Few modern Broadway composers have had as diverse, or as successful, a career as Jason Robert Brown: he’s made engaging, affecting musical theater out of both Honeymoon in Vegas and The Bridges of Madison County, created a two-person show about a broken relationship that’s become one of the most beloved modern musicals and was turned into a movie with Anna Kendrick (The Last Five Years), and developed a strong creative relationship with one of today's biggest pop stars (more on that later) -- all while maintaining an active life as a performer in his own right. With his third solo album, How We React and How We Recover recently out (on Ghostlight Records), Brown sat down for the Billboard on Broadway podcast to discuss his creative process and collaborations.
Growing up, Brown reflects, listening to pop artists like Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Carole King and the Beatles alongside Gershwin and Bernstein helped develop his unique sound. ”I would never be who I am if I didn't have the eclecticism of all that music floating around," he says. He didn't see a purely behind-the-scenes future for himself. "I was equally open to being a piano man as I was to being a B-way composer,” he recalls. “I didn't know they were mutually exclusive, so I always hoped I'd get to a point like the one I'm at now, where I can do both.
Discussing the multi-year process of putting together How We React and How We Recover, Brown explains how writing individual songs for the project was analogous to writing a musical. "Writing songs for this album wasn't that much different in the sense that I'm still writing for a project, the project just happens to be me,” he says with a laugh. “I know what the musical vocabulary of me is, I know what my character's vocal is bc I'm living in a very specific place as a performer." (On Nov. 28, Brown will perform and discuss songs from the album at New York’s Upper East Side Barnes & Noble at 7:00 p.m..