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Holly May’s rising star

With her video on YouTube exceeding a million views, Charlemont teen getting noticed

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Holly "May" Brown

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Holly "May" Brown

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Holly "May" Brown and her mother Heather Brown

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Holly "May" Brown and her mother Heather Brown

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Holly "May" Brown
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Holly "May" Brown and her mother Heather Brown

This month has been really busy for 16-year-old Holly Mae Brown of Charlemont. The singer, who performs under the name Holly May, began with a road trip to Montclair, N.J., where she and Shelburne Falls singer-songwriter Una Jensen, 17, played The Chill Teen Center & Lounge. Their performances will be broadcast on “Garage Artists,” a Comcast Xfinity on-demand TV show of five rising teenage musicians.

On a recent weekday, after five to six hours of online school work and a newspaper interview, Brown went to Mohawk for field hockey practice; her team was preparing for the semifinals. And her new Extended Play (EP) recording, “Holly May,” will be released this week. She is also getting ready for her first concert at The Arts Block, this Saturday, Nov. 23, in Greenfield.

Brown has almost 11,000 “likes” on Facebook and a video of her single, “Go Big or Go Home,” written by Una Jensen, has been seen by over a million online viewers on YouTube. The saucy song, which is on the EP, has a driving beat as Holly’s voice defiantly eggs on some invisible, shy-boy suitor to be a little bolder, if he wants to get the girl of his dreams. The chorus is “You gotta’ go big or you’re gonna go home.”

Besides a great singing voice and a dramatic sense of how to drive home a lyric with a vocal “twang,” Brown has charisma in her musical video performances.

Shortly before Spotify was to release Brown’s EP, Una Jensen posted a message to Brown saying, “You’re not goin’ home yet, so I guess you went pretty big!”

The teenager has come a long way since last spring, when she was raising money to cover the expense of auditioning for the NBC television show “The Voice.”

While Brown didn’t make it onto “The Voice,” she does have the new EP and a schedule of concert dates to fit in between her schoolwork for Greenfield’s Commonwealth Virtual School and her after-school sports activities.

The songs on the EP, which isn’t available on a CD, can be heard on Spotify, an Internet-based music-streaming service.

“Go Big or Go Home” was posted before her “The Voice” audition. Not bad for a girl just getting started on her musical career.

After signing up with SoNo Recording Group, Brown went to Nashville on Sept. 15 to record a song at Castle Studio. Along the way, she stopped to film a midnight music video on Nashville’s nightclub-studded, glittery Broadway Street.

The song is called “I’ve Been on the Run” and it’s got a good country music plotline: The singer is a waitress in a dead-end job, who’s had it with rude customers. She grabs a customer’s guitar and flees out the door, to Nashville with her music.

Footage for the diner scene was shot at the Whately Fillin’ Station and the guitar-toting customer is Una Jensen, who wrote all but one of the five songs on Brown’s new EP, including “I’ve Been on the Run.” This video has yet to be released.

Brown’s family has stories about how she belted out tunes while riding in the back seat of her grandmother’s car — at the ripe old age of 3.

She has sung in local churches, at the Charlemont Senior Center, at Yankee Doodle Days and before sports events at Mohawk, according to her mother, Heather Brown.

At age 14, Brown started competing in the annual Texaco Country Showdown at the Franklin County Fair. Also, she competed three years in a row in the Valley Idol Jr. competition at The Shea Theatre. It was at the 2012 competition that she met her future manager, Enoch Jensen, a well-known area musician, one of the contest’s judges and Una Jensen’s father.

Last November, they recorded “Go Big or Go Home,” another song written by Una Jensen.

The fifth song on the EP, is a cover of Richard Marx’s 1989 No. 1 ballad: “Right Here Waiting for You.” Brown’s country music version was mixed by studio artists who have worked with Carrie Underwood, among other artists.

Heather Brown said Marx has listened to her daughter’s version. “He said he loved it.” A nurse, Heather Brown has been going with her young daughter on every gig and on all the out-of-town trips. “I think this year’s been the busiest,” she said. “Everything started with ‘Go Big or Go Home’ and just took off.”

SoNo Recording Group (SRG) is a full-service label dedicated to promoting new artists and expanding existing artists’ and producers’ reach beyond the traditional, according to its website. Its marketing approach is centered around social media, collaboration, and interactive services

The label has an exclusive deal with Spotify for worldwide distribution through Spotify’s streaming services.

“You get royalties every time someone plays your song,” Enoch Jensen explained. “The deal she has is more integrated into Spotify than some (other artists) because of this mutually beneficial agreement. If someone wants to play Carrie Underwood, Spotify is going to recommend Holly in the (musical) rotation.”

To use Spotify’s streaming service, people “subscribe” to it by downloading it. The service is free with commercials or $5 per month without any commercials.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a unique path, But she comes with such a great voice, and we had the songs for her. It was the right time,” said Enoch Jensen. “She’s really jumping into the deep end. She’s been a trouper and she’s been really great. She’s a hard-working kid.”

“Her family has done everything they possibly can to make her dream come true,” he added.

Brown will earn money from her concerts, but it could be about six months before she sees any royalty money from her online music.

When asked how her life has changed since her career has taken off, Brown thought for a long time, then said, “I don’t feel any different — but I know I will soon,” she says. “I’ve gotten quite a lot of publicity. I’ll go out to the store and someone will say ‘Are you that girl from the (news)paper?’”

“I have a boyfriend, so I see him, too.”

“I’m still doing sports,” she continued. “I’m still seeing my friends. I still have sleepovers with my friends. It’s not taking over my life.”

Brown says she is looking for an acoustic guitarist and a percussionist, between the ages of 18 and 24, for future concert engagements.

The headliner of the Saturday, Nov. 23, Arts Block concert is Randy Smith and His Band of Merry Men. Smith is a Mohawk alum and former band member of the Vermont band 8084. He is now based in Charlotte, N.C. Brown is billed as a special guest and musician Hirsh Gardner opens the show. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Smith and Brown have another performance scheduled for Nov. 27 at the Mole Hill Theater in Alstead, N.H.

More news about Brown is available online, on her Facebook page, by searching for “Holly May.”

Staff reporter Diane Broncaccio has worked at The Recorder since 1988. Her beat includes west county. She can be reached at: dbronc@recorder.com or: 413-772-0261, ext. 277.

Staff photographer Paul Franz has worked for The Recorder since 1988. He can be reached at pfranz@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 Ext. 266. His website is www.franzphoto.com.

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