‘THE VOICE’ MAKES VEGAS CHOICE: Local singer Kiara Brown lands spot on NBC talent showcase
An ethereal performance of “Free Fallin’” secured Las Vegas native Kiara Brown a spot on a team on NBC’s The Voice. Now it’s on to the Battle Rounds (beginning Oct. 14), and the 22-year-old singer-songwriter can’t wait to show off the power of her voice and the depth of her heart.
She was one minute, 26 seconds into Tom Petty’s classic during her Blind Audition, a virtual eternity for a singer eagerly waiting for a coach, when Blake Shelton pressed the button to turn around, followed by Gwen Stefani. Brown soon finished, joy and a sense of relief palpable through the TV screen. Backstage, her parents Valauna and John Brown, brother Jaylen Brown, aunt Jeani and uncle Brandon Spencer beamed as she chose to be on Stefani’s team.
“Free Fallin’” is a song Brown has performed often on Las Vegas stages throughout her youth. She was comfortable with the choice, but she knew it had drawbacks.
“I was taking a chance doing something a little softer because I know that on The Voice they are notorious for the big moments,” Brown says. “I wasn’t going to have this giant explosive moment, but I did have hope that they would hear the potential. … I knew it would probably take a while because they were probably waiting for that.”
Brown notes that working with Stefani in the next round has been enlightening. “I’ve learned a lot, and she really pushes you. She knows what to say to get you in that right place and that right state of mind to be prepared.”
She’s prepared most of her life for this moment. Her father often says she was singing out of the womb, and her family nurtured her talent from the start and introduced her to a variety of genres, including musical theater.
When she was 10, Brown was enrolled in Colabo Youth Theatre. Before she was 14, she appeared in the company’s productions of Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Once on This Island and The Wiz.
She performed in The Wiz again at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts with the local Broadway in the Hood theater troupe. Gigs at Culture Fest downtown, First Friday, the Henderson Pavilion and the Black History Festival at Springs Preserve and other events and venues followed. But it was one performance at (the now-closed) Salt ’n Pepper in Tivoli Village that is perhaps most memorable.
“No one was there except for one man and his wife,” Brown says. “I performed there for three hours, and he came up to me and asked for my information. He was really surprised I stayed for the whole duration even though he was the only one in the restaurant.”
The man was Joe Asher, CEO of bookmaker William Hill US, whose backing led to many other corporate and nonprofit performances, including an event at Cox Pavilion for “It’s On Us,” a campaign supported by Lady Gaga and former Vice President Joe Biden to raise awareness and fight against sexual assault on college campuses.
“That’s been one of the most amazing parts of my journey,” Brown says. “(Asher) talks about my hard work and dedication. He’ll tell his employees about what he saw in me and why he hires me for everything because he felt that I gave it my all no matter what. No one was there, but I still was performing like there was a roomful of people.”
The longer she lasts on The Voice, the more NBC audiences will see her versatility and she may never work an empty room again. “I’ve dabbled in everything. I’ll sing rock, I’ll sing jazz, I’ll sing pop, I’ll sing R&B—whatever feels right, and that’s what my original music reflects as well. It’s a blend of all of my influences.”
One of Brown’s original songs was written after 1 October. She attended the dedication of the Las Vegas Healing Garden downtown, and Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman evoked an image that resonated. “One of the things she said that really hit me was that there are 58 new stars in the sky — those 58 people who passed.”
A melody came to Brown in a dream that night, and the next day she wrote “58 Stars,” a song she has performed live on KVVU-TV FOX 5, as well as at CompassionCare Hospice and Canyon Ridge Christian Church, among other invitations.
“I just felt compelled to put it into the world to hopefully just bring a little bit of peace and comfort to the families,” Brown says. “I know it’s a song, but I feel like music is my offering for any sort of healing.”
A graduate of the Las Vegas Academy for the Performing Arts, Brown earned a degree in audio engineering and music business from the College of Southern Nevada. As a high school student, she joined “Bringing Down the House,” a Music Forward Foundation program for up-and-coming artists ages 14-20 who want to learn more about the music industry. Brown is now a mentor for the program, and she continues to perform often at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay and other venues.
Regardless of how far she goes on The Voice, Brown hopes to continue writing songs, performing and helping young artists. “The Voice is great for exposure and getting a broader audience. That’s what I want from it — just to be able to reach more people with my sound and my music.”
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