Fast becoming recognised as one of the UK’s most exciting new musical talents, singer-songwriter, pianist and saxophonist AJ Brown has burst onto the live music scene, gigging extensively across the UK and Europe, and supporting artists such as George Benson, Burt Bacharach and The Hallé Orchestra.
Could you tell us about your musical background? What was your first instrument and when did you first realise that you wanted to become a performer?
My parents both have successful careers in music and dance, so I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually head down a performance road myself. My brother Ben and myself used to go down to their shows from a really early age (which I loved) and I took my first steps onto a stage at about 3 years old in a top hat and tails. My dad had an old alto saxophone from his days on the road and I took to it quite quickly and felt really at home with the instrument. From there it was quite a steady progression into singing, piano, and eventually song-writing.
Who are your musical influences, and are there any artists currently around that you consider to be particularly innovative and unique?
I have always been hugely inspired by the artists who have had longevity in their work. I find that if you can maintain a standard of musicianship and performance to stand the test of time, that is special. Artists such as Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald are all perfect examples.
Of course there are many more and I have a long list of artists that I love and look up to. Currently the music industry is unbelievable, there is so much talent it’s frightening. A few artists that I’m listening to at the moment are Gregory Porter, Tori Kelly, Gallant, NAO, Jacob Collier and Kwabs.
You’ve been fortunate enough to support huge stars like Burt Bacharach, Simply Red and Tom Jones. How did you get to this stage in your career? Has this experience particularly shaped or influenced your approach to making music?
I’d been gigging solidly for the past five years, always looking forward and working towards performing on big stages. Luckily, due to the contacts and friendships I made during that time, I was offered amazing opportunities that I still find unbelievable.
I often have to pinch myself. I’ve learnt such a lot from the huge names I have supported, everything from stagecraft to relationships with my audiences. To sit and eat dinner with Burt Bacharach, chatting and asking questions; to turn and see Sir Tom Jones watching me from the wings – these are moments I will treasure for the rest of my life.
What has been the highlight of your performing career thus far? Are there any concerts that particularly stand out in your memory?
I particularly loved playing with the BBC Concert Orchestra, live on Radio 2, as part of Friday Night is Music Night. Obviously, playing Mr Bacharach’s glorious Steinway grand piano at the London Palladium was pretty special indeed. I’m very excited to play at the RAH though, it’s been a while since I’ve played with my own band…and for this gig I have a brand new line-up of exceptional musicians.
What can we expect from your show on 13 October? Have you been to the Hall before as a performer or audience member?
I have attended shows at the Hall before, and performed on your famous main stage. I’ve never been to the Elgar Room though, and I’m excited to perform my headline show within its intimate space.
My audience can expect an exciting show, with some surprises thrown in – a few fresh and original twists on songs I’ve previously recorded, some brand new material, and some fond tributes to the legends I have worked with this year. I’m so looking forward to visiting you on 13 October, and thanks for having me!