It doesn’t take too many scenes in the hit film Rocketman to segue from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s ramshackle days as aspiring songwriters to them reaching the pinnacle of fame. In more recent years, Charlie Puth, Bruno Mars, Jessie J, Lady Gaga and Charli XCX have all made the leap from writing songs the whole world sings to actually singing their own songs at center stage. For this reason, I was very excited to hear ‘Concrete Stars’, the debut solo track by New York-based singer/songwriter Brielle Brown.
Brielle first came to my attention back in our respective runs in Los Angeles. The mid-2000’s were a vibrant time for the singer/songwriter market. Head to the likes of Hotel Cafe, The Mint, Room #5, and Genghis Cohen and for the price of coffee, you could see future global sensations in their hustle stage (Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles, Brooke White, Eric Hutchinson, Lissie, etc.). By the time I landed in Seattle, Brielle was in New York. She married producer Marc Swersky; among his many career highlights, co-writing Joe Cocker’s contribution to the ga-jillion selling soundtrack to The Bodyguard. In addition to producing twins, the duo turned out loads of tracks I’ve fallen in love with in the past decade, including songs by Gedeon Luke and the People, DR King, and Ashley Delima (whose ‘Stay in America‘ more urgent than ever today).
Now it’s Brielle’s turn to take the spotlight. This track hails from an upcoming EP, The Well, which was recorded live in studio at Sound on Sound in Montclair NJ. “It never really mattered to me—how many people would listen to my music, or if people would know my name,” Brielle tells Popdose. “Just that I’ve created something to believe in, something honest, raw, and real. Something my children could hold onto.”
2020 was a heavy year for us all, so the EP thinks beyond the headlines to take on more universal themes. “The entire EP weaves in theories of quantum mechanics and questions I’ve asked myself about why we’re here, why we love, and what it really means to be alive,” Brielle says. “This song in particular questions time – if linear time as we know it is not an absolute truth, then what really happens when we say goodbye? Does anything ever really end? There are so many interpretations of this song, even for myself and I hope people form their own meanings. That’s the subjective beauty about music and at the core of it—what connects us all.”
With the pandemic, and all the related shutdowns affecting music production and performance, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge and celebrate the professionals who contribute to the art we love. For this track, the cast includes Brielle Brown (vocals, writer), Marc Swersky (producer), Tony Black and Mike Rachlin (engineers), Leon Zervos (mastering engineer), and the musicians: Alan Markley (keys), Avi ATELLER Rozen (drums), Dave Eggar (cello), Vin Landolfi (guitar), and Brian Gearty (bass). “There was no pre-production. We just listened to the scratch recording, talked about the songs, life, love, the universe, and we created something from nothing,” she said “Everyone poured their hearts and spirits into it—without edits, which was really important to me. We just let it be.”
Once the song was in the can, Brielle used social media to connect with other artists who could help bring her vision to life. “I worked with a group of women (some of whom I’ve never met in person) for the visual content for this song. I love women supporting women and I think now more than ever, we need each other to lean on.” Brielle did a few virtual photoshoots with photographer Trina Cary, after meeting her through Instagram. The duo used FaceTime to shoot from opposite sides of the country (Cary lives on Vancouver Island). Laura Douglas did the cover artwork; Brielle reached out to after falling in love with some tour posters Douglas had designed for Maggie Rogers. For the lyric video, Brielle wanted to create something that showed how affected we are by sound waves. She gave visual artist Gabriela Sibilska the idea and she created a mandala visual that moves along with the vibrations of the song. “In the midst of everything going on right now, I hope it brings a moment of peace, calm and clarity to anyone who watches it.”