published Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Singer Aaron Brown brings Philly soul to Nightfall Friday — Aug. 9

Aaron Brown
Aaron Brown
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

• What: Nightfall concert series featuring Aaron & The Spell

• When: Friday, Aug. 9, Aaron & The Spell headlines at 8 p.m.; Function opens at 7

• Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Blvd., Market and Cherry streets

• Admission: Free

• Phone: 265-0771

• Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com

• Artist website: www.aaronandthespell.com

THE OPENER

Function with a ‘C’ is a local funk/R&B quintet of John Rose, Justin McBath, Darren Self, Hunter White, Brittany Ammons with occasional special guests. The band was one of the finalists of this year’s Road to Nightfall battle of the bands competition. For more information, visit Facebook.com/FunctionGrooves5.

Earlier this year, National Public Radio music writer Bruce Warren included Philadelphia’s Aaron Brown on his list of 10 Artists You Should Have Known in 2012, describing him as “an exciting name to add to the lineage of the city’s expressive and emotionally intense soul singers.”

But when Brown was growing up, his habit of singing out loud wherever he went was as likely to get him swat upside the head as pat on the back.

“For about 10 years, that’s pretty much all I did,” he recalls, laughing. “My parents had to tell me to shut up. My brother used to hit me on car rides.”

Singing in public is a habit he’s never managed to break, but he’s trying to keep it in check, despite the approving nods his vocals now earn from music critics.

“I try not to do it on the train or anything like that,” he adds. “People tend to get upset, and people in Philly, when they get upset, they might hurt you a lot more than other people.”

As this week’s Nightfall headliner, Brown says he plans to sing his soulful heart out to a crowd he hopes will receive him better than a captive audience on the subway.

Growing up, Brown was a student of artists such as Prince, Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder, whose varied stylistic approaches influenced his own approach to the soul genre in their own way.

“In certain moods, they just fit perfectly,” Brown says.

The ability to channel emotion into music was key to the production of his debut album, which includes songs written during a period when professional loss and romantic trauma seemingly wrestled to decide which could disappoint him the most. Although the 10 tracks came from a difficult time in his life, Brown says the personal hurt that inspired their creation touches on universal truths that seem to resonate with audiences.

And that, he says, is the key to good soul music.

“If you don’t know it when you hear it, then it doesn’t have the power; it’s not soul music,” Brown explains. “I just want something that people can feel. If they can feel it, no matter what it is, then it’s soul music.”

Brown says his performances may be better received these days, but the quest to improve himself artistically and get closer to his musical destiny is unlikely to stop, no matter the heights his career eventually reaches. To date, his bank balance isn’t growing commensurately with the critical praise he’s received, but he feels rewarded to see indications that music was a calling worth enduring a swatting or two from his brother to pursue.

“Personally, [the accolades are] enormously liberating,” Brown says. “It’s like, ‘This is what you’re supposed to be doing. This is your connection to the larger world and the people in it. This is something you have to offer.’ ”

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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