Robyn Brown was a shy child who loved to sing in choirs but would never have sung on her own in front of a crowd. That was before she fell in love with jazz, as Julie Houghton writes.
How did you discover your future lay with jazz singing?
I was unable to do a lot with singing when my children were young, especially as my oldest son is disabled. I began getting back into singing by going along to the local blues club jam nights and singing a few blues numbers. Someone told me about the Jazz Singer Jam Nights at the Brisbane Jazz Club and I went along. Then I began singing with a little jazz trio locally and attended some jazz nights. Now I perform regularly around Queensland and beyond and have released two albums and toured with international artists. I also run a monthly jazz event and am the organiser for a small jazz festival in my home town.
What is it about jazz singing that really appeals to you?
I think that jazz really suits my personality. I am a deep thinker and there are so many layers to jazz—there is always more to discover. I love the creativity of improvisation and how the band can flow together and follow each other in new directions. We never play a song the same way twice.
Tell me about the new album.
I like to find songs that are a bit obscure and interpret them. Some are familiar jazz standards but others are songs you would not usually hear, songs from blues singers Blind Willie Johnson and Lil Green through to songs by Ahmad Jamal and Paul Chambers.
How did the Salvos enter your life?
I remember visiting a Salvation Army church when I was young but there has always been some connection with the Salvos somewhere wherever I’ve been, either the stores, inter-church activities, or friends who worked for Salvos. I even did some filming at the Salvos rehab centre in Darwin when I had a video project for a music course I was doing.
What role does faith play in your life?
God has always been a part of my life. He has sustained me through so many challenges and given me peace and joy in the middle of terrible circumstances. Having a disabled son has been a huge challenge but God has done amazing things in my life through that journey. I no longer ask “Why me?” I now say “Thank you”. It is a journey of learning to trust God and knowing that he is bigger than any circumstance.
What kind of challenges do you face in your daily life?
I still care for my son and will for a long time. That is always a challenge. However I think the biggest daily challenge is overcoming fear and doubt. The mind is a battlefield and I am learning to face the challenge of catching the negative, fearful thoughts and replacing them with thoughts of gratitude, thankfulness, peace and possibilities.
What do you hope your music does for your audience?
I love to connect with the audience, not only with their minds but also their emotions—it’s more important to ‘feel’ the music than to try to get too clever. It’s great when the audience feels what I’m singing and connects with the joy of the performance. I also love sharing the stories and history of the songs.
What’s on your bucket list for the future?
I’d like to do some more interstate tours, write more music, record more and perform in Europe. All of which are possible if you have money, but money and jazz don’t go together! I just love what I’m doing and want to keep growing in it. It’s always challenging, but pursuing your dreams and goals usually is.
Read the review of Robyn Brown’s album A Touch of Blue on this page.