When Deva Mahal and Steph Brown sit down to write, Mahal brings her soul and blues sensibility and Brown brings her love of current pop hits to the mix.
“We have very similar tastes in music and styles, but where we are different is what makes it exciting,” Mahal says. “It makes it challenging and fun. Steph has more of a contemporary pop aesthetic. She has a very strong sense of pop music and is very narrative-based in her words and the way she writes. For me, it’s more soul and R&B.”
That is likely because she grew up in a household filled with blues music. Her father is the legendary Taj Mahal.
Mahal and Brown will perform Friday night, Aug. 8, as part of the Nightfall concert series as Fredericks Brown. Mahal says the name is an homage to her dad, born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, and her Aunt Carol.
“It’s an homage to them, and we wanted to make it clear that this is a partnership,” Mahal says of the name.
IF YOU GO
■ What: Nightfall featuring Fredericks Brown, with Carlos and His Tropical Swing.
■ When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8; Carlos and His Tropical Swing opens at 7 p.m.
■ Where: Miller Plaza, 850 Market St.
■ Admission: Free.
■ Phone: 423-265-0771.
It’s a partnership that began just six years ago when the two were traveling independently in New Zealand playing festivals. They met and started a casual friendship. Mahal returned to New York and was joined in the city not long after by Brown. Mutual friends suggested the two should meet again.
“That afternoon she came over, and I was working on a song and we wrote together,” Mahal says.
The two didn’t really sit down and plan to become a working, touring duo. It just happened.
“We kept getting together and writing together. It was the easiest transition maybe ever.”
Over time, they realized they had something special, and evidently so have a lot of other people. In the last couple of years, they’ve performed with Etta James, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, The Roots, Meshell N’Degeocello, Patti Smith, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jean Grae, Kanye West, Common, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Che Fu.
Another fan is Diane Reeves, who invited the duo onstage for a improvised sing-along and later dropped in to see a Fredericks Brown show .
“We’ve been very fortunate, and a lot of the attention we’ve gotten is on the merits of our live performances. We’ve gotten a lot of kind words and really good vibes, and it makes us feel strong. We don’t have everything figured out yet, so while we are taking that journey, so to have people like that like the raw version, it makes us feel good.
“It’s one thing to play for your peers, but to play for your betters and they see greatness in you, it gives you something that can’t be taken away. It makes you strive for better.”
Fredericks Brown has released three short-form CDs to date. On the latest, “Glass House Mountains,” listeners might hear a “Blind Boys of Alabama” influence.
“We love the Blind Boys of Alabama. We were listening to them when we recorded it, so it’s definitely there.”
Mahal say she and Brown have a few tour dates coming up and are working toward recording a full-length album.
“Right now, we are just taking things slowly.”
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...