Now Playing

Photography by Paul Riley

Blue Streak

by Laura Newsome | Jezebel magazine | November 29, 2012

A church in St. Louis, a white-lacquered Prince guitar and a sick solo—a combination of those three things meant a world flipped for young Brandon “Blue” Hamilton. Exchanging the choir for hours of bass and guitar practice (playing Earth, Wind & Fire and Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes), the budding strummer was soon recording and performing with blues, jazz and gospel artists in his hometown—and rejected a Berklee music scholarship to hit the road with touring musicians, like gospel group God’s Chosen.

After touring the world and trying his luck in Los Angeles, Boston and New York, Blue packed up his $800 Honda and, on a whim, headed south to Atlanta. Fitting right into the struggling musician mold, he crashed on studio couches across the city, until he eventually landed gigs playing, producing and recording with superstars like Ciara, Lecrae, Lloyd, Ne-Yo, Robin Thicke and Usher.

As it turns out, everyone was feeling Blue. Now, after teaming up with renowned vocal coach Jan Smith (Keri Hilson, Colbie Caillat, Drake)—joining her studio as a sound engineer and music instructor, and signing to her production company, Plumbline Music Group—he produces work for established artists and cultivates a crop of up-and-coming Atlanta talent. But his “average” week isn’t exactly the typical 9 to 5, unless you count performing, teaching, producing and grooming budding artists for the big time as “work.” “I love everything about music, and all of it fills me,” Blue says.

The love is mutual. After signing with Plumbline, Blue produced a song for Justin Bieber called “Born to Be Somebody”—a lil’ ditty that went on to sell three million copies and garner Blue his first GRAMMY nom. Despite his starving-to-star-studded résumé, Blue seems largely unfazed by the success that comes with having a hit single and a soaring career. “It’s great to have that worldly view of success as part of my story, but I never really cared about making money with music,” he says. “I [made] music being broke, and now that I’ve sold millions of records, I still just do it because I love it.”