Tony Cummings quizzed Louisiana-born songstress BROOKE WAGGONER about her life and music
Nashville-based Brooke Waggoner is a singer, songwriter and pianist with a haunting style which has already registered with Cross Rhythms radio listeners (both her "Lung Speed, Lung Sped" and "Tender Mending" from her 2008 project 'Heal For The Honey' received radio play). She's also something also of a critic's darling with American Songwriter magazine enthusing "...Waggoner's melodies uplift and carry you away with a youthful strength tendered by lush vocals and delicate instrumentation" while Nashville Rage wrote "what's really impressive about Waggoner's work is its untrained beauty, which is often lacking in many other classically trained singer/songwriters..." Brooke's plaintive vocal style has also impressed the critics who have made comparisons with such vocalists as Kate Bush and Martha Wainwright. One thing is clear though: although very much a mainstream artist, her Christian faith illuminates her art. Patrol magazine named Brooke's 'Heal For The Honey' the number one faith-inspired album of 2008. Said Brooke, "Faith is the framework and makeup of who I am. Without it, music for me wouldn't be possible."
Brooke began playing piano at the age of four. She began experimenting with song structures and melodies at the age of nine and wrote her first original song at 10. With no conscious thought or decision made to ever go into the music business Brooke, a Louisiana native, entered Louisiana State University in 2002 and after graduating in 2006 she left for Nashville and began developing her own music. The EP 'Fresh Pair Of Eyes' (2007) was followed by 'Heal For The Honey' (2008) and the more classically orientated 'Go Easy Little Doves' (2009). Brooke's 'Fresh Pair Of Eyes' and 'Heal For The Honey' were both produced by Chad Howat, the bass player with mainstream band Paper Route. That isn't the only connection with Paper Route. Explained Brooke, "Paper Route's lead singer JT Daly has done a great deal of the art work on a lot of my albums' online material. I've also done a few tours with the guys in the past. They were some of my first friends when I moved to Nashville. Good people."
Brooke's favourite song on 'Heal For The Honey' is "Come Love, See My Hands". She said, "I have a great memory of recording that song - the piano and vocals were tracked together live and everything you hear was completely captured in one take. It was the last song I recorded for the album and it was late at night - the emotion I wanted to translate was completely captured. The words from that song were written years before I ever recorded it or wrote music to it (a rarity for me - music normally comes first). But the song really speaks to creatives - how EVERYTHING around us is some form of art; good or bad. And the idea of 'see my hands' has a double meaning: one being the idea of all artists using their hands in some capacity and the other being that art/creation comes from something much greater and higher than ourselves (a reference to the crucifixion of Christ)."
Brooke's 'Go Easy Little Doves' plays up the classical elements in her music (when asked to name her favourite classical composer she listed Strauss, Bartok, Saint Saens, ending with the comment, "There is so much good music." One of the standout tracks on the album is "Find Her Floods", a track described by one critic as "an alluring piece, pacing through distinct passages that are alternately upbeat and jaunty and something altogether more wistful and melancholy."
Performing in concert brings out the best of Brooke as demonstrated by her first DVD 'And The World Opened Up'. It contains a live performance recorded at Nashville's Art House America in late 2009. Waggoner's music from 'Go Easy Little Doves' is presented for the first time with a complete live orchestra and was produced by Charlie Peacock. Brooke spoke about her touring schedule. "It could be anywhere from a show per night for two months straight, to winding down with one or two shows a month. It really depends on the season. I enjoy the interaction with the listeners after the shows - it's great to be able to meet so many new people and chat about music and the things that inspire other people."
Life as a traveling musician can make for some interesting experiences. She recounted, "Last April I almost got arrested on the Canadian border by intense border control. I was headed to Toronto for a show and they thought I was trying to pull one over on them by bringing my van across the border with boxes of CDs. Ha, it was wild... We were escorted to all these various warehouses and questioned about all sorts of things. No one seemed to believe that we were just gonna be in their country one night to play a show and be out of there by the morning. They charged me a pretty hefty fine. Ahhh, good times."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.