Get on the Performance Bandwagon – TJ Brown

TJ Brown sitting on couch with guitar
This singer-songwriter started performing to fund his music degree - now he can’t stop.

TJ Brown manages a rapidly growing Twitch community and sings in an  almost endless number of diverse venues from YouTube to International stages. He has even been a part of winning the International Barbershop Championship with the Westminster Chorus.

He has performed for the game League of Legends including the 2016 World Championship at Staples Center and 2017 World Championship in Beijing. TJ has also shared the stage or collaborated with Tori Kelly, Alan Walker, Andy Grammer, Rachel Platten & more.

Now, TJ shares insights on vocal health, performing and sharing one’s music with our Singdaptive audience:

A favorite quote that inspires you

“Confidence comes from surviving failure, not from success” – Alok Kanojia aka Dr. K from HealthyGamerGG on Twitch

An object (at home) that inspires you in your musical work

I find myself most often getting lost and inspired while playing the keyboard. Even just slightly tweaking a piano sound can inspire something new completely. It’s been my guitar in the past, but recently it’s been my keyboard.

TJ Brown’s loop pedal cover of “What Do You Mean?”

A key turning point in developing your own unique vocal work? 

I attended Berklee College of Music, and though I had a partial scholarship, after my 2nd year at school my parents couldn’t afford to help pay for school anymore. I had finished the spring semester and I had to figure out how I was going to raise the money to attend in the fall over the summer. My mom went to a local farmer’s market and told me that a guy was singing there and was doing pretty well. I decided to try it out and made a couple hundred bucks in tips.  I immediately began to seek out more venues, farmers markets, street fairs, etc. that had street performers. 

That’s amazing – did you make enough to support your degree?

I started street performing 4-5 times a week and I was able to raise the money to pay for school. I did this for the rest of my time at Berklee. Street performing for me was a huge blessing and it was better than if my parents could have afforded to pay for school. I gained so much confidence, built up my repertoire, I gained a lot of fans, I made money, and I started to get offered a lot of gigs. The network of gigs that I built up during my time street performing is what sustained me after I finished school. 

An important vocal health lesson?

One tool that I think flies under the radar a lot is laryngeal massage. Laryngeal massage is a great way to reduce tension in your voice and to get it in a good place to sing, or a great way to cool down your voice after a long singing session.

TJ Brown Performing at the Olympic stadium in Beijing, China

You did Barbershop! How do your award winning experiences in that area influence your work now?

Barbershop taught me a great deal about blending, which I use to this day. I think blending is a very overlooked tool when it comes to singing. Most people think of it only in terms of harmonizing with other singers, but I think it also has great practical use in the way you can blend your tone with instrumentation as you sing. You can use this to stand out from the instrumentation or you can use it to merge together and sound more like part of the instrumental arrangement as a vocalist. It’s just another creative tool in the singer’s toolbox. Learning to listen to the other singers while singing barbershop definitely helped with this.

A vocal artist who inspires you? 

There’s SO many, but one that has stood out recently has been Shay Mooney from the country duo Dan + Shay. The man is a killer vocalist. Beautiful clear tone, great power, outstanding control, and extremely consistent. He sounds great in every live performance, and often just as good or better than in the recordings.

What’s a lesson with tech hat’s helped you make or share your music?

Honestly, don’t underrate your smartphone. People can think that equipment is a barrier to entry, but SO much can be accomplished by just singing to your smartphone. A friend of mine, Peter Collins, is a great example and has gained a huge following on Instagram and TikTok just by singing to his phone. If you can sing you can sing.

TJ Brown’s studio setup

What’s your relationship with social media – what works? What doesn’t?

Don’t be late to the bandwagon. There’s a lot of singers out there. You want to be early to the trends. I’ve seen so many singers breakout on social media because they found a niche on an emerging platform.  

Great insight – any other ideas?

A lot of people gained success singing to their MacBooks in early Youtube. People are doing the same now with their phones on TikTok. Artists like Us the Duo found success singing with half of their face showing on Vine. Create content, think outside the box, be creative, and use social media to expose your art to as many people as you can :)

Why did you start on Twitch?

I was involved with music for League of Legends and I watched Twitch a lot. In one collaboration with Riot Games I had to make a commercial for the game with two influencers, one of whom lived in a streamer house with some of the biggest streamers on Twitch. We wrote the music and rehearsed at that house, and while I was there the other streamers would constantly encourage me to stream on Twitch, saying that I would do well. I gave it a try.

Would you recommend Twitch for all singers?

Twitch has its pros and cons. The pros are that it is monetized very well, and that it is one of the best ways to authentically build connection with your fans/viewers. 

The cons?

Discovery is very limited (getting people to find/watch your stream in the first place can be difficult), and the content is very long-form. You’ll need a large repertoire and good vocal technique to sing for long periods of time.

What viewers see in TJ Brown’s Twitch stream

Any social media “fails” or “successes” for you?

The way I got involved with League of Legends was a social media success for me. I had been following LoL for a while, and Riot Games made incredible music for the game. I heard one song in particular (The Curse of the Sad Mummy) and something inside me told me that I had to get involved with it somehow. I gathered a couple friends, and we made a cover of the song on Youtube. It got a couple hundred thousand views, and we sent it to the music team at Riot. They got in contact with me saying that they loved my version and they asked me to start singing for them.

You’re a Berklee Grad – what’s one thing you learned that you are applying all the time?

This more applies to playing instruments, but jazz theory and ear training are things that I use every single day as a musician. Having a good understanding and practical implementation of music theory opened up my world when it came to playing guitar and piano. It allowed me to speak the language instead of trying to memorize everything.

What are you currently working on in terms of your music-career?

I’m currently attempting to become a production beast. I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting and production for other artists. I’m still been streaming on Twitch and I release music on Spotify on Youtube from time to time. I play gigs around the LA area as well. 

What is one video of your singing that was particularly easy (or hard!) to complete – and what made it so?

Last year I was asked by a friend who is the head nurse at a veterans’ hospital to help the nurses create a COVID-related parody song. They wanted me to make and record the music and they would write the lyrics and lip-sync to my vocals. 

TJ Brown recorded the music to support nursing and commemorate the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale

At first they were going to do “Royals” by Lorde but then a week before it was due, they changed it to Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. I had a week to completely transcribe, record and mix one of the most complex pop songs of all time. This was the result. The video went viral on Facebook and ended up being played at the end of KTLA morning news for several days.

What are some of your career dreams?

My heart’s desire is just to make great music. I’m a music lover, and I enjoy the creation of it in so many aspects. I want to be a part of the creation of music that is special, whether it’s singing/performing, playing instruments, producing, songwriting, conducting, film scoring, or something else.

See More of TJ Brown on Twitch | YouTube | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

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