Meet Richmond Artist Kaelan Brown and Band

Virginia Commonwealth University is unique in its student body -- this is a statement many could universally agree on. These students possess a diverse array of talents including that of musical ability. Richmond, a home to a variety of young striving artists, holds a particular music scene that is undeniably incredible. The underground aspect in particular includes a mixture of different genres and performances that exhibit creativity and inspiration. An important key characteristic of thriving Richmond artists? The ability to connect with their audience in a way that most mainstream artists cannot.

One individual that has made a unique name for himself is Kaelan Brown, a 19-year-old sophomore here at VCU. I actually had the honor of attending his first show which was played at his own house on Oct. 6, 2017. My jaw dropped while hearing the jazzy instrumentals being played live from his band, while simultaneously hearing Brown's incredible duo-chromatic rap-sing style vocals. There was something unique about the hiphop + soulful combination that caught me completely off guard, in a good way. I decided to meet up with him the following week to ask him a few questions about him as an artist.

When did you start making music?

I started playing in some alternative bands and just have always been a fan of the punk and alternative music scene, especially being from Washington D.C. I was also apart of jazz band in high school. There was a band trip in particular to Atlanta that I went on with a few people, and one night we were all messing around and I started rapping for fun. My friends actually really enjoyed it and told me I should try pursuing it seriously.

Have you released any music?

Yes! Actually most of the set from our first show was from my first project called "From Out the Pines."

How did you meet your band members?

I knew I didn't want to be just a solo act. I think the best rap concerts have a live band, something that can get the people really into the show. When I lived in D.C., I had a band that I would occasionally play with. But after moving to Richmond, I didn't have anyone to play with, besides a guitar player and trombone player. I knew I needed more people. Believe it or not, I found all of the other members through Facebook.

Who plays what?

Marshall Klimmek plays the trumpet. Jaquan Andrews plays trombone. Michael Bradley plays saxophone. Collin Hopkins is on the drums. George Maddox plays piano. Jack Henry Mcallister plays guitar. Anthony Hopkins is on the bass.

How do you rehearse?

Our rehearsals are a little chaotic. We don't write our music down, instead it's everyone playing together until we all come to an agreement that it sounds dope. I don't have the musical education that a lot of them have, so I mostly just wait for them to let me jump in on vocals when they're ready. Everyone else is a music major and they are super professional. Me on the other hand, I can't really read music. But, I believe in showing up on time and getting what we need done, so I do try my best to do my part in making rehearsals as professional as we can for the most part.

What inspired you to get the sound that you have right now?

It started with a lot of copycatting actually. In order to become your own artist, in my opinion, you have to first start with imitating the greats. You build on what others have done and you make it your own. Chance the Rapper really inspired me to have trumpets in my music, and to just go beyond the typical rap instrumentals in general. Vic Mensa is also a big one for me. I'm also a huge fan of Chicago-style rap.

What's it like being both an artist and a college student?

Lately, if I'm being honest, it's kind of sucked. My heart is at a place where I want to keep my head in a creative space. I want to be writing songs, booking gigs and creating more music. But at the same time, I have to get a job, keep up with school and keep up with my friends. There's a lot that goes into it. Lately though, I've made a commitment to myself to write at least two songs a week. I do that just to stay balanced and on top of everything, even though every part of me wants to say f*ck school, because I want to focus on music all of the time. But then again, I need a backup plan.

How does your music fit into the house show scene?

I really believe that our type of music is suited for house shows. There's a lot of dancing, a lot of hands in the air momentum as well. Being in such a close space like a house with such a big sound like ours, is so much more effective in setting a certain tone with our music. The show we had last week was so packed, I'm sure the majority of people that came couldn't even see me, but that didn't matter. The tight and personal feel makes it a thousand times more fun. It's what makes it Richmond.

What inspired the project "From Out the Pines"?

I dealt with a lot of family problems around last year. My mom passed away, my girlfriend and I had broken up and just a lot of other things. I was in a really bad place. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, it would be like 3 a.m. and I would just write. "From Out the Pines" is something I'm extremely proud of. It's a cohesive storyline that starts from when I'm in high school. It's about being lost in a dark forest, not being sure if you'll find your way out, but you somehow do.

You can check out Kaelan Brown’s "From Out the Pines" on soundcloud here.

Photo credits: cover, 1, 2