Black queer Blues artist Chastity Brown has merged modern soul with her own unique sound on her new album, out June 17.
The daughter of a blues musician, Chastity Brown has both the gift of a rich, mellow, melodic voice and the ability to craft lyrics that turn life’s challenges and struggle into beautiful music. The recent political and social landscape has given Brown even more to write and sing about, from the effects of the pandemic and lockdown to racial injustice and the riots that happened just blocks from her South Minneapolis home.
Her new album, Sing To The Walls, absorbs these upheavals, but it’s also “a love album, in a way I didn’t plan on,” says Brown. In fact, she spent the pandemic prolifically writing more songs, 10 of which made it onto Sing To The Walls.
Brown’s voice is in fine form: rich, bold, and expressive and with an optimistic uplift contained in the vocals and the driving tempo of “Wonderment.” It continues with “Back Seat,” a beat that is infectious, triumphing over the inherent reckoning in the lyrics. “Golden” takes anger and transforms that rage into power.
“I’ve got joy even when I’m a target, if you think that’s political don’t get me started,” Brown sings, with the chorus asking: “Why have I got to be angry?” Similarly, the track “Hope” throbs with that feeling and the will to not give up.
“I will sing to those walls, hope it gets through / And I will sing to your scars, they need healing too,” Brown sings on the album’s title track.
Sing To The Walls is a musician’s answer to the turbulence and pain caused by injustice, and in this way Brown was inspired by earlier Civil Rights milestones.
“Like how funk music came after Malcolm, Martin, and everybody got murdered in the ‘60s. Then the ‘70s popped off, and there was funk! This isn’t funk, but it’s rooted in that same kind of response. I just want to feel good. Straight up,” says Brown who co-produced all of the tracks and drew on other Black music genres such as soul, folk, and Americana.
Brown has been singing the Blues for a long time, inspired by the positive message of American author Zora Neale Hurston. “I knew that I wanted to sing when I was fourteen,” Brown told Q40, and how she discovered her distinctive voice. “By the the time I was twenty two I first realized that my voice was different than what I was listening to. It has taken years for me to just be myself and sing how I sing.”
The discovery of her writing ability has a unique—if painful—source, which Brown also shared:
“My first year of college I attended a seminary school in Baltimore. I fell in love for the first time with another woman who I was in school with. We were kicked out and told that we were evil. The church said I couldn’t be around children or involved in anything unless I went to conversion therapy. My mom, although she is a devout Christian, said it was bull crap and that I could feel however I wanted. It was then that I began writing my own songs. I would sit on my porch stoop and just sing how I was feeling. That thread, singing and writing out of necessity, has been consistent in my work ever since.”
But back to the power of Hurston.
“After being obsessed with Zora Neale Hurston’s letters a friend of mine gifted me Their Eyes Were Watching Go. Although I loved her letters, I thought I would never be able to read one of her novels. I thought the vernacular would be too difficult to understand. But I was wrong! I fell into that story and was totally immersed. It’s the most amazing love story I have ever read. In the credits, Alice Walker had a note about how cruel Langston Hughes and W. E. B Dubois were to her because she wrote a narrative that did not center oppression. I realized that I wanted to do that. Little did I know what that would mean for me when the pandemic and the uprising popped off. Love in the center of chaos: That is what I have clung to.”
Brown turns 40 on June 1 and says the best thing about growing up and growing older is “knowing myself and knowing what I need to stay grounded.” Amen to that! And her plans for Pride will continue that celebration of life. “Since I’m on the road so much I will be having little gay celebrations with my friends that I get to see along the way,” she shares.
And once June is over and life continues without birthday cake or rainbow flags—what sustains her, daily? Brown reveals she is chatting to Q40 from her front porch while her dog snores in the sun. “My partner and I live and love the simple, quiet life. Any chance we get the three of us pile in the car and head to the woods. Being surrounded by trees is the best feeling. It’s so humbling, restoring, and profound.”
CHASTITY BROWN JUNE TOUR DATES
06/03/22 EUSTON, UK Red Rooster 2022
06/06/22 LEAMINGTON SPA, UK Temperance
06/08/22 LONDON, UK Green Note presents The Water Rats
06/09/22 NOTTINGHAM, UK Cosmic American at The Running Horse
06/10/22 BRADFORD, UK Music In The Hall at St. Georges Hall
06/18/22 ARLINGTON, IL Hey Nonny
06/20/22 ANN ARBOR, MI The Ark
06/21/22 BUFFALO, NY The Ninth Ward
06/22/22 SYRACUSE, NY The 443 Social Club & Lounge
06/24/22 PHILADELPHIA, PA. Philadelphia Folksong Society
06/25/22 BOSTON, MA City Winery Haymarket Lounge
06/26/22 BROOKLYN, NY The Atlantic BKLN
06/28/22 RICHMOND, VA Tin Pan
06/29/22 DURHAM, NC The Pinhook
06/30/22 LA GRANGE, GA Pure Life