Interview with Brooke Waggoner

We here at NoiseTrade are beyond excited to announce our brand new NoiseTrade Sessions and we’re extremely proud of our first release with the enigmatic Brooke Waggoner. Brooke is an extremely creative artist who filters pop melodies through classical training and she refuses to conform to any genre boundaries. Along with the 5 intimate in-studio performances found on NoiseTrade Sessions, Brooke has also included “Rumble,” a track from her third full length studio album Originator, which will be released March 5.

The tracklist includes Brooke’s unembellished take on “Metempsychosis,” “Fresh Pair of Eyes,” “The High Wind,” “San Juan Capistrano” and “Meek; Wild.” Each performance is sparse enough to capture her pure talent and quiet enough to hear the squeak of her piano pedal. NoiseTrade Sessions offers the ability to hear an artist without artifice and Brooke is certainly fitting of that description.

I had the opportunity to ask Brooke a few questions about her songwriting, her new album Originator and her impressive stint as part of Jack White’s backing band.

NoiseTrade: Congratulations on being the inaugural artist for our exciting new NoiseTrade Sessions! Since your albums are very orchestral and layered, what was it like recording these gorgeously unadorned, one voice/one instrument versions of your songs? 
Brooke Waggoner: This is how I always originally write and record for each song or project - vocals and piano. It's important for me to know if each song can stand on its own in an isolated way.

NT: Your artistry is created from a place that is steeped in years of formal classical music training. Can you tell us a little about your music development through that time and how it has translated into your songwriting now? 
Brooke: It all goes hand-in-hand. Trying to get better with everything you do and hoping to grow every time you make something. I never tried to over think things in my upbringing with classical (which is sometimes hard to do) and I try not to over think things now. The real trick is finding what you love to play and accepting there will be some piggybacking. All art piggybacks. That's an important moment to recognize.

NT: For your upcoming album, Originator (release date March 5), you bypassed all computers and technological trappings and recorded straight to 2” analog tape. What drove the decision for this traditionalist direction and how do you feel it paid off? 
Brooke: I had already experienced that setting a few times with other bands I'd previously produced records for. So I was feeling more comfortable with that idea when the time came to make my new record. I mostly wanted to create those confines for everyone involved and I needed to surround myself with something simpler and tangible - the actual process of watching tape being recorded is enough to inspire anyone to want to do this every day.

NT: After producing your last album (Go Easy Little Doves) by yourself, you’ve teamed back up with Chad Howat, producer of your first two releases (2007’s Fresh Pair of Eyes EP and 2008’s Heal for the Honey). What are some of the things you learned with solo production and what are some things Chad brought to Originator

Brooke: Go Easy Little Doves was a unique project for me that made sense to produce alone - it's all very cinematic and classical. The majority of the writing for that record came from actual notation (i.e. writing short pieces for a string quintet). But for Originator I wanted to enlist more creativity from other minds. It helps me to have someone to discuss what I like and don't like. I need that conversation. Otherwise, I'll get too far into my own brain and start to lose perspective at times.

NT: As far as your new songs, is the bouncy bravado found in first single “Ink Slinger” indicative of the entire album or are there even more sonic surprises in store?
Brooke: It's probably the dancey-ist song on the project. Not at all indicative of the entire album. It's really a brief introduction into the world I wanted to create for this project. There are so many moods explored.

NT: You appeared on Jack White’s Blunderbuss album and played keys and organ on his subsequent tour. As a musician, what was it like playing alongside someone who is known for their eclectic performances, improvisational spirit and “give ‘em a different show every night” attitude? Brooke: It's thrilling. I think he's thought about every facet of what the show should look and feel like. And it totally works.

Here's a look at Brooke's new video for "Rumble" (directed by Allister Ann):

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