Interview with Brooke Waggoner
With her new album Sweven having just released last week, we chatted with the enchantingly inventive singer-songwriter Brooke Waggoner for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. Along with her Sweven NoiseTrade EP, we're offering this pull-back-the-curtain look at how emotional and instrumental inspirations played out in Waggoner's new collection of songs, how her childhood writings found their place in her current lyrics, and how the birth of her son helped influence the album's completion.
NoiseTrade: Your NoiseTrade EP features two live cuts from your recent OurVinyl session and three songs from your brand new album Sweven. Where did the album title come from and what can you tell us about these new entries in your songwriting catalog?
Brooke Waggoner: The word sweven is an old English term that rarely gets used anymore. The sonic elements of the word along with it's meaning really encapsulated the "feel" of the album for me - a dreamlike state, futuristic, vision. It's also the title of one of the album's songs; a short darker lullaby of sorts that has a bed of whimsical instruments and a more poetic slant on the lyrics. I wanted this album to feel like a world you may happen upon underwater - murky at times, floating in space, submerged in emotion. But also create songs that are more traditional in structure and less tangent-oriented. The lyrics are full of stories and imagery involving nature, travels taking place at night, becoming a grown-up with a lens for childlike creativity in the realm of adult problems like divorce, death, and regretting wasted youth. But there's important lessons to be learned from all of those hardships - a lesson in "how to respond."
NT: Since the songs on Sweven have their roots in your childhood writings and recordings, what were some of the more interesting things you found out about yourself while revisiting them?
Waggoner: I was reminded from early childhood recordings that I've always listened for melody first. Rhythmic patterns, repetition, developing an idea; all of those things came and still come second. Melody first. I also rediscovered the way I used to the think about the world. Things really were seen through rose-colored glass, and the world seemed truly like my oyster; a place to find adventure and fulfill young dreams. All so optimistic.
NT: Being that you succeeded at hitting your self-set deadline of finishing the recording of Sweven before the birth of your son (by at least an afternoon), did you give him a producer’s credit for knowing when the songs where done or do you have any of the typical “unfinished” feelings that can accompany the end of an album’s recording sessions?
Waggoner: Ha, I should have given Ames a "producer's credit"! My son was a driving motivator in completion timelines. And I'm grateful for that. It can be easy to marinate too long in the production process and lose the original excitement of the project. I can honestly say, this album feels very complete to me, and I feel I addressed what I wanted to say. That doesn't always happen, so I'm grateful for that!
NT: I’m transfixed with the lush, goth-lounge vibe of “Fellow” from your live OurVinyl session. What was your sonic inspiration for that song?
Waggoner: That song was originally written and recorded to be an instrumental piece. I later decided to add vocals and lyrics. This explains a lot of the push and pull of the tempo - definitely not locked in. The way you would typically play an expressive solo piano piece. But that was an enjoyable confine when recording vocals. The chord progressions felt like a new level for me artistically, taking it places I wouldn't have been able to go 3, 5, or 10 years ago.
NT: Finally, what is one of the more profound lyrics your 9-year-old self wrote that you just couldn’t find the right place for on this album? How about the most funny or interesting one as well?
Waggoner: Ha, there's some pretty "bad" lyrics in all of those old recordings. Thankfully, right?! You've got to start somewhere and usually the early stuff just sounds "bad". Just trying to find your place in it all. The first song I can remember writing when 9 was a little ditty called "Right Now". It's about the tumultuous plight of a 4th grader dealing with a crush and having no idea how to think about boys much less talk to them. "Right now, I'm here.... right now..., I'm here." That's poetic gold right there.