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Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 09:14 UK
Damon Albarn recruits new artist
By Damian Jones
Newsbeat reporter

VV Brown
VV Brown is touring Lagos with Africa Express

Damon Albarn has recruited a new artist to join the Africa Express line-up.

VV Brown is joining the Blur frontman, Reverend And The Makers and The Magic Numbers for a tour of Lagos with the collective.

The project features African and British musicians who specialise in spontaneous collaborations.

VV said: "I'm excited and nervous because they are amazing musicians who I really respect especially Damon, I think he's a genius."

She added: "I don't know if I'll be playing a drum, or a tambourine, singing or just playing with them on my one string guitar yet.

"It's going to be really authentic experience though and I think it's really cool when musicians give new artists an opportunity like this, especially someone like me."

Glastonbury debut

The collective, which also features African artists Fela Kuti, Amadou and Mariam, Bassekou Kouyate, Vieux Farka Toure Baaba Maal, is touring a host of villages in Lagos over the next week.

The group, which is led by Albarn, made their debut at Glastonbury last summer and played a special gig in Liverpool earlier this year.

Reverend And The Makers lead singer Jon McClure was so keen to get involved in the project again that he even cancelled a series of UK dates with his own side project Mongrel.

"It's a cause I've been associated with for a while and it's really close to my heart. I really admire what they're doing and this should be a lot of fun," he said.

"If you're a musician you should be exploring your skills and widening your mind a little bit. So more people should try stuff like this.

Reverend And The Makers
The Reverend cancelled tour dates to go to Africa
"The Beatles used to go to India and do stuff so it's is good to push the boundaries a bit."

VV meanwhile is just grateful for the experience after a whirlwind month which has seen her appear on Jules Holland alongside Kings Of Leon and Metallica.

"It's going to be a life changing experience and I'm looking forward to sitting round a fire making some new friends and getting deep in conversation," she said.

Hot signing

Lacing old rock'n'roll and doo wop, soul and music from Nintendo games and Disney movies, the 24-year-old is Island's hottest new signing.

She is currently putting the finishing touches to her self-produced debut album Travelling Like The Light, a record littered with tales of heartbreak born out of a bitter break up with an ex-boyfriend.


I'm excited and nervous because they are amazing musicians who I really respect especially Damon
VV Brown on Africa Express
"Writing this album was a process of enlightenment and complete expression," she revealed.

"I was in a bad place not only romantically because I had my heart broken but I'd gone through a lot musically.

"I was living in Los Angeles and I had lost myself. So writing this album was a real sense of finding myself as an artist."

VV signed a record deal at 19 and started her career in Hollywood working with big producers and even backed The Pussycat Dolls on their debut album.

"It was great doing backing vocals for them but I never actually met or got to sing in the same room as them," she said. "I was in the studio on a separate day."

Sugababes
VV penned a track for Sugababes' 2007 album Change
But after three years of trying to cut it in LA, VV became disillusioned with the industry and parted company with her label.

"People instantly thought I was an R n B soul artist. They were trying to place me in a box that wasn't me and they were trying to tell me how to dress," she said.

"In the end I just wanted to tell them to f*** off really. It was hard because I didn't know what I was going to do next.

"I was just like, 'Oh my God I feel like I've failed, how the hell am I going to pick myself up?'"

Record deal

Broke and without a record deal, she retreated to her auntie's attic in London and started from scratch with a one string guitar she picked up from a charity store.

There she wrote the bulk of her forthcoming debut and eventually scored a lucky break when she penned a song the Sugababes used on their 2007 album Change.

"I wrote a song called Denial which was submitted to them and they liked it," she explained. "I was lucky because they probably had millions of songs being pitched to them.

"But by giving that song away it was validation that I'd truly found who I am in both territories as a song writer, as a producer, as a writer and as an artist."

Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn is the founder of Africa Express
VV eventually signed a record deal with Island who allowed her to make a record on her own terms.

"The album was 45% done before my record deal and all the songs were written already," she said.

"I made it clear that I just wanted to make this record myself. I didn't want it to be overproduced and too expensive.

"I wanted it be an honest record and they kind of left me to it."

The Northampton singer is due to release debut single Crying Blood on 3 November and her album will follow in 2009.

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