A singer/songwriter whose eclectic body of work has embraced both retro-styled honky tonk and tough, bluesy lyrical introspections, Jann Browne is an artist with the talent to craft a mainstream success -- and the guts and integrity to walk away from Nashville when she grew uncomfortable with the music industry.
Jann Browne was raised in Indiana and developed a taste for country music from her grandparents, who were members of a square dancing troupe that often performed at bluegrass festivals. However, Browne's own musical impulses leaned more toward rock & roll and blues, and as a teenager she began performing with local rock bands. In the late '70s, Browne pulled up stakes and moved to California, where she began writing and performing new songs with a stronger country influence. After a brief stint as a vocalist with Asleep at the Wheel, Browne moved to Nashville, and her material caught the ear of an A&R executive at Curb Records; in 1990, Browne was signed to the label and she released her debut album, Tell Me Why, that same year. Tell Me Why was a surprise success, spawning two hit singles, "Tell Me Why" and "You Ain't Down Home," and earned Browne a nomination as Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. However, Browne -- a maverick who felt at home with such off-mainstream country & western artists as Emmylou Harris and Iris DeMent, both of whom have recorded with her -- very soon discovered she had little taste for the politics of the major-label music industry. After her second album, 1991's Only When I Laugh, failed to sell as well as her debut, she opted out of her contract with Curb and moved back to California. Browne still had a substantial audience in Australia and Europe, and in 1995, she recorded her third album, Count Me In, for Red Moon Records, an independent label in Europe (it later received an American release from the independent Cross Three label). The album displayed a rawer sound that had more to do with blues and rock than mainstream country, and while it didn't find a large audience in the United States, it won a number of enthusiastic reviews and re-established Browne as a singer/songwriter with a sharp and distinctive vision. For her fourth album, 2001's Missed Me by a Mile, Browne continued to re-assert her independence by co-producing the album herself, and releasing it in America on her own label, Plan B Records. ~ Mark Deming