I’ve had some trouble lately with trying to define myself as a musician. I know who I am as a person, but what category do I fall into when it comes to my music? I recently met my match that sent my mind spiralling into the abyss of “who am I?” when I had to choose a genre for my album on CD Baby.
My debut album Darkwood is a 6 song EP that has been years in the making. I wrote Flowers and Rainfuckinbows with my best friend in 2007. It’s a country song inspired by a road trip we took through B.C. and Alberta, camping along the way. We never really knew where were sleeping and wherever we did pitch our tent we always ended up with the most interesting neighbours.
Broken Wings was written 2 years ago with my friend and producer Justin ‘Jus Bus’ Nation. I had been living in the Caribbean for about 4 years at that point. I was working as a professional singer with a reggae band and I was really feeling the island vibes. Reggae became second nature to me. Listening to Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals since I was a teenager and it seemed natural to blend into the music around me. I knew that by living in Antigua that it had shaped me as an artist differently than it would have if I had stayed in Canada.
I wrote Chains because I was hurting. Because my family life has always been very turbulent and emotionally exhausting. And when you’re emotionally charged the words spill out in such a way that you see the pain on the paper, you can hear it in the song, and other people can feel it. Chains was my catharsis. It’s dark and dramatic, deeply emotional and extremely revealing. It’s very much a part of who I am and what I’ve experienced.
Although it seems like I might be off topic, I’m not. I’m trying to give my audience an idea of who I am as an artist. I sat there for ages trying to figure out what box to click. And I was only allowed to choose one. One box to define this album, to define all six songs all together as if they all came from the same place and experience and version of myself. Can’t there just be a box that says Mackenzie Brown circa 2016 on it?
There are thousands of artists out there that can clearly define their style of music. They know exactly which box to click! Why can’t I?
Picking a Genre
I remember an episode of American Idol from a few years ago. One of the contestants sang a rock song one day then moved onto country for the next. I recall the judges saying that she needs to be able to find her place, her genre and stick with it. They said by not sticking with one genre of music she would be lost and undefined in the industry. Now, I’m not quoting this verbatim, not even close, but you get the idea. They basically said, “pick your box or else”.
I can’t actually put this album into one category of music. It’s impossible. It’s got country, reggae, contemporary, folk, jazz, blues, there’s even some rap believe it or not!
I have several boxes, so many boxes I could move my house. I have so many boxes because of all the things I’ve collected along the way. Memories from a road trip with a best friend. Experiences in a new country and a new culture. Love and heartache. All these things I’ve seen and done and felt along my journey of life, I’ve taken with me and kept in these boxes that go wherever I go.
Once in a while, I’ll leave a box or two behind, but I might pick it up again one day. They shape me as a person and as an artist. And I wanted Darkwood to be me. An imperfect reflection of my imperfect self. I believe that I’ve accomplished that. I have many future endeavours and who knows, maybe one day I will be able to fit into one of those little boxes but for now, with this project, I’ve taken all those little boxes and shoved them into a box of their own and named it Darkwood.
~ Mackenzie Brown