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Artist Spotlight: James Cole and Brian Brown

Jourdan Aldredge

Feb 21, 2023

In honor of Black History Month, and in celebration of the talented and diverse artists and musicians part of the Soundstripe catalog and team, we’ve chosen to highlight some of our brightest creators — and to help amplify their voices and tell their stories of the peaks and valleys of being a Black artist here in 2023.

Both based in Nashville, Tennessee (the music capital of the world — and where Soundstripe calls home), artists James Cole and Brian Brown are both key contributors to the diverse and multi-tonal music in Soundstripe's catalog. 

James Cole is a multi-instrumentalist with a unique voice and gift for songwriting, transcending genres with blends of pop, R&B and hip hop. And Brian Brown is a blue collar rapper whose way with words and penchant for funky melodies has created a flavorful soundtrack for everyday people to navigate the struggles of our modern world while dreaming of a better tomorrow.

Yet, like many Black artists in America even today, their journeys have been far from hegemonic. In highlighting their brands and telling their stories, we hope to help encourage the next generation of Black artists, musicians, creators, and filmmakers, to find their own voices and launch their own careers.

Soundstripe: How did you get started in your music career?

James Cole: I started singing in my middle school choir, that’s where I found my love for music and performance. When I decided I’d start taking music as a serious hobby. I enrolled in a performing arts high school to take it a step further. Though at the time, I had my head set on being an attorney full time. It wasn’t till I started writing my own songs and performing and releasing them to realize that this career was meant for me. 

Brian Brown: Honestly, in regards to my start in music, I come from a background of singers and musicians so it was sort of embedded in me, one could say. After a certain point in life, when you take the music you were raised up on and around then combine it with wanting to blaze a trail of your own that was a bit from the norm for my family, you get a rapper trying his best to fill a void that seemed quite gaping coming up.

Soundstripe: Who were early inspirations and favorite Black artists that empowered you?

JC: I was basically raised on the king of pop, Michael Jackson. And heavily influenced by the works of Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, Lecrae, and Bruno Mars

BB: For me, it starts with my mother and her sister and my aunt. A lot of that musical background that I touched on in the previous question comes from growing up in church so I spent a lot of time with those two in countless services, whether it was my mom singing or my aunt playing piano. From there, their taste in music, and a bit of my father's also, played a huge part in defining my sound and even how I speak on things currently, from a Black perspective. Artists such as D'Angelo, Outkast, Prince, DMX, Michael and Janet Jackson, George Clinton and countless others are just a few that I try to mirror in some type of way.

Soundstripe: What was your “aha” moment where you knew you had the talent and skill to launch a career?

Brian Brown

JC: I don’t know that I’ve ever had that moment where I felt like I was “talented” enough. As previously mentioned, when I realized I could write, I realized I had something special. But I wouldn’t believe that I would beat out the millions of other talented artists across the nation based off of my talent. However I can guarantee that I have the drive and ambition to outwork every one of them. That makes me more confident than anything.

BB: My "aha" moment?? Man... seems like I've had a lot but one that really stuck to me was freestyling for my dad around the time I was about 15 or 16. He, actually, wanted to rap for a second growing up but never committed to it and he was always playing some of the best rap of that time growing up so seeing that twinkle in his eye as I was freestyling meant a lot to me. Parents are always going to be supportive of your dreams but they're tough critics too so that was a beautiful moment, all in all.

Soundstripe: With so many tools available to musicians today, what are some other things you’re doing or thinking about to really stand out?

James Cole

JC: Being able to produce your own music is an absolute must. Every serious artist should have access to a DAW, interface, and a microphone. Almost even more importantly. It’s essential to have basic videography and editing skills due to the fact that this entire industry is now built and driven by social media. As an independent artist there’s nothing more crucial to being in control of your look, brand image, and the sound quality of your music. Now it’s also important to know where you need help. Everything can’t be DIY. If you have no idea how to mix a song you shouldn’t start with your own music. But when it comes to the more creative aspects like producing a track or directing a music video, you’d be surprised at how much you could do on your own if you just got past the learning curves.

BB: Um... that's something I'm still figuring out honestly. As much as I would like to just only say being me, it takes so much more than that these days, especially with the ever changing world of music & its consumption. Gimme some time and you'll probably witness it before I give a solid answer.

Soundstripe: If you could talk to any aspiring musicians or any person of color artists trying to break the industry today, what advice would you give them?

Brian Brown 2

JC: There has never been an easier time to blow up than right now. Which literally makes it the hardest because EVERYBODY has a shot at ALL TIMES. Before you buy any of that gear I mentioned in the first question, start posting and singing your ideas on TikTok/Instagram. If you can figure out how to work that algorithm, you will get a cheat code to success. At the end of the day the music industry is nothing without the fans, and the artists who scream loud enough… get heard.

BB: Stay true to yourself & your roots. There will be people who come along and try to sell you a dream that, depending on the situation, may want you to compromise who you are and your artistic integrity. please don't. We've got way too many outlets and opportunities to keep your art wholesome so stray away from the light if you can. all that glitters is not gold, believe you me.

Soundstripe: What can your fans expect from you this year?

James Cole 2

JC: A whole bunch of music, definitely an EP, maybe an album who knows haha. Also expecting to have at least one show per month. This is the year I’ve really decided to start focusing my energy on social media myself. And I’ve already seen extremely good results. Also really looking into the sync world and going after placements. 2023’s gonna be one for the books fasho

BB: What can fans expect from me in 2023?? A whole lot more music, Two Minute Drill out now, a lot more visuals, a lot more shows, merch... just a lot more me in a slew of ways so I hope they're just as excited as I am!

To keep up with James Cole and Brian Brown on their artistic journeys, be sure to give them a follow on Instagram here: James Cole (@jamescolelive) and Brian Brown (@worldofbrown).