Musicians are undoubtedly influenced by the music they listen to. An artist's musical selection can sometimes even foretell what a next album might sound like. So if you've ever wondered what the artists who grace your stereo are getting funky to, here's your chance to find out. Every week, I'll ask traveling musicians -- as well as a few locals -- the fated question: What are you listening to right now?
Mo Brown is an artist on a few levels. She sings back up in Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights, she performs with her own band called Emotion Brown & The Cosmos and, somehow, she's found the time to publish a number of novels under the name of Camika Spencer.
It's no surprise, then, that, between live performances and time spent creating her own music, Brown takes to the pages of a great book for comfort. Plenty of it, too, it seem: She's already written all the songs for her second album, she says, but she also feels no need to rush into the studio and get them on tape.
Instead, Brown is preparing for another three-month tour from coast to coast with The Northern Lights. Before she took flight for the rest of the year, we caught up with the DOMA-nominated R&B singer to find out what she's listening to and how she's staying inspired these days.
Currently jamming: The Roots Present (live DVD), D'Angelo
"There are a bunch of things I love about The Roots. First of all, it's live music. It's instrumentation, it's lyrical, it's really saying something. The music seems like it's always bound in some really good purpose. It's feel-good music. The D'Angelo stuff is kind of bittersweet. When I rock D'Angelo, I remember who he was and the personal life crisis he was going through as an artist. He's also really good social background music. It's not too up or down, and you can play it and it feels consistent. He adds a certain kind of ambiance."
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Aspires to: diversify her musical styles.
"Performing my original stuff is very different form performing with Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights because they're two different styles of music. JT is more rocking, with a heavy soul and R&B influence. Mo Brown & The Cosmos is what I consider 'soulternative.' For example, if Mary J. Blige did a Rickie Lee Jones song. Or if Madonna did an Aretha Franklin song -- and did it well. It's got that kind of alternative vibe that is totally laid back."
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Where the two roads meet: combining music with writing.
"I'm currently working on a novel and I would like to have a soundtrack to that novel -- like the book has a CD you're supposed to play while reading the story. I have written novels in the past and got another one published this year. I just contributed to a James Brown anthology, and I wrote an essay about life post-civil rights movement for a post-civil rights thing called Children of the Changing South. I don't lend myself to one art form. I know what it feels like to have that one thing that you do. But for me it just doesn't work. It mentally isn't good for me."