Now and again someone with a very special voice comes along ...

AJ Brown in session
AJ Brown in session

The comparisons with Michael Bublé are inevitable and flattering, but AJ Brown is ready to make his own mark in music.

Bublé - industry shorthand for young, male jazz singers, especially with dark hair - is an idol of the Halifax-born musician.

AJ Brown

AJ Brown

But the 23-year-old wants to steer away from his hero’s considerable shadow and carve his own niche.

“I’ve been trying to avoid the Bublé comparisons,” says Brown, “because I don’t want to end up with people saying ‘oh, he’s like Michael Bublé’ and it becomes like a tribute.

“I’d say I’m similar to him but I’ve very much developed my own sound.

“Because I play the saxophone, that makes me a bit different and gives me more credibility.

“And I’ve taken a bit of a new direction with my own material.

“I’d love to do a duet with Bublé though. If I met him I’d thank him and congratulate him.

“I went to see him when I was 15 at the Apollo in Manchester and I thought ‘wow, I’d love to play in that band, although I never thought I’d be singing.”

With his upbringing, it’s little surprise AJ, who is winning plaudits at home and abroad and has just released his second CD, has made a career out of music.

His parents’ influence has been crucial and still is, with his dad forming part of his backing band and his mum selling programmes and CDs at his gigs.

He says: “I was brought up in a very musical house. My dad’s a piano teacher and my mum’s a dance teacher.

“When I’d finish school I used to go and sit in my mum’s dance studio and watch the classes.

“I was surrounded by music since I was one and actually used to perform in my mum’s dance shows. I think my first performance was when I was two.

“I was probably holding my mum’s hand and doing a few moves but I really enjoyed it.

“That gave me the taste of performing and having musical parents set me up nicely. I got my ear from those early days.”

There was still no suggestion his future would include singing until Brown’s first voiced performance five years ago, in front of 200 people at Lowton Civic Hall in Warrington.

But AJ, formerly a saxophonist with the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra, says he’s never looked back since his impromptu vocal début.

“I describe myself as singer/songwriter/saxophonist but I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s an order,” he says.

“I was a saxophonist with the orchestra and we had this gig on a Sunday lunchtime but the singer didn’t show up.

“Ian Darrington, the musical director, said ‘does anyone fancy singing?’ I was just sat at the back playing sax but I stuck my hand up said I’d have a go.

“I sang two songs and it went down well. I also felt really great singing with the big band, it was a real buzz.

“The emotional high I got from that was something I wanted again and I gradually started singing more and more.”

Such was AJ’s impact on Ian that he became his manager and has helped forge his career to date.

Ian says: “The concert in Warrington was a real turning point. As soon as the audience heard AJ sing, they were saying ‘that lad’s good’.

“I know AJ can go all the way. That to me is absolutely certain. What isn’t certain is the route he will take.”

AJ is happy with the path he’s on though, and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

He’s about as far removed from the mainstream, mass-market artists of TV talent shows as you could imagine, and is happy to be that way.

“A lot of people ask why I don’t go on a talent show but I find artists that have made it without doing that have so much more credibility,” he says.

“It’s a fast-track, you can make it in the big-time so quickly, but it’s like a conveyor belt.

“I’d probably go on as a judge but not a contestant!

“I feel like I deserve to be there - I’ve really grafted for it.

“Not to say that people on the X-Factor don’t deserve it, but I feel like I’m earning my keep. Doing it the traditional way.”

That means work, and lots of it, with gigs in South Africa, America and across the UK since launching his début album On Song in 2011.

His follow-up, Now and Again, released last month, features a mix of original songs and covers that AJ hopes is his next step on the road to stardom.

It’s a road he’s already mapping out in his head. Major venues. Large concerts. All that jazz.

He says: “There’s always this little being inside of me saying ‘OK, what’s next?’

“We got the first CD out, now we’ve got the new one out, which I’m so proud of, we’re on tour.

“We’re taking it step by step and we’re having a good time.

“I’ve got a real passion for songwriting now. I try and write a song a day.

“I’ve been writing non-stop for the last two years and I guess I won’t stop until the day I die.

“I’d like someone to look at me someday the way I look at Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett.

“I want to perform for as long as life allows me to.

“We’ve put all the ground work in and we’ve got the momentum now to really take off.

“I want to be a household name, on the telly, doing big concerts. The sky’s the limit.

“I want a long career and to be singing for the next 50, 60 years.

“It’d be nice to do Central Park or Madison Square Garden in New York, the Hollywood Bowl or the O2 in London - I don’t think that’s unrealistic.

“I’ve got this inner belief and I reckon one day I can do it.”

lYou can see AJ on his Now and Then Tour when it stops in at the Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough on Sunday. Concert starts 7.30pm, tickets are £16 and £14 concessions. Call box office on 01422 255266.