Who the heck is Natalie Brown?
I'm sitting here bathing my face in the last light of another glorious Ugandan sunset thinking of a way to introduce myself to you.
I came to Africa to, among other reasons, figure that out all over again for myself.
Who is Natalie Brown?
A singer. A songwriter. An adventurer. An entrepreneur. A person who loves people. A cook and baker. A vlogger.
Most of my life, since I can remember really, I have been a singer and loved acting in musicals. Then at about 12 I started to write really crappy songs to pop/R&B and smooth jazz instrumentals, classical music even, because I could not play a note of piano to save my life. So, I would instead sit there with a stereo system playing the 'track' and my micro recorder recording my 'songs', singing them down the best I could. Music has been my life since I can remember. There really wasn't a time I wasn't singing. Even sleep had me singing songs. Singing was life!
When I got old enough, I tried to find ways to record these songs. My first songs were recorded on a makeshift setup in the basement of the church I was attending at the time. We had an amazing music director and I was encouraged by him to pursue my craft. So I did. I pursued it all the way from British Columbia to California. I had stars in my eyes, I wanted to be the next Mariah! Lots of people 'in the biz' thought I would be 'the next Mariah, the next big thing'. I pounded that LA and New York pavement hard. I spent every cent I had on demos. Nothing. So many 'almosts', but nothing ever materialized. Everyone in LA and New York wanted to change me. Change my music, change my vocal style, have other people write the notes and words I would sing... shit they even wanted me to become anorexic and hack my nose and lips up. No one really wanted ME. That did not sit well for this very independent, headstrong girl. NOPE!
So the MP3 'thingy' came along and I started to network with techy types in the San Francisco Bay Area in the days of the tech gold rush. Freaking awesome times! Digital recording equipment began development and I got heavy into 'the Bay Area scene' and the online music and promotion world. I decided to try my hand at marketing and promoting my music via that medium. Maybe Tommy Mottola would discover me online!!?? I was an early adopter of all this new music technology, one of the first artists to use the internet to promote myself and one of the first to upload my music to Mp3.com. There were a lot of digital music 'firsts' back in those days. It was a crazy trip through years of huge technology strides and buying digital gear to record music became affordable, so I did all I could to research how I could set myself up so that I wasn't working on spec or cheap overnight time at local studios.
During my time as a 'for hire session vocalist', I met an amazing songwriter and musician who turned life partner/co-creator/BFF. His name is Jeremy (Jem) and we said fuck the labels, let's do this shit ourselves!!!! So we did. We started our own label together (Identity Music Group) and built a studio together (Studio 302). Up to this date, we have self-funded and self-released 4 full length albums, 1 EP and 5 singles. We delved into the world of music licensing for film and TV which has been our 'bread and butter' since it became cool for people to pirate music. Making decent money off of selling CDs and downloads has waned due to the glut of available music freely downloadable or streamable. At least Film and TV productions were still legally bound to pay for syncing music (and they still are, YAY!). So we got into that. Times change, people pirate music like it's normal now, meh, it's life. It's been a wild ride, an awesome adventure with Jem producing and performing glorious tracks, co-writing with me and yelling at me not to 'overthink my vocals and produce on the mic' (he does this occasionally!! Haha, I can't help it, I'm a Type A).
So fast forward... my Mum died in 2013. I knew she was going to die. She had been fighting Breast Cancer for 10 years and every day was a bonus from the day she finished her first round of surgeries, chemo and radiation. But when I got that fateful call the morning she passed, it hit me like a ton of bricks and shook my entire world. It made me think. Hard. It made me question everything. I suddenly didn't know who I was looking at in the mirror every day. My entire life had been very stubbornly dedicated to music only. Every single thing I did, every single day I breathed air was dedicated to furthering my music career in some form or fashion. I hadn't taken a vacation or really 'looked up' to see the world around me since 1996! After some serious soul searching and discussions with Jem we decided, for many reasons, to move to Kenya in 2015. It was a crazy adventure selling up and packing our lives and gear into 6 suitcases and 2 carry on bags and landing in Nairobi, Kenya on December 2, 2015 to explore a new chapter in our lives.
The remainder of 2015 and all of 2016 were spent thinking, exploring, eating (you have no idea how nice it was to not have to starve myself to try to look 'acceptable', after being on a diet my ENTIRE fucking life!)... it was spent sorting out the big question... do I still even WANT to make music?
There were lots of things I had 'wanted' to pursue for many years, but those things always took a back seat to my single-minded pursuit of music. I had a desire to make video blogs again like I did when I tried my hand at Crowdfunding my 2012 album "The Relationship Odyssey". I really enjoyed connecting with people via YouTube back then and thought of ways I could revive my weekly vlog. As we were going about life in Kenya and eventually deciding to settle in Kampala, Uganda I shot a lot of footage.
I also got super hard core into cooking. I love food!!! I love cooking food and baking. What was interesting was that I began to love the feeling I had when I cooked food for people and they enjoyed it more than the act of creating a song and releasing it. I wrote a blog post about my observations that delves deeper into some of my feelings if you want to read it (click here).
Jem and I got involved with some local entrepreneurs and are continuing to see how we can delve into business here in Uganda as we learn the ropes of our new country. A secret passion of mine for years has been the web space. I got the bug when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area and websites were a 'new thing'. I've always kept up with the latest web development technology as I've been able to and pretty much every website you have seen for natalie-brown.com was designed by me! I started a business some years ago with Jeremy and the help of some friends offering website design/development and graphic design services. As we have done projects over the years, I have realized I wanted to do something a bit more niche oriented to do with female entrepreneurs. I am working on a new project/service called Webgyrl that I hope to launch before the end of 2017 to serve this niche.
It's 2017 now. I've done a lot of thinking. I've checked off some bucket list items like seeing the Rift Valley, feeding giraffes and checking out orphaned elephants. I've lived in 2 countries on a brand new continent. I've met tons of new people and have had a lot of amazing, eye opening, new experiences. I've baked, I've cooked, I've coded, I've had meetings with entrepreneurs. And now I feel called back to music. I don't quite know yet where that will go in this new phase. I know that I want to have music in the mix. Music is me. I am music. But what I have learned in the past few years is that I am more than music. I have also learned that it's probably not healthy to hyperfocus on one pursuit for your entire life. As my Mum would say, 'sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees'. My Mum was right. I have been staring at the same trees for so long, I haven't explored the forest. My 'forest' has been replaced by Palm trees, which is so totally OK with me... and I am taking time to explore new things.
So, back to the question. Who is Natalie Brown?
She's an artistic, experessive, curious, unconventional, musical woman who loves people and loves to explore life and the things around her.
I hope you will join me on this journey so we can explore all of life's awesomeness together.
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