Artist Talk

Artist Talk with Brooke Stephenson

For lovers of southern blues, Brooke Stephenson´s newly released single “Cry to me” will hit home! The LA based singer-songwriter delivers some Faith Hill like vocals in this beautiful love ballad, that skillfully combines country, soul and gospel vibes all into one strong ballad.

Brooke is a rising star who is about to release her EP “Backbone” later this year.

We got to chat with Brooke about her musical journey thus far, which included a participation on NBC`s The Voice in 2019,  where she landed a spot on Kelly Clarkson´s  team. We also discussed songwriting secrets and the many influences that have shaped Brooke´s unique sound.

Everybody sit back, grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this inspiring talk

Brooke, thank you so much for your time. Big congrats on your single release “Cry to me”! Tell us a bit about how this song came to be and what has inspired it?

“Cry To Me” is a laid back alt-country tune mixed with blues and soul. The song is about unconditional love. It’s about having someone whose shoulder you can cry on when you need it, who will be there through thick and thin. This song is for those who have been lucky enough to experience an unconditional type of love, and also for those who aspire to find it someday.

I took it from your bio, that you are heavily influenced by country and blues music gems like Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi and your vocals definitely stand out in your songs. I´m fond of your vibrato treats. How and when did you know you wanted to learn to sing and has singing come easy to you from the beginning?

Thanks so much for the kind words! I’ve been singing and taking lessons since I was around 12, and singing is the one thing that stuck with me the most. Singing has always come easy to me but I think it’s because when I was in middle and high school, I had a karaoke machine in my bedroom and I spent hours singing to my Jewel, Christina Aguilera and Now 4 CDs haha! When you sing that much it strengthens the vocal chords.

That sounds like fun! Tell us a bit about your time on The Voice in 2019. How has this experience shaped you and helped you grow as an artist and a songwriter? Would you participate again?

I truly loved my experience on The Voice and was sad when it was over just because it was so much fun! I would definitely participate again. I loved working with Kelly Clarkson. Not because she is a celebrity, because I got to see with my own eyes why she is where she is in her career. She’s an incredible singer, but she’s also musically smart. I learned a lot – one of my favorite lessons was when we went into rehearsal for the battles, I was convinced that our song “Set Fire To The Rain” was ready for the stage. When we went into rehearsal I figured Kelly would make just a few minor adjustments. Instead, she completely transformed the song – the way we sang and the way the band played. It made the song 10x better! It showed me that when you think your work is done, you can always improve.

That is probably true! I´ve seen one of your recent Instagram posts, where you talked a bit about Louise Hay´s book “You can heal your life”. I am a big fan of hers myself. How important would you say is the right mindset when building a career in music and what are some areas of resistance for yourself?

When you’re your own boss in any situation, having a healthy and strong mindset is key. It’s great that when you work for yourself, because you’re that much more passionate and motivated. But there are definitely downsides. For me, they include comparing myself too much to others and feeling guilty when I’m not constantly working, but I always try to remember that balance is important, and everyone’s journey is different.

Let’s talk songwriting. In a nutshell, what are three things that instantly catch your interest when listening to a song?

Great question! Personally, the first will always be the singer. One of my favorite things in the world is an excellent singer. The second is if the song gets stuck in my head. That’s why “Baby Shark” went so viral – you can listen to it once and remember it! The third is if I can connect with the song in some way – whether it’s the lyrics that catch my attention or the vibe or the arrangement. It leaves me wanting to hear it again.

On average how long do you work on songs and how do you know a song is done and needs no further tweaking?

For me personally, the way I know a song is done and needs no further tweaking is when it’s fully recorded and mastered. Otherwise, I have the urge to continuously be tweaking, but I think I do that in life in other ways as well. It’s just part of my personality! Whether it’s changing one lyric line, a melody line, etc., I feel like as days go by and either I listen to more music or I am able to step away from the song for a bit, I always come back to it with new ideas.

Hehe, yeah I guess in a way all art is a work in progress. Do you write songs mainly from your guts, or based on music theory. E.g. playing around with a blues scale for a while to guide a song in a certain direction?

Definitely mainly from my gut. I’m constantly thinking of new song seeds, they’ve always come pretty naturally. It could be a chord progression, a story line, or a melody I start singing in the shower. Sometimes I’ll be in the shower and I’ll realize I’ve been humming a melody line for several minutes while in deep thought. I try to remember the melody in time to get to my phone and record it so I don’t forget it.

Your EP “Backbone” is about to drop soon. You have already released 6 tracks of it. How many more are to come and what may we expect?  Maybe try saying it in three words;)

Yes! It’s a 7 song EP that releases May 14th, and I’m excited to say it will release with 1 last song “When I Get Around to Living”.

For beginning indie songwriters, what would you recommend to focus on? There is so much to take care of besides the craft itself, like social media, live gigs, learning to produce and learning the ropes of all the admin things. What would you consider a good “first step” to focus on?

A good “first step” is figuring out what you would need to do, whether it’s creating a team or being your own team, and making a plan. If you are your own team, you need to think like a manager, a business manager, a brand, etc. rather than just an artist who creates music. You need to put yourself in the mindset of being each team member.

Great advice! Last not least and in few words: what do you love the most about making music? 

The best part of making music is getting to see your idea come to life, especially when it’s a song you care a lot about, and then getting to share it with the world. This is my first original body of work and a dream a long time in the making, so getting to listen to it and release it is such a joy!

Thank you so much Brooke for this chat and best of success to you!

We look forward to Backbone even more now!

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