Official Biography (courtesy of Austin Brown)
Austin Brown is a 26-year-old musician, singer, performer, producer, dancer and songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. He comes from one of the world’s greatest musical families, the Jacksons, around whom he has grown up and developed his musical talents. He is the son of Maureen “Rebbie” Jackson, and the nephew of Michael, Janet and the other seven Jackson sisters and brothers.
Among Austin’s major influences are ground breaking artist Prince, music legend George Michael, his uncle Michael Jackson (who helped him with his vocal, melodic, harmonic and dance development) and his uncle Randy Jackson (who helped build his instrumental skills and educated him in song structure). Randy is the youngest of the Jackson brothers, a multi-instrumentalist who wrote some of the Jacksons’ greatest songs, including “Shake Your Body”.
As a young man, Austin received encouragement from Prince when the musician overheard Austin playing the piano in his hotel suite. “He told me no matter what I did, to keep playing. He said ‘by the time you’re my age you’ll be able to play anything you want.’ I’ll never forget that advice.”
The combination of Austin’s musicianship and work ethic has impressed many of the people who’ve collaborated with him. “As a persona, a talent, an entertainer and a singer Austin is quite remarkable,” says his vocal coach Gary Catona, who has taught some of the greatest voices and talents in modern times, from Whitney Houston to Andrea Bocelli, from Brian Wilson to Seal. “On top of that he’s been a devoted student and is totally committed to becoming a wonderful singer. He has this amazing vocal instrument with a range and power that’s second to almost no-one in the pop industry.”
Although he grew up at the heart of his famous musical family and went on tour with his uncle Michael and Aunt Janet, Austin’s parents deliberately raised him out of the public spotlight. Austin, known as Auggie to his family and friends, was born in 1985 to mother Rebbie and father Nathaniel Brown. He lived with his parents and his older sisters Stacy (born 1971) and Yashi (born 1977) in Agoura Hills, California. Rebbie is the eldest of the nine Jackson siblings, and is a successful recording artist in her own right, best known for her platinum-selling 1984 R&B single “Centipede”.
Austin credits his father Nathaniel as the driving force behind his early musical education, and while Nathaniel admits to paying for piano lessons, he says music was always on Austin’s mind. “When it came to school he was always a good student but music was also a major thing for him,” he says. “I didn’t have to instil it because it just came naturally. From the day he was born he was more inclined to making music.”
“I saw Austin’s potential when he was very young,” says Rebbie. “Austin was always a little nut. He loved to clown, he was the comedian in the family. Like my brother Tito and all his boys, when he would get around them he would crack jokes and imitate other artists and celebrities. He could make them crack up and fall out. And he wasn’t shy. He’s been with me to Osaka, Japan, on stage with Dionne Warwick and Ray Charles, he’s travelled all over the world. I saw how he loved to dance, and loved to sing.”
As a young adult during the heyday of the Jackson 5, Rebbie experienced firsthand how tough it can be to grow up in showbiz, and was determined to raise Austin and his sisters away from the pressure of publicity. She and Nathaniel, who have been married for more than 40 years, encouraged Austin to study hard and stay grounded.
“We come from an entertainment family and all too often you hear of people that are in the business, or were raised in it, who put themselves in a position where they think they’re better than others. I hate that, I hate it with a passion,” says Rebbie. “It’s just a gift you may have as an entertainer. Whatever you have, it was given to us. You’re no better than anybody else, and you don’t have anything that can’t be taken away from you.”
Although he’s enjoyed singing and dancing all his life, and began taking piano lessons when he was four, it wasn’t until seventh grade that Austin first began to think seriously of a career in music when Rex Salas – Janet Jackson’s musical director and the husband of Austin’s sister Stacy – taught him how produce records. When, at the age of 12, he was brought onto the stage at Wembley Stadium in the UK by Michael Jackson he realized that his heart was set on following his uncle into music. He also spent time on tour with Janet Jackson as a child.
“Austin was raised out of the spotlight, but he was exposed to the entertainment world basically from the minute he was born,” says Janet. “When he would visit me on tour, he was given an all-access pass. He would roam wherever he desired: backstage, front of stage, on stage, wardrobe room, sound board, video station, lighting etc. His schooling started very early.”
From a young age Austin has focused on developing his skills as a performer and writer, including ghost-writing for several prominent artists, and he never stops working to improve in all areas. In addition to taking vocal, piano and guitar lessons, he continues to study gymnastics to help him develop his agility and dance technique.
“Austin is so level-headed,” says his gymnastics coach JT Moyé. “He is a down-to-earth, humble guy who appreciates what he’s trying to achieve.”
Austin has been a dancer all his life. As a teenager he spent summers training and practicing with legendary street dancer Mr Wiggles (the Rock Steady Crew) and has recently been working closely with award-winning choreographer Jamal Sims (“Step Up 2: The Streets”, “Step Up 3D”, and “Footloose”) to push his skills to the limit.
Austin Brown with Walter Afanasieff
“We’re definitely doing things that haven’t been done, especially with an artist,” Jamal continues. “There’s things that have been done on film and you go ‘oh wow, those dances are great,’ but not with artists, and not singing at the same time.”
One important lesson Austin has learned from his family’s hard-earned experience is the value of taking control of your destiny at an early age. “Michael told me on numerous occasions how he bought his own music,” Austin says. “He said no matter what you do in life, always make sure you have full control over everything.”
“I learned about the importance of owning your intellectual properties by watching my brothers and having an open dialogue with them,” says Janet Jackson. “I think Austin has followed suit.”
Austin knows how important it is to work with the right people, from recording to music publishing and beyond, and with the proper financing, management and legal backup in place. With this in mind, Austin co-founded his own independent music label, The Royal Factory, in April 2008. In addition to becoming the label’s first signed artist, Austin has an executive role with the company.
Austin has what a lot of other artists don’t have: the right team behind him, according to Walter Afanasieff, the Grammy Award-winning songwriter who is co-writing and co-producing songs for his forthcoming album. “He has an adamant-to-win and very financially wise support team. And that’s critical.”
“We are honored that Austin and his family trust and respect the team that is helping him to structure and control his career, and build on the legacy of hard work that they have established,” says Chester Aldridge, President and CEO of The Royal Factory. “We’re delighted to be able to help Austin build a strong publishing label that will promote and protect his work and that of the other artists that we sign in the coming months and years.”
“They’re not reading from some imaginary business script,” says Walter of The Royal Factory team. “They’re very sincere, they’re very honest and they know the obstacles and the do’s and don’ts, and they certainly have a tremendous amount of reverence for the old saying that you have to pay your dues. Chester really has instilled that philosophy into Austin.”
Austin Brown Rodney Jerkins
Most recently Austin has been in the studio, writing, recording and co-producing. Having worked with a variety of producers and performers as he developed his sound over the years, Austin says his recent collaboration with Grammy-Award-winning producer Rodney Jerkins (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, George Michael) has finally delivered the perfect combination he’s been looking for. Austin and Rodney have known each other for more than ten years, and have been working together since May 2009.
“The style we’ve achieved is a combination of the soul and harmony of late 70s R&B, with the rhythms of modern electronic pop, very influenced by French bands like Daft Punk,” says Austin.
“The sound is very vintage,” says Rodney. “It’s a great hybrid of old and new. We have some stuff that has a late 70s/early 80s feel, some disco type records, but then we have one song, called Write it on the Floor, that feels like 2020, like what music should be in the next ten years.”
“The real artists, the ones that last a long time, are the ones who have a serious musical background, the ones that really understand what they want as an artist, that really understand music. Not the ones who are saying ‘Hey Rodney, I want another hit.’ That happens to me with a lot of different people,” says Rodney. “But the Beyoncés, the Michaels, the Janets who I work with, those are the artists that come to me with a vision for their project and a direction that they want. We study a lot of music together. That’s exactly what Austin did as well. He’s really impressed me on that front because sometimes when I view him, I almost think he’s a veteran in the game, because he has an old soul. It’s been awesome to be able to sit down with him and pick his brain, what he listens to, and what he likes. And then I can just complement his vision.”
Walter Afanasieff says his song-writing partnership with Austin has been fruitful from the start, thanks to Austin’s musicianship. “I start playing something and expect a melodist such as Austin to react right away, and he’s just fabulous. I play literally just one chord and he’ll start singing ideas right off that one chord. It’s quite lovely actually, because sometimes [with other artists] it’s like pulling teeth. It could be intimidation. Some artists are a little shy and reserved to start belting out a melody or ideas. Right away Austin was very vocal and melodic. He’s very appreciative and respectful of music. He knows a lot of music in his brain and life experience, he’s quite the music lover. I was very impressed with Austin’s writing and melody ideas, right at the get-go.”
Alongside Rodney Jerkins, Austin is currently at Rodney’s DarkChild Studio, putting the finishing touches to Austin’s forthcoming album, “85,” named after the year Austin was born. Austin was working with Rodney on concepts and ideas for his album when he received the terrible news of his uncle Michael’s passing in June 2009.
“It stopped me in my tracks,” Austin says. “I took a long break from writing and recording and it changed the way I approached the music I was making.” The knowledge that Michael would not have been happy to see Austin give up music spurred him on, and the album became his grieving process. “Michael worked harder and cared more about his music than anyone else I’ve ever known. I want to make sure that the album reflects the love I have for him.”