Chris Brown is well on his way to becoming the new hardest-working man in show business.
In the coming year, the Grammy-winning multiplatinum singer/songwriter will have his hands full with releasing a new studio album, embarking on a world arena tour, appearing in an upcoming film, working on a John Singleton-directed documentary and much more.
As previously reported, Brown has signed with full-service talent and literary agency Resolution for worldwide representation in all areas. He was formerly repped by Creative Artists Agency. Resolution senior VP Phil Casey, who will serve as Brown’s agent alongside Everly Lee, tells Billboard.biz that Brown is ready to work and rebuild his public image.
“He just wants to get back out there and be Chris Brown, the guy he was before all the controversy. He’s still that guy,” says Casey, a 20-year music industry veteran who he helped build acts like Notorious B.I.G., MC Hammer and Mary J. Blige. “It was one situation that’s haunted him. He feels like it’s time for him to get back out there, introduce himself as Chris Brown and that person he really is. He wants to show the audience there’s more to him than TMZ.”
Brown has finished recording his sixth studio album, “X,” which will feature collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Ludacris. The release is slated for November 2013, with a world tour set for 2014. Casey says Brown will headline U.S. arenas (see full details in interview below) beginning next March and follow those dates with a worldwide trek. It’s recently been reported that Brown has been sentenced to complete 1,000 hours of community labor, but Casey says that shouldn’t impact the artist’s upcoming touring schedule.
“From what I understand from [Brown’s lawyer Mark Geragos], he has a certain period of time to complete that. I believe he’s working on that now,” Casey says. “That’s more in the lawyers’ hands than mine. I’m just assured that he’ll have it completed and everything will be behind him by then ... He’s really focused on doing what he’s got to do and moving on with his life. That’s a real important thing for Chris right now.”
Casey has also revealed new details about a documentary Brown is working on with John Singleton, who has directed such classic films as “Boyz n the Hood,” “Poetic Justice” and “2 Fast 2 Furious.”
“It’s going to be focused on Chris,” Casey says of the documentary. “It will be everything from early childhood up to the making of the album (“X") and putting together the tour. It’s not being filmed right now. He’s meeting with (director) John Singleton and going over the concept and different ideas on how they see it. John seems like he has a real good take on it, and Chris has input.”
In the interview below, Resolution senior VP Phil Casey gives Billboard.biz a deeper look into the agency’s strategy on reintroducing Chris Brown to the world, details on the singer’s upcoming global tour and John Singleton documentary, how Brown’s community service likely won’t conflict with live appearances, and Resolution’s strategy on signing new clients.
What’s the background story on how you signed Chris Brown to Resolution?
Resolution is a fairly young agency. When we opened the doors (in late January 2013) here with me in the music department, I targeted a few artists I felt were meaningful and I really wanted to sign for Resolution. Resolution is a full-service agency, so I was looking for clients that we could service in other areas -- someone who could act, someone with branding potential, and someone who was more than just a concert attraction. Honestly, Chris was the first one who came to mind. I’ve always been a big fan of his and thought he had amazing potential. I wanted to be in business with him. So I really targeted him and went after it hard, and was fortunate enough to land it.
Resolution will represent Chris Brown worldwide in all areas. Can you elaborate on what other aspects of his career you’ll handle?
It’s touring, film, TV, digital strategy, branding, and any other opportunities that we’re able to create here beyond that. It’s really a 360-degree relationship with Chris.
Is your particular focus on Chris Brown’s touring?
Everything. [Resolution’s Everly Lee] is my associate and she’s in the motion picture department, so she’ll be watching out for Chris on film opportunities and TV. We’re certainly not looking for a (television) series, or anything, but that type of filmed entertainment.
Was Resolution involved in Chris Brown’s casting in the upcoming film “Battle of the Year”?
No, that was done prior to Chris coming here.
What is Resolution’s overall strategy for representing Chris Brown?
Right now we’re in the process of putting together a documentary that John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood,” “Poetic Justice,” “2 Fast 2 Furious”) will write, produce and direct. We have a U.S. tour that will start in the last week of March or the beginning of April. It will be right in that time period, I’m doing the routing now. It looks like we’ll do 25 arena shows in the U.S.
Then we’ll go to Europe. Ideally, the way we’ll attack Europe is by doing the festivals, then come back here and do a run of dates in America. Afterwards we’ll go back and do his arena tour in Europe. So basically we’ll be reintroducing Chris to the European audience through the festivals, and then run him back through all of Europe at an arena level.
From there we’ll go most likely to Japan, Australia, Middle East and Africa. That gives you a sense of what his international appeal is. And it’s arena-level in all of those markets.
Will Chris Brown be headlining those U.S. arenas?
Absolutely. I haven’t put the packaging together, but it will be him headlining. It’s big arenas, as many as we can sell.
It’s been reported that Chris Brown has to complete 1,000 hours of community labor. Does that potentially conflict with his touring schedule?
From what I understand from [Brown’s lawyer Mark Geragos], he has a certain period of time to complete that. I believe he’s working on that now. That’s more in the lawyers’ hands than mine. I’m just assured that he’ll have it completed and everything will be behind him by then. If not, like I said, he’s got time to complete it. He’s really focused on doing what he’s got to do and moving on with his life. That’s a real important thing for Chris right now.
Given all of the controversy surrounding Chris Brown, were you ever concerned about taking him on as a client?
No, not a single time. And it has not come up in any conversations we have had with potential film partners or on the concert side. We have not had any pushback whatsoever on that.
Aside from his management team (Bu Thiam and Tina Davis), have you had any personal conversations with Chris Brown about what he wants for his future career?
Yes, I have. He just wants to get back out there and be Chris Brown, the guy he was before all the controversy. He’s still that guy. It was one situation that’s haunted him. He feels like it’s time for him to get back out there, introduce himself as Chris Brown and that person he really is. He wants to show the audience there’s more to him than TMZ.
He’s an amazing, unbelievable performer. No hyperbole, I think this guy is the next Michael Jackson. The way he moves, the way he sings. He has ability to act. He was outstanding in “Takers.” He’s a real, 360-degree entertainer. Hopefully we’re going to be able to give him that canvas and platform to show the world who he really is.
Can you provide any specific details about the documentary Chris Brown is working on with John Singleton?
It’s going to be focused on Chris. It will be everything from early childhood up to the making of the album (“X) and putting together the tour. It’s not being filmed right now. He’s meeting with (director) John Singleton and going over the concept and different ideas on how they see it. John seems like he has a real good take on it, and Chris has input.
Will the documentary be released theatrically?
We’re not sure how we’re going to go with it. It could go theatrically or it may go to Showtime, or something like that.
You’ve worked in the music business for more than two decades. Can you give a sense of what your background is?
I ran the music department at ICM for 20 years. Over the years, I helped [Sean “Diddy” Combs] put together Bad Boy, I represented [Notorious B.I.G.], MC Hammer back in the day, Boyz II Men ... My focus was primarily on urban talent -- TLC, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige and Hammer when he was King Kong. I left ICM about five years ago.
Jeffery Berg, who was chairman/CEO of ICM for 27 years, announced the opening of Resolution in Los Angeles and New York in late January. As of now, Chris Brown is the agency’s sole client. What’s the strategy on building the firm’s client roster?
We’re building the client roster, but very slowly. The key here is to be able to focus on a client 360 degrees, 365 days a year. Having been at ICM, you’re so focused on the next tour. This tour is finished, then you move on and think about the next tour you can put together. What do I have to do for this client and whose record is coming out? You really don’t have time to say, “OK, what are we doing when the tour ends? Is there a film opportunity or something we can do outside of the touring or the music area? Let’s give that a rest.”
Being at an agency where you have hundreds of clients, you really don’t have that time and opportunity to focus on really delivering for a client for their whole career. That’s the business model here at Resolution. We’re keeping the client list selective and small. When I say selective, I mean to the point where we can service a client on the film side, in the TV area -- or if they have aspirations to right screenplays or produce a movie. We want to service all the opportunities that a client might have, or passion projects, and what have you.
How many people work at Resolution?
I think we’re over 20 now. And like I said, it’s full service. So it’s film, motion picture lit, motion picture talent, TV lit, TV talent. We just put together a branding and digital relationship with two outside firms. We’re up and running, and staffed to the point where we can handle anything.