Q&A with master soul/bluesman Leonard “Lowdown” Brown, marvel of easy grooves, soulful vocals, and well-written songs

"The blues is a positive force. It comes to heal pain and relieve pressure. It brings people together with one common goal, to have fun and take the real blues away."

Leonard “Lowdown” Brown:

Blues Is Calling Me

The Fender Jazzmaster-wielding singer, bandleader, and songwriter Leonard “Lowdown” Brown released his new album Blues Is Calling Me (2023) via Music Maker Foundation and it’s a marvel of easy grooves, soulful vocals, a tight band, and well-written songs. It explains why legends like Sister Sledge, ZZ Hill, Johnny Taylor and Bobby Bland have asked him to share the stage when they played Texas. While he’s been a beloved figure in Houston for four, decades, he is only now making a name for himself nationally. His music was featured in the National Geographic / Disney+’s limited series America the Beautiful (narrated by Michael B. Jordan) and he has recently performed at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and Telluride Blues & Brews.

(Leonard “Lowdown” Brown / Photo by Tim Duffy)

Born and raised in Arkansas before moving to Gary Indiana as a kid, Brown got his start playing gospel music as a kid, singing in traveling choirs and playing piano at home. Leonard’s father soon gifted him a guitar. The new album ends with his rendition of gospel classic “You Gotta Move.” Brown worked for General Electric for decades and originally made his way to Houston when he as assigned there in 1980. He was dubbed as the “Lowdown” by the organizers of Benson and Hedges Houston Blues Festival in 1988. He wrote the affecting soul song “Find a Bridge” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Interview by Michael Limnios                     Special Thanks: Nick Loss-Eaton Media

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

The blues is freedom of expression. It is deeply rooted in a spiritual, Black cultural eye.

It is then transmitted through vocal and instrumental means. The blues is nothing more than an extension of early gospel music.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Any song that I write has to resonate. It can't be about something that is meaningless to me. Songs come to me in pieces.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul/emotions? what touched you from the sound of Fender Jazzmaster?

My guitar technique has evolved over the years. Starting with non-standard tuning learned from my father to standard tuning, using my whole hand to play in place of a pick. Elements of funk, soul, jazz and blues make my style. The Fender Jazz Master is my choice of guitars.

It has the right feel, sound, and look that I like.

"Anyone with musical aspirations starts out with a role model. There is a strong tendency to be just like that person. At some point you will have to say to yourself, "I need to know who I am." Don't be afraid to venture out." (Photo: Leonard “Lowdown” Brown will turn 70 and follow the milestone birthday with another landmark occasion. His debut album, Blues Is Calling Me, comes out June 23)

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The high points of my musical experience have been: travel, show openers, festivals, meeting people and recording. Having been involved in music 65 years, it would take a novel to tell all of what music and the blues has done for me.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

As the years push on, the blues will continue to morph. I can only hope that the youth of today will look back and listen to the individuals that pioneered it.

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications?  How do you want the Blues to affect people?

The blues is a positive force. It comes to heal pain and relieve pressure. It brings people together with one common goal, to have fun and take the real blues away.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Anyone with musical aspirations starts out with a role model. There is a strong tendency to be just like that person. At some point you will have to say to yourself, "I need to know who I am." Don't be afraid to venture out.

Leonard “Lowdown” Brown - Home

(Photo: Leonard “Lowdown” Brown)

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