A Happy Accident: Findlay Brown

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Published January 20, 2010

Findlay Brown’s backstory reads like a Sun Records biopic: a former bare-knuckles boxer leads a dubious life on the streets, turns virtuous in the name of love, and writes a debut folk record on a bare-bones budget to win back his foreign-born sweetheart–and it works. Though his personal narrative (and gravity-defying pompadour) rival those of Old Hollywood’s back alley heroes, the UK pop crooner’s art chronicles life in the here and now. In quavering, Roy Orbison-esque vocals, Brown sings of life, love, and loneliness on his second album Love Will Find You, a portentous record that would have sounded at home on AM radio fifty years ago. Unabashedly retro, the album showcases Brown’s knack for crafting timeless melodies, its finest moment delivered with the title track and “All That I Have”–upbeat orchestral ditties that sounds like long-lost Elvis hits. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FINDLAY BROWN)

With a warmly received new release and a buzzed-about Letterman appearance, the soon-to-be Brooklyn resident is steadily winning over Americans. In a recent conversation, Brown revealed some surprises, like why he considers his entire career a happy accident and how being struck by a cab liberated his inner creative demons.

COLLEEN NIKA:  Why are you moving to Brooklyn this month?

FINDLAY BROWN: To promote, basically. My managers think America is a very good market for me. There has been a slightly better response Stateside to the new material. I think that has to do with the fact that my first record was recorded in a bedroom, just me and a guitar. It was very intimate and the subject matter was extremely personal. I think the British press likes to praise the underdog. I think Americans prefer ambitious music.

NIKA: I have read that your debut album almost a happy accident and not really indicative of the music you planned to create throughout your career.

BROWN: The debut was more of a one-off record. I was going through a strange time in my life; I was having trouble with my then-girlfriend, now-wife. The lifestyle I led back then bothered her, so she moved back to her home country of Denmark. I wrote those songs as a plea to get her back. I wanted to express my love purely–those songs are basically love letters. I recorded them specifically to serve that purpose. I was not trying to get a record deal. It just so happened to become my debut record.

NIKA: Can you tell me the infamous Findlay Brown cab accident story?

BROWN: I was in a cab, on my way to a show in London in 2008,  and I didn’t have any cash, so the driver pulled up to a cash machine. While I was crossing the road, the guy basically accidentally reversed over me, squashing my leg and my ankle. I was in denial at first, I was annoyed because I was late for the show! I tried to walk off, and my leg was basically jelly. So I ended up in the hospital. The next morning, the pain was full-on, yet somehow I was in a state of complete joy.

NIKA: I’ve heard you even describe the ordeal as “liberating”.

BROWN: It was. I think my ego was crushed along with my leg, but it somehow felt like freedom. There was absolutely nothing I could do to control the situation. Being entirely helpless allowed me to lay there in complete peace. I chose to live in the moment, and not fight it, for once.

NIKA: How did that influence the new album?

BROWN: I basically ended up living on my sister’s couch for ten months, without my usual record collection to listen to or inspire me. But I did have my laptop, so I downloaded things on a whim, based purely on what was in my head. At that point, that meant a lot of doo-wop like the Flamingoes and early rock ‘n roll like Chuck Berry. And a ton of Roy Orbison. I downloaded his entire catalogue. His voice is beyond compare…so exposed, on a song like “Crying”. What other man has ever sung with such integrity? It’s an emotional abandon I tried to capture when I recorded the new material.

Love Will Find You debuted in the US earlier this month. Tour information can be found here.