Singer Brenna Whitaker brings sound of classic jazz and blues/R&B standards to collection of new material helmed by David Foster
As a young girl growing up in Kansas City, Mo., Brenna Whitaker fell in love with the music of jazz and blues greats from long ago. “Ruth Brown, Peggy Lee, Cab Calloway, Etta James—those are my people,” declares the L.A.-based vocalist in an artist bio posted on BrennaWhitaker.com. “I don't even know how I ended up knowing so many of their songs and standards from back then. It's almost like they found their way to me, like I'm from another time.” She may well be from some forgotten era, following in the footsteps of so many legendary performers who got their start in small theaters (she was 11) then set out for New York City as a teenager to study with Broadway veterans.
Whitaker spent her early 20s fronting jazz bands that played around her native Missouri. She eventually headed to L.A. and started setting up a series of residencies. Her act as a “powerful, highly resonant vocalist with a bent toward dynamic jazz and R&B-influenced pop” attracted notable fans such as Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Michael Bublé, and 16-time Grammy Award-winner David Foster. The latter signed Whitaker to his Verve Music Group and agreed to develop and produce her as his first new artist since discovering Bublé.
Whitaker’s self-titled debut album for Verve finds her “reviving a vast American jukebox of classic songs and revealing the full force of her stunning, soulful voice,” according to a label news release. She tells AfterBuzzTV the debut feels like it was a “20-year overnight success story.” She adds it’s an “adult approach” to what she loves, which is more of a “Luther Vandross kind of real … good old-fashioned singer [album].” German audiences are especially enamored with Whitaker’s LP, making her first time effort a No. 15 entry on the German top albums chart.
In the U.S., the track ‘Love Back’ is currently a Top 50 single on the Mediabase Adult Contemporary airplay chart. Other titles from the 12-song set include ‘Black And Gold,’ ‘Misty Blue,’ ‘It's A Good Day,’ ‘You Don't Own Me,’ ‘My Heart Cries For You,’ ‘When I'm Gone,’ ‘I Can't Hear A Word You Say,’ ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart,’ ‘Sayonara,’ and ‘A House Is Not A Home.’ The artist’s cover of ‘It's Not Easy Bein' Green’ is taken from the songs contributed to a 15-track compilation album from Disney titled, We Love Disney.
Whitaker performs ‘The Muppet Show’ classic as part of the star-studded covers that also include ‘Friend Like Me’ from “Aladdin” by Ne-Yo; Gwen Stefani does ‘The Rainbow Connection’ from “The Muppet Movie;” Ariana Grande performs ‘Zero to Hero’ from “Hercules; country artists Rascal Flatts join Lucy Hale in a rendition of ‘Let It Go’ from “Frozen;” Fall Out Boy sings ‘I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)’ from “The Jungle Book:” and Tori Kelly offers up ‘Colors Of The Wind’ from “Pocahontas.”
Brenna Whitaker has appeared on stage with Tom Jones and John Mayer. She says she would love to do a collaboration with each along with The Dap-Kings and Bruno Mars. She adds that as a fan of cinema, she would like to do more theater with songs that meet her need to “build with a beginning-middle-end emotionally.” The singer also hopes to explore more blues and rock ‘n’ roll in her future musical endeavors.
Watch Verve recording artist Brenna Whitaker in the official music video of the Steve Osborne remix of her single, ‘Love Back.’
As A Matter of Fact…
* Brenna Whitaker was raised in Kansas City, Mo., where she grew up listening to classic standards performers including Ruth Brown, Peggy Lee, Etta James, and others. She attributes Disney movies to inspiring her early love of music and singing, and began her professional career in the theater career at age eleven.
* By the time she was teenager, Whitaker had relocated to New York City to further her vocal studies with Broadway professionals. She also had a jazz band during her early 20s that played around Missouri.
* Whitaker moved to Los Angeles, where she met producer David Foster. Under Foster's guidance, Whitaker began developing her own distinctive crossover sound. In 2015, she released her self-titled debut album on Verve.
* In 2015, Whitaker was among the artists who contributed vocals to a 15-track compilation album from Disney titled, We Love Disney. She performs the classic ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ from “The Muppet Show.” Other featured artists include Gwen Stefani (‘The Rainbow Connection’ from “The Muppet Movie”), Ariana Grande (‘Zero to Hero’ from “Hercules”), and Jason Derulo (‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ from “The Lion King”).
* Whitaker tells AfterBuzzTV she loves to cook (her specialties are breakfast foods, nacho creations, and barbecue) and is a dog lover. She owns two black labs named “Louie Armstrong” and “Pearl Bailey.”