An unforgettable voice, an unerring ear for a hit, and a heart as big as all outdoors – Ansel Brown has always possessed the attributes of the All American country star he was born to be. The fact that it took some living for him to figure it all out only makes his story – and his music – all the more compelling. Following a career path that has been anything but traditional, Brown is that rare artist who is simply incapable of singing something he doesn't believe and the kind of person for whom belief is everything.
In a short few years, this former advertising executive has turned his country music dream into a homegrown, grassroots success story with nearly 30 separate "street teams" across the country working to spread the word and helping to spearhead his fast-growing career. In the process, Brown has taken his music and his bigger-than-life personality into the hospitals around his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, bringing some much-needed joy into the lives of some very sick kids. His tongue-in-cheek leadoff single, "Mine's Bigger," provides the perfect introduction, because when it comes to raw talent and heart-and-soul authenticity, country stars just don't come any bigger than Ansel Brown.
"I think the industry is ready for someone to come in and be bold enough to do things differently, and I'm building this massive network of street teams at the artist level," Brown says. "It's all about changing the mold, and I hope people see me as part of that new model. The way to attract a following is to connect personally."
Brown started life in a Navy family in Greenville, South Carolina but moved to Hawaii when he was 10 years old. Noticing his musical talent, his mom arranged an audition for him and his sister with the prestigious Hawaiian Children's Choir (later to be prominently featured in the soundtrack for the hit Disney movie, "Lilo & Stitch"). Both siblings made the grade, and Brown's natural way with a song – and with kids – was obvious from the start.
"It was, and still is, a very professional choir, and it was a great thing to be a part of," he says. "We made regular TV appearances and music videos, and we sang at all the big Hawaiian events. The leader was very strict, but she was really good, and that's where I got my love for singing."
When the family moved back to the states, Brown's Hawaiian education left him struggling to catch up at a new school in Annandale, Virginia, and he came to what he describes as "the worst decision I ever made," quitting high school at age 17. "That decision really hurt," Brown says. "I was angry at myself, and I realized what I'd missed out on. From then on, when I started something, come hell or high water, I was going to finish it."
As he completed his GED and moved on to college in Charleston, SC, Brown's radio was tuned to Nashville's '90s country boom and artists from Garth Brooks to John Michael Montgomery to Collin Raye. Heavily involved in music ministry, his performing skills soon earned him a solo spot in church, where his stirring vocal performances started to draw significant attention. His children's ministry was a particular hit with both kids and parents, who lined up to get involved. But for all of his success as an instructor, Brown quickly realized that, through his work with kids in church and as a Pop Warner Youth Football head coach, he was learning at least as much as he was teaching.
"Those kids taught me how to perform in front of anyone," he says. "They gave me my 'I'm-not-afraid-to-do-this' mentality."
His day job, however, required him to maintain a more buttoned-down image. Over the next several years, Brown built a successful advertising business in the Charlotte area. With the business booming, Brown experienced the revelation that would change his life. "It came like a bolt out of the blue," he says. "Somehow I just knew, and I heard a voice inside me saying, 'I'm supposed to be a country singer.'"
With characteristic do-or-die determination, Brown jumped in head first, contacting the local office of the Nashville Songwriters Association International to find songs and spending evenings composing his own. Then he reached out to his only country music connection, producer Cliff Downs, who he had met years earlier through his advertising business. When Downs heard the singer and his songs, he immediately invited Brown to Nashville and the pair entered the recording studio. With his career on a fast track, Brown took the leap, leaving his business behind and committing to the music fulltime.
"It was my drummer who said, 'What about MySpace?'," Brown says. "I didn't even know what it was. I had no clue." When he finally established his MySpace page and put his newly recorded songs up on the site, things exploded. "Within two weeks we had 10,000 plays," he says. "Within two months I'm at 100,000 plays and I'm thinking, 'Okay, I can deal with this.'"
With his online presence established, Brown suddenly found himself inundated with offers to appear and perform, even writing a Pop Warner Football-themed song, "We Call it Football" for the Carolina Panthers. But one invitation, to sing for seriously ill children at Charlotte's Levine Hospital, stood out from all the rest. Not knowing what to expect, Brown made his first appearance at the hospital, and from doctors to nurses to parents, everyone involved was stunned by the intense connection Brown made with the children. As Ansel prepares his debut album, he is set to embark on a series of hospital appearances on behalf of his hometown hospital dubbed "The Bigger Heart Tour.™ "
"You see those kids going through what they're going through, and you realize your problems are nothing," Brown says. "Part of my vision is to have a positive impact on the world with my music and to touch people in a positive way. And every step of the way, God has been there to make sure there's something under my feet."