Anastasia Brown has a history of making excellent career decisions, and perhaps one of her best was picking the proper side of the spotlight. Years before she could lay claim to being the sole female music supervisor in notoriously boys-clubby Nashville, Brown took the stage wailing Pat Benatar covers with bar bands like the stupendously named What the Funk?
“Being an entertainer is not what God had planned for me,” she states, though the DIY experience of handling virtually every duty for her group proved valuable. “I’m glad I did it, I was able to know how important the manager and agent’s jobs are, and it helped me empathize with the artist.”
Armed with empathy, ambition and little else — “I was feeling my way through the beginning of my career almost blindfolded” — post-college Brown talked her way into a position with entertainment mogul Miles Copeland.
The pair founded management company Firstars Nashville, where she worked with artists like Waylon Jennings, Sting and Junior Brown, and discovered future multiplatinum-selling Grammy winner Keith Urban at the legendary Bluebird club.
Despite her accomplishments, Brown still had to contend with working in a field dominated by men.
“I didn’t pay the typical Nashville dues, and suddenly there I was, partners with Miles,” she says. “As a woman, I definitely got a pat on the ass every so often, and (there were) definitely assumptions made about me. It forced me to really become myself.”
Her 1999 marriage to Tony Brown, then president of MCA Records Nashville, moved Brown out of the management world — “It’s a 24/7 job, and you have to think long and hard about what that does to a marriage” — and toward her role as Hollywood’s go-to Music City music supervisor.
West Coast associates, producer Leslie Bohem in particular, “had told me they needed a resource for Nashville music, and I was determined that I was going to be that resource.” Bohem hired her to shoulder music duties on the Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries “Taken.”
The Emmy-winning show opened doors, yet Brown was again learning on the job, citing guidance from fellow supervisors Howard Paar, Julia Michaels and Mark Roswell. Beyond gathering existing tracks for productions, Brown emphasizes original content on projects like the Oscar-nommed “August Rush.”
“Television and film have definitely become an option to break new music,” offers the former “Nashville Star” judge. “I like a song that only a George Strait or a Gwen Stefani can cut that’s specifically for the project, and we cast the right writer, voice, producer and musicians. That’s what gets me up in the morning.”
Four years ago, Brown expanded her influence, partnering with local film producer Eric Geadelmann to form 821 Entertainment Group.
“We’re committed to creating a production company, a music company and hopefully a mini-major studio based in Nashville, in the heartland.” The concern currently has some 30 television and film projects in development, all seared with the grassroots heartland brand. Projects include the just-released Billy Graham biopic “Billy: The Early Years” and a take on the life of Hank Williams.
All-American though it may be, the heartland imprint “is not square,” cautions Brown. “It’s inspirational. We can make authentic films and TV programs that the flyover states relate to and enjoy.”
Currently, 821, in partnership with California-based Tower Investments, is proposing a multi-use facility with the working title Browns Creek Media Village at the 117-acre Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville that would include retail space, a hotel, a 7,000 seat music venue and film school in addition to the production lot.
“We want to create a mini-Universal Studios here,” Brown reveals. “Creating a heartland regional division can not only cut costs, but benefit the creative infrastructure that exists in Nashville. And the more authentic everything is, the better the world will be.”
An update was made to this article on Nov. 13, 2008.