Interview – Aza Brown

Aza Brown is a musician from Chesterfield – I featured his song, The Way That I Roll, in a recent round-up review I completed about artists from the North of the UK. He has a great sound and truly deserves your attention – check out the interview below to find out more!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a song titled The Way That I Roll, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about this song and where can it be purchased?

I was out of original music for 15 years when my last band – The Chasers – split in 2006, and I was so gutted at the time that I turned my back on music and became an art dealer, and then an English teacher! It’s a song about coming back and taking the plunge again – there are a lot of lyrics referring to gratitude, and you can tell I was reading a lot of self help books at the time. The main hook of “maybe you will, maybe you won’t?” is me deliberating whether to have the courage to go for it again (on my own this time, so I can’t be let down, except by myself). You can stream it on all digital platforms, but there may be a physical release of the forthcoming album (Exennial) in the summer.

You’ve been a member of several other bands, including The WonderWhys. Are you currently working with other musicians in other projects?

I really bounced off producer Danny Burton (Finley Quaye/John Entwistle/Zak Starkey) – so much so that when he heard what I can do with the vocal harmonies, he asked me to do the same all over his solo album Night and Day – to which I happily obliged! I think there’ll certainly be some further collaborations with him coming this year.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Yes and no. Obviously, all The WonderWhys’ gigs were cancelled overnight, and the worry and uncertainty sent me into a severe depression. Incredibly though, I worked through it somehow to write and finish the album. It all seems like a blur now, and at times I was questioning reality and wondering if we were living in a simulation – what with all the lies and propaganda thrown about. It’s been a very hard time for me (and everyone really).

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

Some of the album I’d written in Australia 3 years ago, with a little iRig and iPad on Garageband – it was really easily transportable and meant I could write and record just about anywhere. Due to lockdown, though, we couldn’t rehearse or get together, so I had to send all my demos to producer Dan Burton over the airwaves, who imported them into Logic, but then had to really tidy up what I’d done and rewrite whole songs at times – I’ve really got him to thank for making this possible! Then in June of 2020, things were relaxed a little, and I spent the next few months doing the vocals and finishing the rest ‘round his house, as and when we could – quite a strange process really, but ultimately it’s worked, and I’m over the moon with the results.

Have you started writing for a future EP/album yet?

Not exactly, but I’ve got loads of ideas that wouldn’t suit this album’s coherence that will surely find the light of day on future albums. I was in Mexico for a couple of months recently and wrote a new song out there, which is really upbeat and catchy. It just came from nowhere, but the sunshine and laid back feel of the place really inspired me.

Do you plan to release any singles in the near future?

Well, I got ahead of myself and went to Mexico – partly as a tonic to the last 2 years’ nonsense and to replenish my spirit (it worked!), and secondly to film the videos to the next 2 singles. New single For Real? (March 4th) is an anti-establishment stomp with a Suffragette City kinda groove, and the next song Afterthought has a definite Spanish/Mexican flavour to it, so I donned a poncho and sombrero and walked around some stunning Mexican countryside. Can’t wait for you all to see that!

You’re based in Chesterfield. What is the music scene like in your part of the world?

It used to be amazing in the 90’+s, but there are very few places for original bands to play now, unfortunately. I’m working on that though with my Youtube Channel/Podcast S40time (pronounced Showtime, but S40 is Chesterfield’s postcode www.s40time.com), and interviewing the local movers and shakers in an attempt to revive the scene here. Saying that, there are some great local artists like Kai Undrell, The Rosadocs and Danny Burton.

What/who influences you most as artists? What have you been listening to recently?

I’m massively influenced by The Beatles, but also very much so by the amazing songwriting of Jellyfish and Crowded House, the zany musicianship of Zappa, and the poetic beauty of The Divine Comedy. I love the experimental boundary pushing exploits of Radiohead and Everything Everything, and recently I discovered Weird Milk – a young band whose pop sensibilities bely their tender years, and who remind me a bit of XTC and Squeeze.

Do you have any tour dates lined up? What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

I had to cancel all my original stuff last year ‘cos of measures and uncertainty, but I’m hoping to get back on it this year, and I’ll be pushing to get on some festivals if possible. The WonderWhys will be playing around the Derbyshire and South Yorkshire area in the next few months, and people should come and see us because the live show is an absolute spectacle! The Exennial album launch is scheduled for Friday 8th July at Realtime Live in Chesterfield.

Any last words for the fans?

I’m concentrating on making decent videos, so please subscribe to my Youtube Channel, This Is Aza Brown, and get in touch with any questions and suggestions – I’d love to hear from you all, plus I’m pretty active on all my socials @thisisazabrown

Keep supporting live music and unsigned artists. It’s been an incredibly difficult time for us all, and there’s some amazing talent out there.