LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Austin Brown is following in some pretty big footsteps: The young artist is the nephew of Michael and Janet Jackson. Then there's his mom, Rebbie, the eldest child of the Jackson family, who charted two top 10 R&B hits of her own in the '80s, "Centipede" and "Plaything."
But Brown contends he's unfazed by the inevitable comparisons. "A lot of people say I sound like the male version of my mother," he says during an interview at Rodney Jerkins' Darkchild studio in Los Angeles. "That sound is part of who I am. You know, I can't help where I come from, but I do love where I come from."
Now the singer/songwriter/musician is ready to see how much listeners will love his self-described "energetic groove and soul" sound. Preview track "Target Practice" is already up on AOL and Brown's website, AustinBrown.com. Coming in the next few weeks will be a video mash-up of three tracks from his debut album, "85." Directed by producer Tom DeSanto ("X-Men," "Transformers"), the video will be chock-full of video effects and, Brown adds, "a lot of throwback dancing."
Signifying the year Brown was born, "85" is slated for release in 2011 on his label, the Royal Factory. Onboard as primary producer is Jerkins (Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige), who met Brown when he was 13 years old and working with Michael at Neverland. "I saw the same look in his eyes that I did when I first met Michael," Jerkins recalls. "Austin is a triple threat who can sing, dance and play."
A "band geek" in high school, Brown, whose father was a musician, began piano lessons at age 4 and now also plays guitar, bass and drums. Tracks from the album mesh his tenor with live instrumentation, melodic progressions and chord changes inspired by Motown, the Beach Boys and the Beatles.
"Multigenerational music that's fun and has a swing to it ... that's the music I want to make," a foot-stomping Brown says as he snaps his fingers.