Brooke Waggoner isn’t just “another chick on a piano.” A classical soloist with relevant flair, her tiptoeing through Nashville with soft, haunting melodies resonates with stampede-like fury as she drags us all along for the irresistible ride.
Many of her songs tell the stories of those nearest to her in an unsuspecting manner. “Songwriting is very relational for me. The last record is about a lot of our close friends; there were a lot of divorces and but also other life-things happening.”
Beyond pulling from personal experiences though, Brooke hides, tucked away in her inspirational arsenal, a one-of-a-kind perspective on music that very few musicians get the chance at experiencing. Fresh out of college in Baton Rouge, her home state of Louisiana, Brooke pursued an opportunity to live and research music in Indonesia about 7 ½ years ago. As one of the first white visitors to step onto the small island where she would soon dive full force into ethnomusicology, Brooke was just as much shocked as she was shocking.
The goal of her research was to gather information on the indigenous music culture of the island, which consisted of large rings of gongs that relied almost entirely on the Pentatonic scale, a typically eastern style of composing music.
“This was the first time I viewed playing music for a different reason. For us [Americans] it’s about us as individuals and how we’re effected – a heavy focus on entertainment. Over there it was about keeping balance and peace. Music is their contribution to and of something greater and not self-fulfilling.”
Months later and safely back home, Brooke moved to Nashville to pursue her own music career, where the perspective-shift that had begun to rear its head in Indonesia was now becoming fully known. Her songs may not ooze with third-world chants or melodies, but her understanding of why she writes and the part of her soul that gives her up to music every day has been indefinably altered.
She spends much of her time now touring, but Nashville has been undoubtedly marked with her fierce independence. This same independence challenged her to never leave a venue without booking another show, sheltered her from endless co-writes – a practice she has never been overly fond of – and landed her on Jack White’s 2012-13 tour.
Opportunities such as the latter don’t come knocking every day, and comically enough Brooke’s simple acquiescence to a phone call and speedy attendance to an impromptu studio session landed her smack-dab in the middle of White’s new album and worldwide tour.
Many countries, performances and worn down piano keys later, Brooke has found herself anchored to Nashville by her inevitable love for the city and her husband of four years. She still writes by “fusing a lot of my world into the culture here. I couldn’t be just another chick on a piano – I’ve got to make it interesting.”
“I always try to make each show like it’s the first.”
With so much talent and drive, this beautiful, wandering soul has gratefully and hopefully settled down to call Music City home, even if she is often away. You can find her on the west coast in September, and after releasing her fourth album in the spring there is no telling where you might find her as she sets off for a heavy season of touring.
“The touring coming up includes a lot of theatres.” Audiences like this pose a challenge for Brooke as she explains: “The super respectful listener is highly unnerving for what I do. I want to earn your respect instead of me coming in and you already being complacent – like the traditional audiences of classical performers.”
Hubby Brad, drummer and now full-time therapist, has been hailed by Brooke as genuinely supportive and understanding of every moment in her career. The beginning of their journey together was very off and on, she told me, with both of them working on music full-time, but even while she was often away he just wouldn’t let her go.
“He is never trying to get in there (my music) or influence it; we treat it delicately and he has so much respect.”
The couple had been travelling on the same path for some time before their crossing. Both recently moved to Nashville, Brooke opened for his band at the basement. A friendship grew into the sweetest thing possible, and after a wedding and consequent honeymoon in Italy, they both decided that their love of this city trumped, at least for now, the potential for career growth on the west coast.
So what could be next for them?
“I remember childhood like it was yesterday, but I feel very maternal about a future child.”
For now, as a testament to the talent of her great-great-Grandfather who was a professional classical pianist in Germany before the world war, hope springs for Brooke as she continues to record, perform and drench her audiences in consistently on-key euphony.
An unforgettable snippit of the melodically enticing Brooke Waggoner