There’s being a multi-hyphenate and then there’s being Nicholas Brown. Singer-songwriter; Bollywood actor; musical star; theatre maker. It’s safe to say he’s done a lot in his career.
Brown recently shared his shimmering debut single “Up And Coming”, a track that fully blasts listeners back to the gleaming ’80s. It’s playful and theatrical, lighthearted and stylish, but what else would you really expect from someone who’s been in musicals and Bollywood films?
The track’s title is a wry nod to Brown constantly being labelled an “up and coming artist” (I’m sure plenty of other musicians can relate). “It’s a cheeky, fun song that celebrates the climb, rather than let our goals be a struggle – why not dance through them?” as he says.
And if you think you recognise Brown’s face, you’re probably right: he played the lead role in the second season of Tim Minchin’s ABC TV series Upright, while his theatre show, Sex Magick, learned rave reviews at Sydney WorldPride 2023.
Brown took time out of his presumably busy schedule to tell Tone Deaf more about his life and career for our Get to Know series, which you can check out below.
Nicholas Brown’s “Up And Coming” is out now.
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How did your artist name come about?
It’s the name I was born with. Often people ask if it’s my stage name because my background is Indian and people expect me to have a more ‘exotic’ name. I always respond by saying that it’s my real name, that the British lived in India for many years and stole and pillaged a lot. Nicholas means victory and Brown means brown. I like to consider myself victoriously brown.
How would you describe your music to your grandma?
She’s passed so I’d have to describe it to her via the ouija board. I’d have to say: pleasurable pop. I think she’d like that. She taught me the piano and to sing when I was very young. Miss you grandma x
Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?
“Up And Coming” is the single that’s out at the moment. It’s a song for frustrated ambitious people I suppose. It’s about striving for something greater than yourself and celebrating that journey rather than being overwhelmed by it. I’m a Capricorn – we’re meant to be old wise goats, slowly climbing the hill. I’m usually pretty good at keeping those hooves moving andante at a walking pace, but sometimes – as Kate Bush puts it – running up that hill can be desirable. I’m super proud of the animated music video that accompanies the song. It’s inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film Holy Mountain.
My last release was a song called “I Spent My Rent On A Record”. I wrote it a few years ago when I was quite a bohemian nomad. I was living in three different countries moving between Sydney, Mumbai and Los Angeles. I was living out of a suitcase, making music and movies and having a really good time. Wherever I was I would always locate the local record store and buy ridiculous amounts of new music to keep my creative appetite satiated.
One time in LA I went a bit nuts and went on a spree at Amoeba Music on Hollywood Blvd. I spent all of my rent money on records and I was happy. That night at band rehearsals I wrote the song. It’s about being creatively reckless and trusting that everything will be OK. We made a very cheeky music video on the streets of Mumbai for this song and nearly got arrested.
What do you love about your hometown?
Sydney’s my hometown and I’d have to say the suburb of Newtown. It has my heart. I went to high school there and have so many fond memories of being a young fool on its streets. I still am. I love the Newtown Graveyard, sitting by the old graves meeting friends, the cafes, the Dendy Cinema, the dogs in Camperdown Park and the interesting people that gravitate towards the area. When I was a teenager we would sit around and jam with our instruments in the park and always comment on the incredible energy of the area. I still feel that.
Career highlight so far?
I’d have to say collaborating with Olivia Newton-John. I wrote an Aussie Bollywood film years ago and we were going to use some of her music in the soundtrack. She was going to write a few new songs for me to sing in the film – it was all quite surreal. The film didn’t end up happening for various reasons, but I’ll always cherish the moments I had with her.
This is cheesy but it was another childhood dream to sing at Carols by Candlelight. I was in the original cast of the Broadway musical Come From Away in Melbourne and we were invited to sing. I’m not a huge fan of Christmas but I loved performing a really gorgeous folk/choral version of “The Little Drummer Boy”.
Working in Bollywood is probably another career highlight. I moved to Mumbai hoping to sing and dance in Bollywood films but when I got there, I learnt that the actors all lip sync to famous playback singers. I really wanted to sing myself but ended up getting typecast as the villain because of my Aussie accent. A blockbuster Bollywood film I did called Kites was definitely a highlight.
Playing Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar was definitely a highlight too. More so because it’s something I always wanted to do as a teenager. I sang the rock ballad Gethsemane for my HSC music exam when I was 17. Then I ended up playing Jesus and singing that song in an awesome production of the show in Mumbai. It was a full circle moment.
My play Sex Magick just closed at Griffin Theatre in Sydney. It was part of Sydney WorldPride. That was definitely a career highlight also.
Fave non-music hobby?
Creating my own natural perfumes, experimenting with herbal tinctures, and growing rare fruit trees and plants.
What’s on your dream rider?
A zenthai shiatsu practitioner, Damiana Herbal Liquer, Kylie Minogue’s Pinot Noir (it’s delicious), witchy essential oil candles, some good old fashioned brandy for the vocal chords pre-gig and some strong Indian Pale Ale Beer for afterwards (6% and above only).
Dream music collaboration?
Björk. Or Ólafur Arnalds. Or Susanne Sundfør. Anyone with dots or squiggles above letters of their names ;)
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
On an extremely comfortable vintage lounge eating black truffles with loved ones.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
“Everything’s Alright” from Jesus Christ Superstar.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I haven’t had many mentors to give me advice to be honest. I wish I did. When I finished acting school, I was told that I wouldn’t get any work because of my skin colour. It was the worst advice imaginable. I’ve had bad advice that’s for sure.
Something that’s pretty damn obscure comes to mind for some reason. When I was twelve, I was on the set of Heartbreak High with an autograph book getting signatures from all of the cast. The episode was the school disco episode, so of course I was busting out some pretty outrageous moves to try and get on camera. One of the teachers signed my book and said “Dear Nicholas. Keep Dancing.” I can still see her handwriting. To keep dancing is some pretty good advice for life, I think.
What’s one obsession you have that no one would guess after listening to your music?
I’m obsessed with oracle card decks. Some people buy cigarette packets every week – I buy oracle card decks. It’s an obsession and I need to consult an oracle deck to try and stop.