Smile Politely

Celebrating C-U Life: Kayla Brown

Smile Politely: Where were you born?

Kayla Brown: Born and raised in Urbana!

SP: Tell me about your childhood.

Brown: I was lucky enough to grow up here in C-U! I am the second to youngest of four children with two older brothers and a younger sister. My mom and step-dad live here in town and my dad lives over in Springfield. They are all very much into music, so growing up, we got to go to a lot of concerts. My parents worked a lot so there wasn’t a whole lot of vacationing going on, but we still had a lot of fun.

I started in the orchestra with the viola very young and I picked up the guitar at about age 14. My brother David is a drummer, so he and I played a lot of music in our mom’s basement when we were kids. Those are always some of my favorite memories. I appreciate my mother’s patience, as she tolerated her children learning multiple instruments in her house at the same time (thanks, mom!).

SP: Did you have any nicknames growing up?

Brown: I did have a nickname growing up, but by default. My big brother (David Brown) had the nickname “Deebster” growing up, so I was affectionately referred to as “Baby Deebs” by his friends.

SP: Do you have any nicknames now?

Brown: I don’t really have any nicknames now. I get the occasional “Koko Bizzle,” but I can’t say I have a regular nickname anymore. At least that I know of 🙂

SP: When you were younger, what was your dream career?

Brown: My dream career has always been playing music. However, when I was a kid, I had this weird fascination with meteorology and I really wanted to be a storm chaser. I was that kid that ran outside when the tornado sirens went off. I think I got that from my mom, though. She loves storm watching.

SP: What sparked your interest in singing and healthcare?

Brown: I actually started singing in the church choir when I was itty bitty. My grandma encouraged me to sing and play the bells in the children’s choir at church and I LOVED it. As I got older, I got into the music my mom played in the house like Carol King, Joni Mitchell, The Carpenters, Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I’m sure it was entertaining for my parents to watch an eight-year-old sing “Respect” around the house, haha.  

In regards to healthcare, that one hit me in my mid-20s. My field of interest in nursing is Psychiatric-Mental Health and for a lot of reasons. In short, it’s that whole idea of “quality of life” that we learn so much about in nursing school. From my experience, I can’t help but notice the correlation between mental health and physical health and their combined effect on the quality of a person’s life. I’m a big fan of the Biopsychosocial model of patient care and I feel that the “psychosocial” part is too often underestimated. To me, effective health care is holistic, and the idea of helping people receive that level of care is what sparked my interest in nursing.

SP: How many years have you been singing?

Brown: Hmmm … I’d say about 20 years or so. I started in the church choir when I was in elementary school. I’m sure I sang before that some time, but don’t we all? The choir was just the beginning of my singing in organized events.
SP: When did you decide to become a nurse?

Brown: When I was 24 I moved away to Nashville, TN to do some soul searching and healing. Nursing is what I found there. The people who helped me through some of the hardest battles of my life were nurses or nurse practitioners. I hope that someday, as I continue on in practice, I can provide the same level of service to people in my community.           

SP: Are there individuals that inspire(d) you in both areas?

Brown: I am always inspired by the people around me. For nursing, my instructors have really been the biggest inspiration for me while in school. I had a wonderful instructor named Carol Baxtor for my mental health clinical. She was amazing. She was very well educated in that field and brought so much experience to the clinical. She shared so much with us and pushed us over that line of comfort in a clinical that was held on a locked psych unit so that we really had to explore what we knew and put it into practice. I would take that class again in a heartbeat if I could. I have so many more questions for her! 

Now with singing, I was lucky enough to be born and raised here in Champaign-Urbana and have the likes of Dawna Nelson and Kathy Harden to look up to. C-U has always been an amazing, supportive, and diverse community with a music scene to match and I feel fortunate to have been able to experience it over the course of my life. When I was a kid there was this amazing non-profit organization called GirlZone that was founded by one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known, Aimee Rickman. Her program offered girls in the community the opportunity to participate in activities that aren’t usually offered to girls. They provided workshops for things like skateboarding, turntablism, photography, auto and bicycle repair, web design, zine writing/publishing, and of course my favorite, rock and roll. The rock and roll workshop featured amazing local female artists like Angie Heaton (Corndolly/Angie Heaton & The Gentle Tamers), Elizabeth Elmore (Sarge/The Reputation), Elizabeth Majerus (Beezus), Rose Marshack (Poster Children/Salaryman), and more. We learned the guitar, bass, drums, and then we learned how to jam together. We went to shows, we networked, we learned from the best, we even got to record an album, and we had a great time. That was my introduction to the C-U music scene when I was about 14 years old and it has been a big part of my life ever since.
SP: What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

Brown: “Quit Smoking” – my Aunt Laurie.

SP: What do your parents/family think of your singing and choice in career?

Brown: My parents are supportive of everything I do. Like I said before, they are big music fans so I think having a daughter who plays music is fun for them. They are also proud of my choice of nursing as a second career for the obvious reasons I’m sure … nurses actually get stable pay and benefits 🙂

SP: What is your favorite part of being a performer?

Brown: Performing is a drug. Any performer will tell you the same thing. That release, that expression and catharsis … it’s addicting. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to a gig in a funk and then forgotten what it was even about by the time I was finished.

SP: What can we find you doing on a Sunday afternoon?

Brown: Nowadays, you can probably find me writing/playing some of my own music since it’s my only day off and I’m trying to start a new project. I’ve recently started forcing myself to be a better guitar player as it’s never been a strong point of mine. I do a lot of shows where all I do is sing, no instrument in my hands. I get so busy with those gigs that I focus so much more on singing than picking up an instrument. I’m really trying to change that, not only at those gigs, but also by starting a new project with original material.  

SP: What are your long term goals?

Brown: My long term goals include a family for sure. I recently married my longtime boyfriend and I really look forward to having a family with him. I plan to continue on in nursing as far as I can, hopefully as a nurse practitioner, and of course all while playing in some band.

SP: What do you think you’ll be doing when you’re 75 years old?

Brown: If I live that long, I hope to be a feisty grandmother living in New Orleans making candy. 
SP: Your partner in crime on stage is Mike Ingram, how did that friendship begin?

Brown: That friendship began once upon a time at a place called the Cowboy Monkey, circa 2003. We met at an open mic night that he hosted opposite Brandon T Washington. Brandon had gotten me into doing these open mics so I used to go when he hosted. One night, Mike and Brandon had swapped hosting duties, so Mike was there when I thought Brandon would be there. I always used Brandon’s guitar because I didn’t have one at the time. However, since he wasn’t there I thought I’d ask “the other dude” if I could borrow his. Let’s just say my request was denied. We weren’t much of friends that night, but after a few more open mics … we got to be good buddies. 

SP: Favorite C-U hangout?

Brown: Hands down. Sushi Kame.

SP: Disco, classic rock, or old time country?

Brown: Is there an option D? All of the above.

SP: Is there a song on your iPod that might surprise your friends?

Brown: Honestly, probably not. My tastes are kind of all over the place.

SP: Which musical artist would you love to open for?

Brown: I would love to open up for Imelda May. A friend turned me onto her a while back and I think I might be obsessed. She is amazing!

SP: Most people have a hidden talent, do you have any?

Brown: Oooh, I don’t know if I have any! I’m a pretty good pool player, I guess. At least I used to be. My dad was a competitive pool player when I was young so we used to go to tournaments with him a lot. They’d give us our own table to keep us busy so we got lots of practice.   

SP: If a local bar/club made a drink in your honor, what would it be and why?

Brown: Hmmm … It would probably be a non-alcoholic beverage of some sort because I don’t drink, but I would say a Sprite with a splash of orange flavored bitters and a run of the soda gun juices. It’s bubbly and it’s all over the place with lots of fun flavors mixed in.

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