It isn’t easy being Michael Jackson’s nephew. . . . Okay, maybe it’s not that hard, either. But the shadow cast over the fledgling musical career of Austin Brown, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter son of the King of Pop’s eldest sister, Rebbie, is long—and the comparisons are as inevitable as they are diffi- cult. “I’m not going to hide who I am—I’m proud of where I come from,” says Brown of his pedigree. Indeed, the power of genetics is brought into fullest relief when Brown sings and dances: His Peter Pan tenor and lithe, tight movements immediately take you back to the time when Thriller ruled the airwaves. Appropriately, Brown’s forthcoming debut album is called 85, recalling both Michael’s mid- ’80s heyday and 1985, which is the year that Brown was born. The record itself, though, hearkens back to earlier eras. “I’m obsessed with the sounds of the late ’60s and early ’70s,” says Brown, who reveals that aside from his mother (readers of a certain age will recall her 1984 hit “Centipede”), the member of the Jackson clan who he is closest with is his aunt Janet. However, it was Brown’s father, Nathaniel Brown, who instilled in him a love for the musicianship and harmonies of groups like The Beach Boys and The Beatles. “There’s nothing like the feeling of a real musician really playing. I wanted my album to be a classic, a throwback.” Instead of signing with a major label, Brown opted to start his own record company, The Royal Factory, to release 85, which is due out this summer. In addition to the first single, “Target Practice,” a funky mélange of horns and strings, and the late- ’70s R&B-infused track “Midnight Man,” which recalls The Brothers Johnson, the album is slated to include “Never Will Forget,” a tribute to Michael. “He was a mentor and a loving relative,” Brown says of his late uncle. “The fact that I’m his nephew might raise some curiosity, but you still have to show people what you’re going to bring to the table artistically—and I’m going to work my butt off to do something new and give people some fantasy and love.”
Photos: Austin Brown In Los Angeles, December 2010. Jacket And Belt (with chains): Burberry Prorsum. Pants: 3.1 Phillip Lim. Necklace: King Baby. Necklace And Ring: Artist’s Own. Studded Belt: Stylist’s Own. Grooming Products: Lancôme Paris, Including Artliner Precision Point Eyeliner In Noir. Styling: Moses/Margaret Maldonado Agency. Grooming: Samelia Using Lancôme Paris/Rougeartists.Com. Special Thanks: Miauhaus Studios.
Click here to listen to a track by Austin Brown.