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Sam Brown has been up; she's been down. She's been a big star and she's been a Lillette. She's been everywhere from Chigwell to Chelyabinsk. Through it all the constant factor has been the powerful pulse of fired-up music in her bloodstream.
Born on October 7, 1964 in Stratford, London, she came to it as naturally as breathing because she grew up in the most musical of families. Just before The Beatles broke through, her father Joe Brown was an influential guitarist and had three Top 10 pop hits. Her mother Vicki Brown was a top backing vocalist from the early 70s onwards, with her partner Liza Strike famously providing the harmonies for T. Rex. With Joe owning a nearby studio too (The Grange), Sam's childhood home was always full of musicians, among them The Small Faces' Steve Marriott and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour.
With no career plans in mind, just swimming with the tide of her background and talent, she appeared as vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and in 1977 her "first musical pay-day" sang back-ups on the Small Faces' final album in the shade. Later, with her mother, she sang back-ups for Marriott's Packet of Three: Live as The Lillettes.
Her self-reliance fully established, to record her debut album Stop! she turned back towards her family, asking the label to try her guitarist brother Pete Brown as producer, even though she had "never really got on with him". It worked. Slowly. In 1989, almost a year after release, following Top 10 showings in Holland and Germany, the single Stop began to get saturation radio play in the UK. It reached Number 4; the album did likewise and went on to sell 2.5 million world-wide despite a variety of sounds, which set it beyond any fashion of the day: "There are songs with strings on, jazz, out-and-out Dixieland, dance tunes."
Despite more chart singles, the follow-up April Moon (1990) dipped to something over half a million sales and, preposterously, sales of her third album 43 Minutes (1993) also plummeted. A promising career ruined in three easy stages? "I did that incredibly well," she laughs.
While her unfashionably passionate style had something to do with it, there was also the matter of a grievous disruption in her life, which affected her priorities and her music. Just after Sam had produced a solo album for her mother, Vicki Brown became very ill with cancer. "My aunt, a close family friend and I nursed her through it," says Sam. "My mum died in June 1991. While she was ill I started writing 43 Minutes and the main lesson I learnt was a record's no use to anybody unless you believe in what you're doing. All I want to do is sit down and write songs at the piano, not think about copying Stop and having hits, which everyone wanted me to do at the time."
A&M asked her to add a hit single, she refused and so it went out on her own hastily created label Pod Music UK Ltd. "We gigged it for ages and that was great too, one of the best things I've done," she says. "I played it solo in churches sometimes. It would really move people, I suppose because I meant it."
She's carried on meaning it through another strong independent release, Box (1997, on Demon), which pleasingly picked up to 17,000-odd sales - boosted, no doubt, by that promotional trip to gun-toting Chelyabinsk - plus sessions, and a lot of gigs as featured vocalist with the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and backing singer on Pink Floyd's Division Bell tour in 1994.
In 2000 the album Reboot was released on Mud Hut. In April 2003 the BBC broadcasted an interesting interview with her even playing her ukulele and singing Kiss Of Love which was filmed and is still available as a RealMedia video clip on their site.
Her most recent releases (2007) are Of The Moment, an album in which she explores a wide range of genres and moods, and an EP of acoustic arrangements Ukulele and Voice, recorded with her father. Some new tracks have also been made available for listening on her Myspace profile, and her official fan club site One Candle offers two demo tracks of the album as well.
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