Country singer Sissy Brown finds inspiration in isolation
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Singer Sissy Brown left the rat race behind and found a new muse in solitude.
Brown, an Oklahoma native who began performing professionally after high school, will make her first stop in Amarillo for a 9 p.m. Sunday show with Jon Emery at The 806, 2812 S.W. Sixth Ave.; the show is free, but donations are accepted.
It's just a short hop up the highway from the independent country singer's home between Wichita Falls and Waurika, Okla.
"I grew up really rurally in Oklahoma, but I've been living in major cities for almost my entire adult life," Brown said.
She settled first in Spokane, Wash., where she played with rockabilly bands, then moved to Los Angeles, where she honed her sound while performing at the famed Viper Room. After her California days, she tried Austin, then Kansas City, but by 2015, she was spending most of her time on the road and needed a quieter place to refocus between tour dates.
"I wanted some place where I could just be alone," Brown said.
So she found a "weird old farmhouse" dating back to 1910 and settled in.
"It just feels great out here in the silence," Brown said. "When I lived in the city, you get caught up with a lot of things that can distract you from what's real in your life."
And what's real for Brown is her music.
"My whole family is musicians, so I didn't have a choice, I guess," she said. "My great-uncle played for Jimmie Rodgers and Lefty Frizzell. Some of my other uncles are one-hit wonders. My grandmother had a radio broadcast out of Lawton.
"I think it's in the blood," she said. "My mother, she tried very hard. When she was pregnant — this is how country we are — she used to pray every night that I could sing like Reba."
Brown complimented her genetic (and spiritual?) predisposition to music by training classically.
"We never had a lot of money, but she made sure I did piano lessons, classical voice lessons — I even went to Europe to sing at 15," Brown said. "But when I went to college, I said I don't want to do this boring stuff. I want to sing country music.
"I think it still burns her," she laughed. "All that hard work and I still end up singing at every honky-tonk and dive bar."
She found herself irresistibly drawn to country music singers because of their tale-spinning power.
"All their songs, they told a story in there," Brown said. "They weren't particularly about anything, they weren't trying to change the world. They were just trying to tell you about their life or what happened last Tuesday.
"There was no agenda, no marketing, no trying to convince teenagers to buy their music — they were just telling their story and how they lived, and that's kind of beautiful."
That's the feel that Brown is going for with her own music: "You don't have to be fancy, you don't have to wear $500 blue jeans. You just show up and say what you felt. ... Or maybe I'm just not a very good guitar player."
"What I Never Wanted to Be," Sissy Brown
Living near Byers — "about 12 miles from any kind of civilization" — has reignited her passion for music.
"It's wonderful just to sit on my porch and look as far as the eye can see, and look at the clouds, and play my guitar," she said. "And Lord knows it's cheap out here.
"When I think of all the money I spent in those big cities," she said, sighing. "Out here, I have so much — a big house and farm land — and I paid pennies for it. ... If you want to live on the road, you've got to reduce your rent sometimes."