A 90-second blind audition in February was all it took to throw big-voiced Brandy Butler into the spotlight. While she narrowly lost out in the final round of talent contest Voice of Switzerland, she has been riding the wave of media attention ever since.
Just a few seconds into Brandy's audition, judge Stress leapt from his seat to push the button that would claim her for his team. As the jury member with the most affinity for big voices, rapper-turned-producer Stress could immediately hear the power in Brandy's performance.
Sadly, after several more weeks of televised singing matches, Brandy did not win the big prize. In an interview with Swiss national television, Stress said Brandy's adversary Nicole Bernegger had brought that extra 1%--the narrowest of margins.
After giving her adversary a hug, Brandy welled up with tears. A reporter later said that Brandy was quite emotional, saying that she had given it her all. The pressure of the large audience must have been overwhelming.
But as you might expect from someone who wrote a song called "Keep On Moving", Brandy didn't let her story end there. Six months later, she caught my eye in a YouTube video passed on by several friends. The viral hit "The Choo-Choo Song", one of her own compositions, stormed to number 2 on the iTunes soul chart and it's not hard to see why: the SBB-staged video combines drama, humour and an irresistible, toe-tapping Motown sound.
I catch up with Brandy on a rainy day this summer, soon after her return to Zurich from a national tour with her side project The Fonxionaires, a funky soul group. That powerful voice sounds quiet and raspy today; apologetically she explains that she is feeling under the weather.
I thank her for accommodating my last-minute request for an interview despite her cold. Soon I realize how her talent is beyond her gifted voice and musical skills--it's her authenticity and big heart that make her a star.
How did you get started in professional singing?
I started out as a back-up singer. In 2003, on a whim, I found an opportunity as an au pair in Switzerland. That's what brought me here. After a few months, I started to check out the music scene in Zurich. At first, I even sang back-up in Swiss-German for gigs with local bands. I enjoy writing my own songs and started to step out into the forefront as lead singer with my musical arrangements. It was the first jump into my solo career.
Brandy is a...