, I’ll be touring Europe this winter, which I’m really excited about.
“I continue finding new audiences. For instance, I just received a message from someone in South Africa who loves my music and has been introducing my music to her friends. I have received stories like this from people all over the world. It’s just so cool nowadays that through the internet I can make music here in Philly, and people all over the world can not only enjoy it but can also reach out to me directly to let me know their thoughts about it.”
More information at https://twitter.com/aaparnellbrown