The Iowa City, Iowa native moved in with her mother after her parents' divorce, which occurred when Brown was only two years old. Five years later, after her mother graduated medical school, she moved to Birmingham, Alabama. She returned to Iowa City at age 13 and earned a linguistics degree from the University of Iowa in 1996.
Brown didn't seriously undertake songwriting or music in general until she was in her mid-twenties, when she secluded herself in a small shed in her dad's backyard and wrote a batch of tunes that would end up on her first, homemade cassette. (Two tracks from that effort, "Lullaby" and "Fly Right," ended up on her self-titled debut LP in 2002.) It was co-produced with Bo Ramsey, a longtime family friend and her father Greg Brown's guitarist, who had also served as a producer and guitarist for Lucinda Williams on Essence. Helping out on the effort were the rhythm section of Rick Cicalo and Steve Hayes, Brown's sister Constie, her father Greg Brown, veteran folkie Dave Moore, and Don Heffington.
In 2005, she recorded In the Cool with Ramsey in the co-producer's seat (where he has been ever since). The album reached far and wide and was played on Americana radio. Brown signed briefly to One Little Indian, where she recorded and released the acclaimed Remember the Sun in 2007. She and Ramsey were no longer just musical partners, they were married.
Brown signed with the venerable modern folk music label Red House in 2009. One & All, her debut for the label, appeared in 2010, followed quickly by 2011's Mercury. Both were well-received not only by listeners but also by musicians: she opened gigs for everyone from Mark Knopfler and Mavis Staples to J.J. Cale, Ani DiFranco, and Calexico, and made vocal appearances on two of the latter's alums, Algiers and Carried to Dust. In 2012, Brown guested on Amos Lee's Mission Bell. She resumed recording in early 2014 with Ramsey and a slew of guests including her father, Lee, and David Mansfield. They cut Paradise Outlaw at Justin Vernon's April Base studio in Wisconsin (he also appears on the recording). It was issued in late September. ~ Erik Hage & Thom Jurek