Living and Breathing Music

A profile on Christopher Brown and how he started writing his own songs.

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By Chris Brown

Senior Christopher Brown didn’t always know he was destined to be a musician. As a child, his parents forced him to take piano lessons even though he barely practiced and never gave much care to it.

It wasn’t until Brown’s sophomore year at Stuyvesant that he was able to discover his true musical passion: songwriting. That year, he decided to begin taking music a bit more seriously. He made a New Year’s resolution to write new songs every week. For the next 49 weeks, Brown would post his songs to his YouTube channel, “Laundry Socks,” inspired by his favorite artist Jon Bellion, who released a series on YouTube about the development of his songs. “Jon Bellion is the type of guy who really lives and breathes music,” Brown said. “It was really wild just watching someone create something in front of me and just go wild, and I think that was what inspired me to start writing my own music.”

Still, writing a song a week was not always fun. At times, Brown would think, “This is awful; I hate it so much.” But no matter what, Brown pushed through and was able to meet the deadline. All the self-imposed practice paid off, and Brown began to notice an improvement in his songwriting. “I learned that it takes a lot of practice, and you are going to put out a lot of [EXPLETIVE] before you get anything good,” Brown said. “There are some songs that I really hated writing that turned out to be good and others I really liked [that] I relistened [to but] sucked.”

Every song in Brown’s songwriting process began with an idea (typically inspired by his own life) and chord progression. His piano training, perhaps unexpectedly, also proved to be helpful—Brown’s knowledge of music theory aided him in his songwriting.

Brown participated in an event hosted by Stuyvesant’s vocal music and music technology teacher Harold Stephan called “The Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions” in 2019. In the program, aspiring songwriters performed for a panel of songwriters, publishers, and other music professionals who then offered their advice and encouragement. Brown was preselected to perform one of his songs for the panel. With Stephan’s guidance, Brown decided to showcase his song “Weak,” sung by senior Zeynep Bromberg in front of two well-known producers, Mark Hudson and Steve Greenberg. The song was a slow contemporary piano ballad with touching lyrics about love. It received laudatory responses from the panelists. Hudson complimented its melody and chord changes. The critics also suggested that Brown add a bridge to the melody.

Brown’s journey and success as a songwriter made him qualified to become the director for the a cappella group at Stuyvesant. He had joined the a cappella group in the spring of his sophomore year to learn how to sing, and he eventually learned how to compose and arrange songs. Brown arranged “All Time Low,” originally sung by his inspiration Jon Bellion, in 2019. His songwriting journey had come full circle.

During quarantine, Brown has had more time to write songs and develop his musical skills. His artistic talent and songwriting skills continue to grow as he writes more songs and sings covers on his YouTube channel. Brown’s dream career is to pursue music, and he has advice for other songwriters who seek to do the same: “Write a lot and finish songs,” he said. “Do whatever you want; there are no rules.”