JOVM pays tribute to the late and great Charlie Watts.
Today is February 21, 2021. It’s the 21at day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.
Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:
Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.
Muddy Waters may arguably be one of the most influential bluesman ever. Without him, The Rolling Stones wouldn’t be The Rolling Stones. And much like counterparts like Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lightnin’ Hopkins and others, Muddy Waters was a major influence to the British Invasion bands of the 60s, as well as a generation of bluesmen and blueswoman after him.
Over this site’s 10 year history — 10! — Brown Acid, Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records’ ongoing collaborative proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilations from the 1960s and 1970s have become a regularly occurring biannual feature. Now, as you may recall, each individual edition of the series is based around RidingEasy Records’ founder Daniel Hall’s and Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi’s extensive, painstaking research and curation with Hall and Barresi spending a great deal of time tracking down songs’ creators. Most often, those bands haven’t written, played or recorded together in more than 30 years — but they encourage the bands to take part in the compilation process. “All of (these songs) could’ve been hits given the right circumstances. But for one reason or another most of these songs fell flat and were forgotten,” Lance Barresi explained in press notes for the previous editions of the compilation. “However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.”
Of course, having the original artists participate as much as possible in the compilation process can give the artists and their songs a real second chance at the attention they missed all of those years ago. And for critics and fans, the songs on the Brown Acid compilation series can often fill in the gaps within the larger picture of what was going on in and around both regional and national underground scenes at the time. Unfortunately, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the release of Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip had to be rescheduled to its new release date of June 26, 2020.
Much like its predecessors, the tenth edition finds the duo of Barresi and Hall digging even deeper into the well of material sadly reduced to obscurity. Earlier this year, I wrote about “Mr. Sun,” a song by a band that was previously featured on Brown Acid: The Third Trip — the Central Texas-based act First State Bank. Led by Randy Nunnally (vocals, guitar), First State Bank only released three singles during their six year history — 1970-1976 — with “Mr. Sun,” being a lysergic, power chord-driven, boogie woogie synthesis of Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk Railroad and T. Rex.
Interestingly, not much is known about The Brood — or their grimy psych blues ode to broke-ass weed consumption “The Roach.” Originally released on the It’s A Lemon imprint, the track is centered around wailing guitar solos, screeching and arpeggiated organ blasts, howled vocals and enormous hook. And yeah, it’ll remind you of a weird little synthesis of the Rolling Stones and Steppenwolf — but with a raw, rock ‘n’ roll dirtiness that’s sorely missed.
A Q&A with Jennifer Silva
Jennifer Silva is a Boston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter. Influenced by Stevie Nicks, Aretha Franklin, Tori Amos, The Rolling Stones, Florence + The Machine and Alabama Shakes, the Boston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter has received attention for bringing a sensual and soulful energy to her live shows — and for lyrics that explore universal and very human paradoxes — particularly, the saint and sinner within all of us.
Silva’s debut EP was an EDM collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13 under the mononym Silva — but since the release of that effort, her material has leaned heavily towards singer/songwriter soul, rock and pop with 70s AM rock references, as you’ll hear on her most recent album, the Reed Black-produced Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth.
Silva’s latest single “I Wash My Hands” is a shimmering and gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock-like song centered around a fairly simple arrangement of guitar, bass, vocals and drums that’s sonically indebted to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Interestingly, the song was originally written as a weary lament over a major relationship that has come to an end – but the song manages takes on a heightened meaning, reflecting on a heightened sense of uncertainty and fear, suggesting that maybe Mother Earth is attempting to wash her hands of us.
The recently released video for “I Wash My Hands” was created during the mandatory social distancing and quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it features Silva, her friends, family, bandmembers and voice students, separated by quarantine but connecting through the song.
I recently exchanged emails with Jennifer Silva for this edition of JOVM’s ongoing Q&A series – and naturally, we chat about her new single and video, her influences –including her love of Stevie Nicks, and her songwriting process. Of course, with governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – particularly on small and mid-sized venues, and the touring, emerging and indie artists who grace their stages, has been devastating. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ll be talking to artists about how the pandemic has impacted them and their careers. And in this interview, Silva reveals that the much-anticipated follow-up to Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth has been rescheduled, with her and her backing band figuring out how to finish it with the use of technology. Then add lost gigs and the uncertainty of when you’ll be able to play or promote your new work, and it’s a particularly urgent and uneasy time. But the dedicated will find a way to keep on going on for as long as they can.
Check out the video and the Q&A below.
WRH: Much of the world has been in quarantine and adhering to social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. How are you holding up? How are you spending your time? Are you binge watching anything?
Jennifer Silva: The world is upside down right now and it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. Shock, depression, anger, acceptance — feels like the stages of grief sometimes! I really miss my friends and my social life. Playing shows, my band. The good news though, is that my family and I are safe, healthy and well stocked. We left Brooklyn right before it got really bad and headed upstate. So, I’ve been in the woods, pretty secluded, with limited cable news (thankfully) and some great outdoorsy vibes all around me. I’m very lucky and I really can’t complain. I’ve been spending the time connecting with my family, homeschooling my daughters, cooking, knitting, reading and writing songs! We’ve been living a simple life these days and that’s actually a great thing sometimes. I just started watching Ozark on Netflix, finally, which is perfect for this quarantine! I’m always down for an epic drug/murder/survival story. Oh, and wine.
WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or cancelled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed, rescheduled or cancelled tour dates. Most of the world has been on an indefinite pause. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?
JS: This has got to be the hardest part of it all for me. I’ve also had to cancel shows, but, most significantly, literally one week before the pandemic really hit NYC, I was in the studio with my band and producer (Reed Black of Vinegar Hill Sound) tracking my next record. We spent two full days laying down all the music and scratch vocals for 10 tracks, and I was so hyped and excited for the next two months of recording all the overdubs, lead vocals, background vocals and getting that final mix completed. Now, we must wait. Luckily though, we have the rough mixes to listen to and some of my band members are working on and planning overdubs at home. It’s frustrating but I’m still so grateful to have had those days in the studio. What we have already, sounds amazing!
WRH: How did you get into music?
JS: I’ve been singing all my life. My father played guitar around the house throughout my childhood, and so at a young age I was singing classic rock and soul music to my family. “The House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals), “Bring it on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke) and “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees) were my first covers!
I also went to Catholic school as a girl where the nuns always made me sing the solos at the Christmas and Easter performances. And of course, I was singing in Church every week. That really helped shaped me as a singer because I was taught to belt without shame because it was a “gift”, so I have always been a loud singer, haha. I’m not religious anymore (thankfully), but man, I love me some Church hymns! And there is nothing like the acoustics in a Cathedral.
WRH: Who are your influences?
JS: I have so many influences from so many different genres of music. The Animals, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and all of Motown were early loves of mine.
Then I had a whole Neo Soul moment, falling in love with singers like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Jill Scott. They definitely influenced me with their powerful female energy and style and the vocal choices they made. I also love 80’s and 90’s female badasses, like Tori Amos, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Hole, Garbage, Madonna and Annie Lennox. Artists with true points of view and the guts to say it.
Singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, T. Bone Burnett, Dolly Parton, Rufus Wainwright and Joni Mitchell have helped shape my lyric writing and storytelling. I love Lana Del Rey as well.
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
JS: There is so much amazing music out right now. The talent level in this industry can be intimidating actually! Right now, we’ve been listening to a lot of indie rock and singer-songwriters like Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding, Töth, The Dø, Future Islands, Julia Jacklin, Sun Kil Moon, and Heartless Bastards. And we are always playing The National and Arcade Fire. The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits are spun pretty regularly too around here. And of course, we’ve been listening to lots of John Prine since his recent passing from Covid-19. What a loss.
WRH: I’ve probably referenced Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” more times than any other journalist in town. I think of a certain synth sound – and that song comes to mind. Plus, I love that song.
I know that Stevie Nicks is a big influence on you. What’s your favorite all-time Stevie Nicks song?
JS: One thing I really love about Stevie, which I read in her biography a few years ago (by Zoe Howe), and that I can totally relate to, was that she didn’t have any formal musical education. She just had her gorgeous melodies and emotional lyrics and really, just a simple catalog of basic chords. Lindsey [Buckingham] would get frustrated with her because he’d have to finesse her songs so much to make them work. “Dreams,” for instance, only has 2 chords! But her songs were always their biggest hits. She tapped into an emotion and style and energy that people love and her voice is just absolutely unique and powerful. In a way, the reason she was so successful with her songwriting was because she wasn’t trapped in a musical box. She would write whatever she felt, and her uniqueness and melodies were memorable and beautiful. She inspires me so much! It’s nearly impossible to choose one favorite Stevie Nicks song, but I’ll go with “Edge of Seventeen.” A close second is probably “Landslide.”
WRH: Your first release was an EDM-like collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13. Since then your sound has gone through a dramatic change. How did that come about? How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you and your sound?
JS: After my old band broke up in 2014, I was searching for new musical collaborations on Craigslist. I connected with Sizigi over email and we decided to make a song together. One song led to four, over the course of a few months. I knew going in, EDM wasn’t going to be my personal sound forever, but I was down for the challenge of writing to existing beats and learning to record all my vocals at home with GarageBand. I bought a microphone and set up a vocal booth in my closet with towels on the doors to pad the sound. I learned to edit. I love my lyrics and vocals on those songs, and I am very proud of the work I did. So, ultimately, I chose to have the record mastered and to release the 4 song EP independently. It was a stepping-stone for me.
The music I make now is all me though. I pen all of the lyrics and write the melodies on guitar, or sometimes I use my Omnichord (a vintage electronic harp/synthesizer from the 80s, which is AMAZING) and then my band brings it all to life! My sound can be described as indie rock soul. I love the Alabama Shakes so that’s a decent comparison, I hope. The lyrics are evocative and dramatic, and the music is organic rock, but I always sing with soul. I also love to explore the saint and the sinner in all of us and tap into themes from my Catholic upbringing — like with “The Convent” from my last record Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth and “Purgatory Road” which will be on my next record. I am inspired by elements of the occult (tarot cards, following your intuition, voodoo) and I use nature and other metaphors to write about complicated relationships.
WRH: Rockwood Music Hall celebrated their 15th anniversary earlier this year. Sadly, during this century, existing 15 years as a venue in New York time is like 149 years. Rockwood Music Hall invited an All-Star list of artists, who have cut their teeth playing the venue’s three stages to celebrate. The bill that month included JOVM mainstay Anna Rose, acts that I’ve covered like Eleanor Dubinsky, Christopher Paul Stelling, The Rad Trads, Mike Dillon, Melany Watson, as well as Jon Baptiste. How does it feel to be included with those acts?
JS: It feels amazing! I am so lucky to have played a small part in Rockwood’s incredible history. It was an absolute honor to play the stage that night, and to join that list of talented artists. Rockwood Music Hall was the first place I ever played in NYC. I remember getting an early Saturday afternoon acoustic slot with my old guitarist and playing to a mostly empty room. It was still so damn exciting to me, the opportunity to play that famous stage. Fast forward a few years later to my packed record release show on Stage 1 and then my graduation to Stage 2, last year. Rockwood has supported me since Day 1 and to help celebrate their anniversary, on the very stage where it all began for me, made me so proud!
WRH: Your Rockwood Music Hall set included a cover of one of my favorite Lead Belly songs ever “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” It’s one of those songs that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be covered a whole lot. So, what drew you to the song? And how much does the blues influence you?
JS: I have been listening to Lead Belly for a very long time. I only knew his version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and never actually heard Nirvana’s version until many years later, which is what I think most people think of when they hear that song these days. I used to love singing that song in the car with my boyfriend. We each took a verse. It always seemed so chilling and powerful and it really tells a story that leaves you wanting more. You are right though, it’s not covered a whole lot and when we first tried in rehearsal, we knew it would kill. Everyone really responds to that one.
I generally gravitate toward big singers. Full voices filled with heartache and soul and you get that in spades with the Blues. The Blues are rooted in emotion and that kind of expression comes naturally for me. Lead Belly and Big Mama Thornton are definitely my favorite blues artists, but I also really dig Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Son House, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Bessie Smith. I love how Bonnie Raitt, Larkin Poe and Gary Clark, Jr. are keeping that tradition alive and having success with Modern Blues too.
WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?
JS: I know a song is finished when I love the melody and lyrics enough to play it over and over again, day after day and when I can get lost developing the vocal runs. A good sign is when my family really responds to it as well. I also think nailing the bridge usually seals the deal for me. That’s when I write over my penciled lyrics and chords, in my black, Papermate flair pen and make it final!
I’m not a person who usually tinkers on a song for years though. I write most songs in a few hours, or a couple of days or maybe, up to a week. I like to capture the emotion of a sentiment and get most of it right and then move on to the next song. In all honesty, the best songs write themselves in 10 minutes! I actually wrote my new single “I Wash My Hands” quickly like that.
WRH: Your latest single “I Wash My Hands” and its accompanying video officially drops today. It’s a gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock song, a weary lament of someone who’s desperate to move on from a relationship or some other major life tie. You wouldn’t have known this at the time, but the song has an eerie double meaning that reflects our current moment of uncertainty and fear. Curiously, how does it feel to have written something that initially was supposed to be about something specific that suddenly transforms into something altogether different?
JS: Thanks. I think the lyrics are very relatable for anyone in a long-term relationship who understands that compromise and respect are needed for a couple to survive and more importantly, thrive. But in this unprecedented moment in our lives, that can also be said about humans and our planet. Fear of Covid-19 leaves us all washing our hands like never before, so now, this track also invokes Mother Nature’s demand for more respect. She is also washing her hands of our abuse, forcing us all to pause while she shows us just how powerful she is. It’s humbling.
WRH: The video for the song is pretty intimate almost home video-like visual, as it features a collection of loved ones, including family and friends lip synching along to the song – while they’re in quarantine. How did you come about the concept? And how did it feel to have your loved ones participate in the video?
JS: Last week, my brother Chris and I were talking on FaceTime, about the need for interconnectedness even while social distancing. We thought about how lonely people are, even though we are Zooming and chatting on the phone, more than ever.
We thought it would be really special if I could get some of my friends and family to lip-synch parts of this song and create a montage. Video production resources are limited here in quarantine, but everybody has a phone with a camera and time on their hands!
The video is like being on a Zoom call but this one makes me feel so happy every time I watch it! It’s all my favorite people singing my song. People in Brooklyn, California, Detroit, New Jersey, New England, and even as far as Kenya! Everyone just really came through and had fun with this project, including my voice students, family members and close friends. People I haven’t seen in two months or more! I don’t know when I’ll see them again frankly, but the video makes me feel connected to them and I think it makes them all feel connected to each other. I love it so much.
WRH: What’s next for you?
JS: While I’m quarantined, I’m going to keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep singing.
I’m also going to continue to work on my next album. Right now, the plan is to release it in the Fall, so I’ve got shows to book and all the pieces in between to plan. Follow me on Instagram (@sheissilva) for all updates, single and video releases and of course, details about the album release party and tour dates.
Please stay safe and healthy, everyone. I’m sending vibes to you all. We will get through this. And I think we will be stronger for it. And don’t forget to keep washing your hands!
Marin County, California-based act Green Leaf Rustlers, comprised of Chris Robinson (a.k.a, the most soulful white guy on the face of the earth), Barry Sless, Greg Loiacono, Pete Sears, and John Moro have developed a reputation for being one of the area’s live music scene staples, for their re-imagining of classic, cosmic country and country rock — in particular the work of artists like Gram Parsons, Waylon Jennings, The Byrds and others. “Green Leaf Rustlers are a Marin County hippie hayride,” the band’s Chris Robinson says in press notes. “Rockin’ and rollin’ through our favorite classic cosmic country covers and keeping the good people dancing the night away under star-filled western skies.”
Although the band has seldom performed outside of Northern California, their debut album From Within Marin, which is slated for a March 6, 2020 release is a double LP live album, recorded by Grateful Dead archivist Betty Cantor Jackson at a handful of Green Leaf Rustler shows across Marin County last year. The album sees Robinson and company work there way through renditions of Gram Parsons’ “Big Mouth Blues,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” JJ Cale’s “Ride Me High,” Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama” and the album’s second and latest single — a shimmering and twangier take on The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” that’s expands upon the lonely honky tonk vibe of the original in a loving fashion.
Casey Meehan is a Chicago area mainstay best known for his work with Chicago Mixtape, a weekly curated playlist of the best music shows happening in and around the Chicagoland area. Over the past month or so, I’ve written about Meehan’s latest music project Sy Somebody, and as you mayrecall the project can trace its origins to a a conversation he had with Father John Misty‘s David Vandervelde. Vandervelde introduced Meehan to his bandmate Eli Thompson and the trio began discussing the possibility of making a record together.
As the story goes, Meehan eventually began sending demos to Vandervelde. Those demos thematically contemplated the mysteries and complexities of the human condition within the larger cosmos — but written as though an omnipotent, unseen person or narrator was in control. Writing material in such a fashion, actually inspired Meehan to name the project Sy Somebody.
Meehan, Vandervelde and Thompson then recruited an All-Star cast of collaborators including Jeremy Enigk‘s and The Intelligence‘s Kaanan Tupper, Richard Swift’s The Weepies’, Everest’s and Pedro The Lion’s Frank Lenz, Bobby Bare Jr.’s Mr. Jimmy, The O’My’s, and Chance the Rapper‘s Maceo Haymes and Chance’s Social Experiment’s and Santah‘s Vivian McConnel to flesh out the material that eventually coalesced into the project’s soon-to-be full-length debut Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends, which is slated for release on Friday.
“Zookeeper,” Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends‘ second single was a grunge-like track, centered around fuzzy power chords, a propulsive rhythm and Meehan’s world-weary delivery, rooted in the frustrations and pressures of adult life. “Idle Minds,” Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends’ third single was a disco-tinged affair featuring The O’My’s Maceo Vidal-Haymes that recalled The Rolling Stones‘ “Emotional Rescue,” but while deceptively capturing the neurotic obsessions of a lonely and anxious man, who endlessly replays his mistakes in his mind — with the realization that he’s always been at fault. “Ready To Go” is the shimmering final single off the soon-to-be released album, centered around atmospheric synths, layers of shimmering and distorted power chords, dramatic drumming and Meehan’s plaintive vocals expressing a desire to escape — whether it’s someplace tropical, in your rosy, nostalgia-tinged memories or to another planet. Being a human is often a weird and shitty experience, and if you haven’t felt the desperate desire to get off the spinning wheel of insanity, desperation and bullshit, maybe you need to talk to someone.
Casey Meehan is a Chicago area mainstay best known for his work with Chicago Mixtape, a weekly curated playlist of the best music shows happening in and around the Chicagoland area. Late last year, I wrote about Meehan’s latest music project Sy Somebody, and as you may recall the project can trace its origins to a a conversation he had with Father John Misty‘s David Vandervelde. Vandervelde introduced Meehan to his bandmate Eli Thompson and the trio began discussing the possibility of making a record together.
Eventually Meehan began sending demos to Vandervelde. Those demos thematically contemplated the mysteries and complexes of the human condition within the larger cosmos — but written as though an omnipotent, unseen person was in control. Interestingly enough, doing so inspired Meehan to name the project Sy Somebody.
Meehan, Vandervelde and Thompson then recruited an All-Star cast of collaborators including Jeremy Enigk‘s and The Intelligence‘s Kaanan Tupper, Richard Swift’s The Weepies’, Everest’s and Pedro The Lion’s Frank Lenz, Bobby Bare Jr.’s Mr. Jimmy, The O’My’s, and Chance the Rapper‘s Maceo Haymes and Chance’s Social Experiment’s and Santah‘s Vivian McConnel to flesh out the material that eventually coalesced into the project’s full-length debut Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends, which is slated for a January 31, 2019 release.
“Zookeeper,” Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends‘ previous single was a seemingly grunge-inspired track, centered around fuzzy power chords, a steady and propulsive rhythm and Meehan’s world weary delivery, rooted in the frustrations and pressures of adult life. “Idle Minds,” the album’s third and latest single, which features a guest spot from The O’My’s Maceo Vidal-Haymes is a decidedly disco inspired, indie rock affair, centered around four-on-the-floor drumming, synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, Meehan’s world weary delivery and warm blasts of horn. And while seemingly recalling The Rolling Stones‘ “Emotional Rescue,” the deceptively upbeat song captures the neurotic obsessions of a lonely and anxious man, who replays his mistakes repeatedly; but at the core of the song, is the fact that the song’s narrator realizes that he’s at fault — and he can’t live with it.
Earlier this year, i wrote about the up-and-coming Bristol, UK-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Katey Brooks, and as you may recall, with the release of 2016’s I Fought Lovers EP, Brooks quickly earned a national and international profile for a sound and songwriting approach that has been compared favorably to the likes of Jeff Buckley. In fact, material off the EP received enthusiastic airplay on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and the CBC, and praise from Billboard, Pride and The Advocate. Adding to a growing profile, Brooks has shared bills with an eclectic yet impressive list of artists that includes Newton Faulkner, Ghostpoet, Martin Simpson, Deaf Havana, Lamb‘s Lou Rhodes, Mike and the Mechanics, and Mystery Jets, and has played at some of the world’s biggest festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, the 2012 Paralympics and Australia’s National Folk Festival. She also has appeared on a compilation with Anais Mitchell, Ane Brun and Marissa Nadler and recorded a track with The Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman and Paloma Faith.
Interestingly, Brooks has a complicated and messy upbringing. She grew up in a cult, and as a child, she found refuge in music.“It was a very chaotic upbringing, full of some pretty colourful and sometimes unsavoury, characters. But when I sang, I felt free and connected. For as long as I can remember, it’s been my way of getting what I need to say out,” she reveals in press notes. She began singing gospel, old spirituals and the songs from the likes of John Lennon and Elvis Presley — but by the time she was a teenager, she entertained her peers with soul renditions.
When she turned 16, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter turned down a spot at the renowned BRIT School. “It would be interesting to know what would have happened if I had gone there, but I try not to dwell on that,”Brooks says in press notes. “I always think that you’re where you’re meant to be. And if I had gone, I probably would have ended up writing slightly less authentically to myself. But who knows, because if all the things that have happened in my life nevertheless happened, maybe I still would have written the way I do.”
When Brooks turned 20, she became extremely ill and her life was on pause as she was convalescing; but as she was convalescing she joined a songwriters group led by her friend, Strangelove’s Patrick Duff. “We would get together and play our songs to each other. It was really therapeutic.” Around this time Brooks was convinced that she had to devote her time to music. “So one day I just put on my own gig at the (Bristol) Folk House,” she laughs. “I sort of became an artist and promoter overnight,” Brooks recalls.
Sadly, shortly after making the decision to focus on her music, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter experienced a turbulent period of heartbreak and tragedy: the year she turned 22, her mother became ill and died — and shortly after that, one of her best friends went missing and died. “That’s definitely had an effect on the course of my life, and my writing,” Brooks says in press notes. “People have come up to me after gigs, particularly after songs I wrote during that time, saying ‘there’s a lot of sadness in your songs’ and it’s like ‘well, yeah.’ But I guess I’m lucky that I have songs that I can write, as a means to deal with things.”
Along with those hardships, Brooks has struggled to come to terms with her own sexuality. “In my most recent work I’ve finally been able to sing directly about women instead of using the mysterious ‘you,’” Brooks mentions in press notes. “I’m a private person in a lot of ways and I never wanted to be a poster girl for anything. But a few years ago I just thought screw it; I want to sing completely honestly. It felt like a weight lifted.”
Brooks latest single is the classic soul-inspired ballad “All of Me.” Centered around a spectral arrangement featuring a looping 12 blues guitar, a gospel-like backing vocal section, a two-step inducing rhythm section and Brooks achingly plaintive and soulful vocals, the new single will further establish the Bristol-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s ability to mesh craft, earnestness and ambitious songwriting in a thoughtful and natural fashion. But along with that much of Brooks’ material comes from real, lived-in places — in particular, the song’s narrator bitterly calls out a lover on their ambivalence. It was inspired by a personal situation with someone I was prepared to give my world to. They proclaimed deep love, but then proceeded to behave in ways that were completely incongruent with that proclamation”, revealsBrooks. Words can be very powerful and beautiful, but ultimately, when it comes to showing someone you love them, they’re cheap and easy to deliver. Actions tell us everything we need to know about how someone feels about us, and if they respect us – in every kind of relationship.”