On a musical journey
by Wendi Loomis
Recently a photo came to the Bulletin that caught my attention. It was a little out of the ordinary ‐ a clean-cut young man and a rough photo of R. Kelly that was obviously not a press photo of the Grammy nominated superstar. The caption mentioned an &dquo;up and coming&dquo; music producer in Tryon named Brook Hannon who had found a connection to get backstage at R. Kelly&squo;s recent tour stop in Greenville, S.C. Curious about Brook&squo;s story, I asked him to meet me down at the Trade Street Gallery Coffee House and tell me about what he was doing.
How did you get involved with music production?
I&squo;ve had a love of music since elementary school. I played sax in middle school. I stopped, but a lot of my family members play saxophone. I took a show production class at the high school. I started performing in the talent shows in tenth grade. I got a great response from the crowd. Me and one of my friends mixed some of the top rated songs into one piece and performed and danced to the music. By the end of twelfth grade I knew I wanted to do something with music.
I wanted to do Full Sail&squo;s Show Production program in Florida, but it was cost prohibitive. Then I learned about the Isothermal Community College program with the radio studio. It&squo;s geared more toward TV, but it covers audio. I&squo;m learning how to handle sound boards and mixing. I&squo;ll graduate ICC in May with a broadcast communication degree.
What&squo;s your favorite part of the program?
The audio is my favorite. Every day I&squo;m working on a piece of an audio project. Right now I&squo;m working on a package for WNCW Arc Overnight. We have the opportunity as students to do our own radio shows on Sunday night. &dquo;Spotlight on Arc&dquo; covers the artists we play along with history and information about the artists. I&squo;m producing sound beds to go with the product.
What do you mean by that?
Say I pick out a certain artist like Elvis. Then I&squo;ll go through a 30-minute album and mix it to flow in two minutes. It&squo;s a little treat to make you want the whole meal.
How did you get hooked up to meet R. Kelly?
My best friend is the brother of Alfred Twitty, a producer in Atlanta. The Twitty family is mostly in Tryon. Mr. Twitty started as a sports agent and recently has been getting more into entertainment management. That branches out into music and working with other artists. You could go to school for 18,000 years, but if you don&squo;t know the right people in the business you won&squo;t get anywhere. He&squo;s giving me the opportunity to get out and meet people and learn more about the business.
When he was in town with the R. Kelly tour I was able to go backstage and meet the managers. My whole concept was to play the cool guy and stay calm since I&squo;m coming from a small town. There are so many people backstage, fans that have won passes and such. But I spoke with R. Kelly for several minutes about the opportunity to meet him and be backstage. He wished me good luck in going out and pursuing the music. He told me not to give up because you never know how it might work out in any situation: &dquo;Keep your eyes on the stars.&dquo;
I observed backstage who was doing what. The artist&squo;s representatives and such are the people with the power; the artists work for them. It was a quick 45-minute meet and greet and then they were out to keep on the tour schedule.
Where do you see yourself in the industry?
Sean Combs (P. Diddy) is my overall idol. He&squo;s a multimedia mogul. He has his own clothing line, is an artist on his own label, and also manages other artists, both for music and TV. I don&squo;t want to fit into a mold; I want to be a mold maker. A lot of artists get limited because the label takes control and tries to make
you a certain way.
What was the festival you went to this weekend?
Yesterday in Charlotte Alfred Twitty brought me to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Conference (CIAA is an organization of black colleges in the southern region that have a basketball tournament, workshops, and fundraisers). Ford sponsored performances of artists. He called and invited me out to that.
This weekend was an introduction to Charlotte. I met boxer Floyd Mayweather out at the mall. I went to the convention center where people were promoting items and you could see artists performing for free. Executives were floating around and mingling. The point was to come out and meet people with no set schedule.
How has your family supported this dream of yours?
The closest relative now that plays saxophone is William Hannon, who is a school teacher in Gaston County. He started sax after his father. Any kind of questions I have, he&squo;s able to answer. I wish I would have stuck more to playing sax or a live instrument, but now it is mostly computer generated music for me.
Recording studios are downsizing to a laptop and microphone. Ten to twelve years ago you needed a huge sound board, but now most of my work is done on the computer because it&squo;s smoother and faster. Everything is digital now.
How would you describe your music?
It is hip-hop and R&B styles that you would hear on the radio. I don&squo;t want to be limited to one genre, because a lot of great producers like Rick Ruben diversify with hip-hop, rock, etc. I enjoy all styles of music myself.
Do you compose at the computer?
Pretty much. Through an internship at school I met Frederick Styles in Spartanburg. He&squo;s been producing for six years. With him I&squo;ve been sampling from old sixties music and then we go in on the computer system and edit a piece and speed it up or slow it down and mix it with a new sound of music. If you can come up with a unique sound or way of doing something, that&squo;s what will make people interested in what you do.
Where to after college?
I&squo;ve been talking with Alfred about going down to Atlanta, but not necessarily moving there, and meeting more people in the industry. Maybe start off with an internship to get my foot in the door. I have a cousin who works in Coca-Cola promotion and I may try to connect with him to find out more about the advertising side of music. I&squo;m lining up the ducks to see what works.
I&squo;ve been working with Crys Armbrust on the music festival for Nina Simone. I plan to be part of the music festival here when we get to that part of the project. I&squo;ll gradually work my way into the industry.
Being a small town boy, just being in Charlotte yesterday it&squo;s totally different than Tryon. I&squo;m not going to be one of those guys to pick up and run.
Did you like growing up in Tryon?
I&squo;ve enjoyed it. All my family is originally from here, so there&squo;s the hometown love. As of right now, I work with Polk County Middle afterschool with kids. You can work a long time before making a dime from music. So I know to keep a day job. Day to day, I go to school in morning and then work 2-6 p.m. at PCMS and then that&squo;s pretty much a day. Evenings are spent studying and then hopefully squeezing in time to work on music.
I dreamed of being the famous big-shot in high school. But, in the long run I think it&squo;s good that I wasn&squo;t pushed into the industry then. I was glad I was able to grow up and see the building blocks of the industry instead of being thrown into it.
&dquo;Success is not a destination, it&squo;s a journey.&dquo; I saw this quote a few years ago and it stuck in my mind. So whatever I pick up and learn along the way is success to me.
I don&squo;t drink or smoke. No drugs ever ‐ I try to be a role model to who I can. People who don&squo;t know me might see my car and get a different impression. You never know who I might inspire to stay
I was 19 years old when I bought my first car, but it was from working, staying straight, and staying clean. I saw what happened to other people and learned from their mistakes. I don&squo;t preach to my friends every day, and it&squo;s been a challenge.
I just tell them, &dquo;I don&squo;t do drugs, I do music.&dquo; If I inspire just one person, that&squo;s great.