Nashville music producer Tony Brown got his start in gospel music, was a pianist for Elvis, became president of MCA Records Nashville, and has produced over 100 number-one country songs. We spoke with Tony on STANDcast 59 about his life in music and his book Elvis, Strait, to Jesus.
In the interview that follows, Tony reveals another of his passions: style.
There’s a strong connection between the music business and the world of fashion. How did your interest in clothes and style get started?
Even at a young age I noticed that celebrities, whether entertainers or athletes, had a certain “look” on the street; an extension of their personal style. The more famous they were, the more they expressed their taste in clothes, cars, or anything pertaining to self-expression. It just seemed to come with the territory! I took notice!
How would you describe your style?
My style is best described as “cool-casual,” at least that’s how I describe it. I wear a lot of nice, black jeans—with almost everything—t-shirts, pull-over sweaters and buttoned-up shirts. I really like Paul Smith, YSL, Kooples … just cool stuff. If I need to wear a suit, I usually wear a slim-cut, Italian-style with one button, an open-collar instead of a tie. I like leaning more towards “cool,” as opposed to “buttoned-up.”
“Fashion is for people who don’t have style.”
You worked with Elvis. Did you incorporate anything from him in terms of developing your own look?
Elvis didn’t inspire my look except that I noticed he was always Elvis, 24/7.
I try to present myself with my look, no matter what I’m doing. I know that sounds a little narcissistic, but I feel it’s a requirement that goes with someone who actually cares about how they put themselves together, especially if they are somewhat of a public figure. That’s just my opinion.
Who else has been a part of influencing your style and how did they influence you?
I think I’ve always noticed people who put themselves together, and do it really well. When, actually, that’s style in itself! I saw a great quote from this old dude who was a very cool, cowboy kind of guy and he said, “Fashion is for people who don’t have style.” That pretty much says it all.
Who are some of the musicians and performers working today whose sense of style you admire?
Don Was, the producer for the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, and the label-head for Blue Note Records. Kacey Musgraves has been through a number of looks throughout her career, yet she has still maintained a distinctive style that is all her. Pharrell Williams, artist and producer: he always seems to be in front of the curve, when it comes to style and fashion—he’s always on the GQ best dressed list.
Eyewear. You wear a lot of sunglasses. What makes a great pair of sunglasses for Tony Brown?
Glasses are just part of my look, particularly Matsuda glasses. I don’t like to be photographed without a pair on. I have different styles and colors for different moods or attitudes. That’s just me.
Many men as they age pay less and less attention to their appearance and style, yet you’ve managed to continue to look effortlessly cool into your seventies. How do you do it and what suggestions can you offer for other men wanting to maintain a sense of style as they mature?
I think some men just naturally start feeling the need to dress more mature, or as it’s called, “age-appropriate”, as they get older. Sometimes their careers dictate that. But being in the entertainment industry, and especially on the creative side, it gives me license to dress the way I feel most comfortable performing my work. My style is an extension of my work as a record producer—blending in with musicians and artists—as opposed to looking like an executive, which is also a part of my job. To me, that is definitely one of the perks of my profession. But I can definitely dress up when required—trust me!
Taking care of yourself and your appearance doesn’t mean just clothing, but also looking healthy and fresh. Skin care is one of the main things I pay attention to, and maintaining a good haircut that fits your style. Staying on top of all your grooming habits just makes sense to me—a little vanity never hurt anybody.