On paper, 24-year-old VV Brown certainly has the makings of a star – beauty, a big voice and, crucially, the backing of a major record label. Add to that her penchant for retro-soul and success on a huge scale seems a foregone conclusion.
Yet Vanessa, as VV was once known, is no mere Winehouse-a-like. Where the past few years have heralded the rise of bee-hived girls singing Dusty torch songs, Brown takes the glamour and pizzazz of Sixties girl groups (check out the retro flat-top!) and imbues it with an indie-punk edge, a sound that she has artfully described as "musical mashed potatoes". And confounding the norm of soul singers backed by expensive writing and production teams, Brown can take credit for writing, producing and performing songs on her forthcoming debut album Travelling Like the Light.
One of six siblings born and raised in Northampton, Vanessa was weaned on a diet of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. She studied piano from the age of five, sang in the church choir and turned down a place at the London School of Economics in order to sign her first record deal. She upped sticks and moved to LA in the process but was ill at ease with the R&B diva role the record company had carved out for her.
Two years later, after stints singing backing vocals for Madonna and the Pussycat Dolls, she returned to London to start over. She rented a flat, bought a one-stringed guitar from a second-hand shop and wrote "Crying Blood", a cheerful confection that blends the bluesy croon of La Winehouse with the barmy spirit of Bobby Pickett's novelty hit "Monster Mash".
The song is just one in a collection of deliriously upbeat, doo-wop numbers to be found on Travelling Like the Light. It is, VV says, the album she wanted to make all along. This is her second stab at success, and this time around she's taking no prisoners.