Interview with: Brooke Waggoner

I must admit that my interview with Brooke Waggoner started out slightly rocky due to a bit of mis- communication. I was under the impression that she would be calling me at two o’clock Central time, while she was informed the interview would be on Eastern time. So, while I was writing her questions in an Omaha coffeeshop called Caffeine Dreams, she was repeatedly getting my voicemail. However, when I returned her call at 1:30 (central time), Brooke showed just how polite and thoughtful she was but just accepting the situation and pleasantly doing the interview as planned. It went as follows:

Brooke Waggoner: Hello?
Joshua, PopWreck(oning): Hey Brooke, It’s Josh. My apologizes. I actually didn’t get told Eastern time.
BW: Oh! It’s totally okay. I wondered if we had gotten a mix-up or something.
PW:
Yeah, It’s cool. I was actually working on your questions about the time you called.
BW: (Laughs) That’s awesome. Well, do you want some more time?
PW: No, I think I’m good. Let’s get this going, though. You’ve been playing piano since you were four and took classical lessons for something like, seventeen years. How do you feel that this training has set your music apart from that of other singers and songwriters?
BW:
Maybe how I approach it… I don’t know. I try not to get too bogged down in the structure. I know that can be a worry with a lot of training, especially on the classical part.
You start with a lot of training, especially on the classical part. You start to pick it apart so much. I really try to stay clear of that. I don’t know…I think…I started writing music when I was eight or nine years old and experimenting on my own. That always went hand-in-hand. I don’t know. In fact, I’m meeting a lot of singers, songwriters and artists that have grown up with some form of formal training, so I doesn’t seems as uncommon.

PW:
I can see that. The first time I heard your Fresh Pair of Eyes EP I picked up on the classical training. I don’t really know how to describe it, but compared to a lot of piano based bands, your work sounds a little more… fresh. I don’t really have words for it. More, um… properly written than someone who simply sat down at a piano and plunked out six notes with one hand, and barely put any time or thought into the part. I certainly enjoy yours more.
BW: Oh well, that’s awesome. I agree. It’s really easy for piano players to overplay when they’re in a band. It will border on cheesy really quick. Or it will be so sparse, it’s just, you know, a little more textual.
PW:
Fair enough. You’ve recorded in bathrooms, basements and bedrooms, as well as full tilt recording studios. So which do you fancy; the lo-fi, do-it-yourself home recordings or sounding in a studio?
BW: It’s funny, I go back and forth, when i did the EP, that was when I first experienced a real studio and I really loved it. It was amazing, you get to play on a beautiful Grand and do it right. But at the same time it was also a bit nerve racking, kind of feeling the time crunch and all the pressure to get in and get out.
It was also kinda of striving on that, you know, do it now or never kinda thing. Ever though everyone owns a ton of home studio equipment and stuff its like there is still something magical about being in an old studio and kinda approaching it that way.. I guess it depends on what part of the records we’re making. I like to do vocals in a friends bathroom as opposed to a fancy studio it’s just way less sterile a little bit more… I don’t know, able to be related to?

PW:
Where did you record your albums Fresh Pair of Eyes and Heals for the Honey.
BW:
On Fresh Pair of Eyes I did piano and drums in a place in Nashville called Emerald Studios. We did all the strings at the violin players home studio, which is an actual true studio with like crazy acoustics that’s couple stories high and pretty amazing. It’s set up to do a lot of string stuff. So we did the strings there at his place and everything else was done at Ched’s house, which was the guy that produced it. So yeah we did that and pretty much followed the same pattern on Heal for the Honey but we used a different studio that was also on Nashville.
PW:
As I was reading, I noticed that a lot of people had made the assumption and accusation that your music has a slight lack of direction, which I completely disagree with. Just for the fun of it, go ahead and take a second and explain the directional and angle of the music you are creating.
BW:
I think it’s funny that that’s what’s said about direction. The point of a lot of the songs is to really stretch it, not to feel so tightly wound or compact. Or like a 3 1/2 minute thing. It’s really like embellishing on a few ideas. Maybe some of that comes from training and going into the composition world and kinda experimenting with that.
I don’t know, I feel like maybe specific on the new album Heals for the Honey there’s more of a … it does feel a little bit stronger to me as opposed to the EP where as i still feel like the EP was very much needed for me. I didn’t have an overall direction with the project, I wasn’t like “here’s what I want to say with the whole album. It was just songs i really felt good about and enjoyed playing and musically felt like I needed to get out as opposed to maybe lyrically.

PW:
On your new EP Heal for the Honey it seems as if you’ve taken a pretty different feel than Fresh Pair of Eyes and what inspired this change?
BW:
I’m actually glad to hear you say that because I wasn’t sure, still wasn’t sure, how to separate the feel from the EP for me. There’s defiantly a few songs that feel like kinda back each other up if you where to put the two albums side-by-side. But I did know that I had written most of those songs on Heal for the Honey when I
was doing Fresh Pair of Eyes and had toyed with the idea of doing a full length then but decided to wait.
So some of that is carrying over from a year ago. I really wanted to try to make something. I wanted the EP to stand on it’s own. But they are definitely like little niches I have and thing that are so very dear to me that are also on the album that will probably carry on through all of my work.
Lyrically it is deeper; it was recorded and part of the album was written at a time that was kinds a rough time for me emotionally. I was touring a lot but going through a lot of personally. I think maybe that carried on over to the recording.

PW:
That was a very good answer. I didn’t expect it to be so complex but I’m glad it was. Tell me a little about being indie in the Nashville scene. I’m kinda curious how artists like you and Landon Pigg have dealt with and gain exposure in a service generally dominated by a country sound.
BW:
I feel like the country thing is just… there’s just as much independent music going on as country there, it’s just kinds on a different scale. There’s just a lot more money that goes into the country scene. Really there is just a ridiculous amount of people there doing pretty amazing stuff. I feel like there is an influx right now of all these people moving in from all over the country and trying to brake into something.
What you find there is a really great since of community. People support you forever, it’s not just “oh you’ve had your time, it’s short-lived.” If they connect with your music, they’re there. It’s a great city to get started and play in and there’s a ton of venues and they really give artists a chance. You have to prove it to them on your first try ’cause there is just so much to pull from. There is just a ton of independent artists there. Some pretty cool stuff.
PW: You made the decision to give your last EP away free of charge. How has that choice helped your career and where did that idea stem from?
BW:
I felt like it was something that I toyed with doing a little bit before Christmas and I thought it would be a nice gesture to do for Christmas. I felt like being some one new to the scene, just now getting started on my solo stuff… I felt like the response and people that were buying were so generous and I just wanted to give back.
I had already gotten everything out of the EP financially and felt at least it wasn’t a ton of money to make. So to make that back wasn’t something I was expecting. I just like the idea of giving it back and it was definitely something that more famous artists are doing.
Yeah, you want people to hear your music, that’s what it comes down to, over and above money. I know it’s a business but you write these things for other people. It’s becoming an idea, sorta build a mailing list and build a base for the full length. and have more time to plan how to market that project. Why not, really? The cool thing is that people are still generous. A really great amount of digital fails each month and people still want to contribute to the cause and support. It’s kind of remarkable.

PW:
That’s wonderful. I think it’s really good way to go about things cause step one is about getting people to hear you before they are like ‘okay this is an artist I need to go see or support.’ A lot of times it’s really hard to do that if you are trying to sell yourself to somebody, it’s like, ‘I don’t know who you are, I’m not going to buy that. ‘ I think you’re doing it the right way. And, on a side note, that’s it for me. I’m out of things to quiz you on!
BW: Well thanks for calling! I had a great time.
PW: Me too, Brooke. It was my pleasure.

Brooke Waggoner: website | myspace | Fresh Pair of Eyes EP review

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