Watch the U.K. singer discusses her label-free reinvention in this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip.
V.V. Brown was flying back home to England in November 2011, having just wrapped a U.S. tour in advance of her second album for Capitol Records, "Lollipops and Politics," set for release in February 2012. Though her shows were well-received, and she was starting to get strong buzz for lead single "Children," something didn't feel right.
"It didn't feel like it was where I should be and the record I wanted to make," Brown says. "So I got off the plane and spoke about it with my family and my partner and with my management, and I just got to the point where I had to make a move. I was so consumed with this conviction that there was a reason for it. And so I called up the label and sort of said that it's not really right for me. We agreed to not release the album and they let me go."
Newly independent, and free from Capitol Records just as EMI's merger with Universal Music was about to take place, Brown set out to make a different kind of album than the doo-wop pop that was expected of her. Her 2010 single "Shark In The Water" was a modest hit in the U.S., peaking at No. 67 on the Hot 100. She delved heavily into opera music, post-industrial bands like Factory Floor and Bjork's "Biophilia," and began collaborating with musicians like Dave Okumu, the Mercury Prize-nominated lead singer of The Invisible who had helmed Jessie Ware's 2012 breakthrough "Devotion."
The result is "Samson & Delilah," out Oct. 8 in the U.S. on Brown's own label YOY Records (the YOY stands for You Own You.) A darker, more electronic effort than 2010's breezy "Traveling Like The Light," "Samson & Delilah" finds Brown singing in an entirely different register of her voice on 11 synth-driven songs that are even more commanding, vulnerable and melodically infectious than her previous repertoire. Brown details the journey to making the album with collaborators like Okumu and Pascal Gabriel in an exclusive behind-the-scenes video, premiered below.
Lead single "The Apple," for example, rides an insidious groove with a defiant chorus ("Don't patronize me / I'm not your clown / Don't cause me suffering / It's over now") that references her own personal and creative freedom. Other cuts like "Substitute For Love," "Nothing Really Matters" and "Faith" are shimmery electro-pop with eerie, dramatic undertones, suggesting hints of Sade soul, beats by The Knife circa "Deep Cuts" and impossibly stylish dance music fit for a runway (Brown moonlights as a model, and an outspoken one at that).
Brown says she was so over-flowing with creative juices that when she was in the studio with Okumu, she began singing lyrics that began to form as the song "Nothing Really Matters" completely on the spot. Many of the vocals on "Samson & Delilah" are her first or second take. "When I wrote 'Lollipops and Politics,' I was writing to a brief. I was writing for radio, and I was writing for chart success for certain places melodically," she says. "But when I was in the studio with this, there were no restrictions with those things in mind. This record is meant to be what it is. Whether it's successful on the radio, on the charts or not, this record exists because it is what it is. I think that's why it came so easily. It was like opening the floodgates."
Brown will appear on "Later…With Jools Holland" on Oct. 8, and tour the UK through-mid-October. She's eyeing November for a series of U.S. live dates, before kicking off a proper tour in January 2014.