Raised by his grandmother in a poor Jamaican environment, Andrew Chin didn’t appear to have much opportunity for a life of fame. But a vision presented to him when he was a child and foretold him of a future far beyond his dreams, one where he’d be lauded as Brushy One String.
His music is a melodic deliciousness which is a mixture of rap, blues, Jamaican reggae and an undefinable mélange of musical styles, sometimes served up with an occasional side of scat. Whether it’s his rich, melt-in-the-mouth tones in songs like “War and Crime,” his mesmerising, heartfelt prayer in “No Man Stop Me,” or the catchy groove of his most popular work, “Chicken in the Corn,” he accomplishes on a single string what countless others can’t achieve even with full orchestras: he engages his audience.
Brushy skilfully accompanies his honest commentary with an individual guitar string, which he plucks like the string of a bass fiddle, while thunking, tapping and brushing upon the body of the instrument to augment his sound with tasty percussion.
With a delivery that is sometimes animated, sometimes gentle and always compelling, Brushy speaks to hope and truth and courage in all of his songs.
Brushy earned his iconic moniker at the age of nine. “All my friends were singing at a birthday party. They just sang and no one wanna give me the mic, and so I grabbed the mic away and I sang a song.” The crowd went wild.
“Then something hit me in my heart and said, ‘Oh yeah; you’re so much better than them; that’s why they don’t want to give you the mic.’ So I give them back the mic and I leave the place and I went home. I was hoping and praying and saying to myself ‘I wanna sing better than my dad.’ My dad is the late Freddy Mac.”
Brushy sings a bit of homage to his father, the late singer Freddy McKay, and then mentions his late mother, singer Beverly Foster:
“…they called her ‘Little Bev.’ She used to do back up singing for Tina Turner.”
Then one fateful night, Brushy experienced a vision. “I was looking up at the sky, and every star I look on, the star was falling from the sky. And I hopped into my bed and I fall asleep, and I get a vision.”
“This little short man, he take a big yellow guitar and he said to me, ‘Play this guitar.’ And I take the guitar from him, and it was only one string on the guitar. So I started playing the guitar, and I get music from it, sounding good. So I sit back and I was singing; paying attention to the guitar and singing. Over my head, I see big animals, alligators, elephants, and they’re all in suits and hats and boots, saying that I can sing. And when I hold up my head, all types of people was there.”
“The same man that gave me the guitar gave me a donkey. And he gave me a big, long, black coat that came down to my feet, and a big straw hat, and he said to me that I should take care of the guitar and the guitar will take care of me. And then he became three stars and went away, and I awake from my dream.”
“I went into my uncle Ezekiel’s room and said, ‘Oh! I got a vision last night that I was playing a one string guitar, and I was a star!’ And he was saying ‘You’re an idiot. There is no such thing as one string guitar.’”
Ezekiel’s girlfriend, Margaret, asked Brushy where the guitar was. He remembered a guitar he had received from his mother long before, but, missing most of its strings, it had been tucked away. “I said, ‘It’s under the bed with one string on it,’” Brushy recalls. “She was laughing and said, ‘Oh, dream come true! Go take your one string guitar and go play!’ And I take my guitar up, and wipe it up, and I was on it the whole day! In the evening I found a phrase, so I run into the house and I was, ‘Margaret! Music is on it; I find the scale of music on it!’ She was laughing, ‘Yeah, man; that’s the scale of music. So, can you play a song?’ And I was like, ‘No; that’s the only thing I can play!”
Finding the scale had taken Brushy the entire day.
A Career is Born
Inspired by the radio, Brushy mimicked songs he heard, and successfully picked out a tune.
“The next day, I take my grandma’s big straw hat, her glasses, one of her long frocks, her spike-heeled shoes and my
guitar and I run away. I go to the town Linksted and I start to play.”
He was called crazy for wearing a strange costume and playing a one-stringed guitar, but the plan worked. Brushy’s talent started earning him admiration and money. The eclectic outfit was a nine-year-old’s attempt to recreate a vision. He went on to play in various towns, not returning home until he was 21 years old, when he recorded his break-out song, “Chicken and the Corn”.
The Genuine Article
Since then, Brushy has performed internationally, in England, America and Japan. The loving mentorship and encouragement of his late grandmother accompanies his heart wherever he goes.
Brushy One String is a truly authentic musician; a rare find in an era of over-produced presentations. Whether
he’s strumming on a porch, playing at the New Orleans Jazz Fest or in the studio cutting his debut album, “Destiny”, he clearly enjoys sharing his music with people. “All the time I try to do my best,” Brushy says, cradling the banana-yellow Fender acoustic guitar that looks just like the one in his vision. “So I think I’m right on top of it; if I fall, it’s alright because I would get up and run again; but now, I’m going on.”
And what would the King of One String do if someone put a six-string guitar in his hand? Brushy laughs with his response: “I would run, man! I would run away!”