Harmony singer KVY ready to fly solo with ‘You, Today’
Touring with Tarrus Riley and recording harmonies for other noteworthy reggae-dancehall entertainers, in her soul-searching era, singer and songwriter, KVY (pronounced KAY), learnt some invaluable lessons behind a microphone.
The singer has her heart set on breaking barriers with her voice. She is one of the women we see swaying to the rhythms behind the stars, supplying the melody that makes the catchiest hooks, riffs and refrains more powerful. Little did she know that with her Christian upbringing, a solo professional career was gently unfolding.
“I actually thought I would become a gospel singer, but once I entered the gates of the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, I found that I was pushed to the back bench at church. I was exposed to a whole new world, literally like Princess Jasmine in the movie Aladdin – it was kind of a culture shock because I [experienced] and saw a lot of things, even the ways people dressed, that were new to me,” the singer told The Gleaner.
She shared that music that was not religious was the ‘forbidden fruit’ inside her family home in the Rockfort community in Kingston, where she was raised, but her father, who had purchased a Walkman, insisted on giving her a few cassettes that were strictly for her ears only.
“I used to hide mixtapes with music by international soul singer Sade and the King of Pop Michael Jackson because my mother did not allow me to listen to them; only my dad did. That contraband remained under my bed.”
She has spent approximately 18 years refining her emotionally rich vocals and musicianship learning music and singing in the background. From high school to college, KVY, whose given name is Kareen Brown, experimented with music quietly, but her truth would later be revealed when she accepted the opportunity to tour with ‘Singy Singy’ while completing her studies.
“Tarrus was the first established artiste I toured with. I think I have been blessed to work with some really good personalities – people I could be comfortable around – who became my friends over time. The experience was never anything I could not handle; it has been all-around good, which I’m grateful for,” she said.
Having also worked as a harmony singer for Shaggy, Christopher Martin and Romain Virgo, KVY feels she has been given the tools and has the knowledge to help her share deeper stories to better herself and those who listen.
“Romain would have said so much to me, but one precious [piece of] advice came out of him saying, whatever music he sings or what he puts out there, he wants to make sure he can be proud of it five, 10 or even 15 years from now. He was only sharing that he is careful about what he sings and writes and how he lives his life. It’s something I try to apply within my own personal and professional life; I am careful of what I say and sing to make sure I have no regrets,” KVY shared.
She is currently touring with California-based roots reggae band Groundation and heads to France this weekend but anticipates that she will be able to share with the people she meets her debut single titled You, Today. A song for which she retained the help of her friend, artiste Chevaughn Clayton, now known by the stage name Qyor, to help fine-tune the lyrics.
It is the story of love between two friends who desire each other but are afraid to take that step, one that KVY said comes from a sentimental place because the story is of her own experience.
“I didn’t like the chorus at first, [so] after I sat with Chevaughn, we were able to fix that. The person who the song is about knows the song is about him, and it has taken a little toll on our friendship but I would say we are both mature and understand the source of each other’s apprehensions,” she said.
“Your mind has to be stronger than your heart, especially in this time of industry. I constantly find ways to strengthen my mind, but my feelings I have had to learn to put some of them aside and focus on priorities. At the time, our friendship was most important because there is a lot invested in it, but woman, or man, you can find love anywhere. I found that love in my daughter, who is six years old. She is a constant reminder that whatever challenges I have, quitting is not an option, and once she has a role model in me, she doesn’t have to look to anyone on the outside.”
KVY’s smooth R&B, neo-soul and reggae-influenced melodies can transport listeners of her music through an emotional and magical time-lapse. Still in the process of figuring out how to successfully launch her solo career, she has also looked to the careers and attitudes of professional songbirds like Tessanne Chin and Alaine, she said.
“These two females are a big inspiration to me. Some time ago, Alaine would have said to me, ‘you are an empire,’ and it’s because she is aware of my other talents – I draw, I sew, and I paint – every bit of everything that is art. I even do album artwork for my work and other musicians. I know it will be difficult, as I am already experiencing [it], but I am ready to spread my wings. While on tour, I still know to make time for me,” KVY said.
“I keep reminding myself of my mission and the message I want women to get from my music. I want them to know it is okay, to be honest with themselves about how they feel and be honest with people about how they feel because the repercussions may not be what you would want. I know what I want; I continue to fly towards it,” she continued.