I had the pleasure of meeting Rue Brown recently at The Coffee Shop on Sixteenth Street with her PR manager and my dear friend, supermodel/actor Debbie Dickinson. I immediately noticed her blue fedora and matching fingernails, ornate statement jewelry, and overall cool demeanor. With a young (twenty six) NYC flair for conversation, we hit it off instantly and all chatted like little hens. Rue told me about her work on Broadway in Memphis as well as her role in the 2007 remake of John Waters’ Hairspray. We talked about what it was like working alongside John Travolta, Queen Latifah and, my favorite, Christopher Walken.
Rue then began to talk about her music (which I’ve listened to and love). She has an incredibly smooth, angelic voice that radiates bluesy calm and cool. It’s no wonder she’s the daughter of a blues singer! She writes her own lyrics and is a proud Brooklyn girl. She’s really involved in the Bushwick music scene complete with industrial performance spaces and genuine non-hipster vibes. This girl is one to watch!
Katherine Sloan: How would you describe your sense of style when you’re on stage opposed to when you’re just out and about in NYC? Do you create a persona with the way you look (as well as with the way you sound)?
Rue Brown: I think they are very similar on and off stage. I love color and great accessories; a good hat and shoe will always make my day. When I’m on stage I like to turn that up a notch because I want to be as visually pleasing as the music. So, the mood and the vibe I’m trying to set for the evening is heavily influenced by whether I’m in a heel or a shoe I can jump in, a bright lipstick or a cool hat. It depends on my mood.
Katherine Sloan: Your father was a blues musician, right? Or was it Jazz? What, for you, is the most pleasing emotion that you get from listening to blues music? What sorts of emotions do you want to evoke with your own music?
Rue Brown: My mother was a jazz and blues singer. It has always made me feel sophisticated and cool to listen to jazz and the blues always showed me how much humor can go into songwriting. With my music I like to evoke sophistication, cool, humor, reflection, sense of purpose, and sense of self.
Katherine Sloan: Do you tend to be more creative when you’re feeling a bit sad or does that have anything to do with your process?
Rue Brown: When I’m sad I try not to write anything at all. I think I write about a sad experience much more sensitively after I have had time to reflect. I don’t see sadness being a part of my process; any emotion or inspiration I reflect on is all a part of the process.
Katherine Sloan: What were you like as a little girl? When we met, you had your fedora and statement jewelry, blue fingernail polish, etc. Were you a child who always loved to dress up and sing for your friends and family?
Rue Brown: Haha! Yes! I have always been an “outfit complete with lipstick to go to the grocery store” kinda girl. When I was little I was always dressing up and pretending to have fashion shows, putting on all my mom’s fly clothes. I would sing, dance and perform anytime there was an opportunity!
Katherine Sloan: Who do you consider a style icon? Also, what about music icons?
Rue Brown: Some of my style icons are Diana Ross, Grace Jones, Erykah Badu, and Rihanna.
Katherine Sloan: What do you do when you’re feeling creatively dry? What do you do for inspiration when a song just isn’t working or when you want to spice up your look?
Rue Brown: When I feel I’m going through a dry spell while writing a song, I usually tend to watch old movies or watch some interviews on artists and things I’m interested in in order to gain a better perspective on a certain point of view. Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not the only point of view and that I have to remember to jump out of my own head and speak on things other people think as well. If I want to spice up my look, it usually starts with my hair. I love the options of hairstyles and how they can make you feel like a brand new girl!
Katherine Sloan: Finally, what style advice (and it doesn’t just have to be about clothing, accessories or makeup; it can be about living a stylish, elegant life) would you give to young women (and men) who are searching for something/finding themselves, etc.?
Rue Brown: I would tell them to wear whatever makes them feel amazing. Clothes are an extension of yourself so be bold and create looks based on whatever inspires you for the day. Take risks. Try different looks and learn what you like and how you like to see yourself. Don’t dress for anyone’s approval other than your own. Set the trend and remember that a great shoe can take any dull outfit to the next level!
By Katherine Sloan