Chris Brown (R&B)

R&B singer/songwriter Chris Brown has accomplished a lot in less than two years: a platinum- selling, self-titled debut album for Jive Records, tour dates with Omarion, Bow Wow and Ciara, and critics’ comparisons to Usher and a young Michael Jackson.

Not bad for an artist who’s 16 years old and hadn’t performed live prior to auditioning for industry execs including Antonio “LA” Reid.

“I always fell into what was happening. I would do it if they asked me but I never tried to actually be out there,” Brown told Pollstar during a stop in Paris. “I was definitely into recording and trying to make it but, at the same time I was more in the studio with it and didn’t really go out and try to do shows.”

The up-and-coming singer from the small town of Tappahannock, Va., started recording around age 13 and initially thought about getting into rap as a way to make his mark. His switch to R&B turned out to be the ticket.

Brown’s manager, Tina Davis, was senior VP for A&R at Def Jam Records when she first heard of the young phenom. After listening to a demo Brown was on with six other artists, Davis was intrigued.

“I picked Chris out of the seven acts because of his voice. When he came to my office, he was a little nervous. He performed for me, then I had him perform for a couple of people in the office. Each time, he got better,” Davis told Pollstar. “I gave him very little direction before we went to LA Reid.

“He just took this tiny bit of information … and turned it into a great performance. He blew everybody away in the room!”

Brown said he didn’t know what to expect in his first meeting with Davis.

“At first I thought the record label would be real big snobby people, like ‘OK, sing, hurry up,’ but she was real nice and down to earth,” he said. “She told me her track record and who she’s helped in the past. I didn’t really know what anything was in the industry.

“I started to believe what she was saying, so by the time she took me to LA Reid I felt confident enough to perform my best. It was exciting.”

Brown and his mother, Joyce Hawkins, then moved to New Jersey to work with Davis on artist development. While in the process of signing him, Def Jam merged with Rock-A-Fella Records. That restructuring didn’t include Davis despite her 10 years with the company.

“It was truly fate that Chris came in and I was left off [from Def Jam]. When he asked me to be his manager was when I decided to be a manager,” Davis explained. “We would sit down and talk about his ideas and his thoughts, and that’s when I realized he’s 100 percent an artist.”

And Davis saw Brown’s star quality first hand during his stint on the HollaDay Jam Tour last December.

“When his backdrop went off, the girls just started screaming and continued to scream from the time he got on the stage until the time he left,” Davis said. “We’d be driving down the freeway on our way to the next venue and people would be blowing their horns trying to pull us over to sign autographs.

Chris Brown (R&B)

“After every show we’d have to get a police escort because the girls wouldn’t let the bus go.”

Brown wasn’t expecting that level of fan response either, but he’s definitely having fun with it.

“Oh, it’s crazy all the time. It’s even better in the countries that speak other languages,” he said. “If they know the words to your song and they speak another language, that’s telling me a lot – that I’m doing a good job.”

Despite Brown’s career being on fire, life on the road isn’t too far from daily life. The teen idol’s entourage includes his mom and a tutor, along with his backup dancers and other support.

“It’s a great experience. We’re learning non-stop what it takes to be on the road and live out of a bag for days,” Davis said. “His education is just as important to us so he goes to school every morning, even Saturdays and Sundays.

“You know, you look at all these stories about teenage kids growing up too fast in the industry. I think because of past experiences, they’re really equipped now for young artists to get through it and still get their education.”

While Brown’s future plans

including a possible House of Blues tour

are under discussion, Davis said first they’d be heading to the Grammy Awards February 8th and then on to the U.K.

“We’ve actually been approached, pretty much, by all the tours going out that work with his foundation listeners and consumers,” she said. “We’re just kind of going through our options.”

Brown’s take on all the excitement, in addition to keeping up with his studies, is pretty level-headed.

“It keeps me grounded, definitely,” he said. “I’m real excited for the most part but really anxious and just trying to see what’s happening next after everything I do.”