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INTERVIEW: Atlanta Country/Folk Duo The Brookses

Pic by Mia Yakel

Hi James, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Great!  We are excited to have our first album coming out, we’ve been writing and working on these songs for the last two years, so it’s been a real labor of love.  Since Meg and I are father and daughter, it’s much more than just a musical collaboration, it’s an expression of our family bond and the joy of playing and singing together for many years.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Over Again”?

We are strongly influenced by traditional country duos like George and Tammy, Porter and Dolly, and we love singing those harmonies. “Over Again” is a classic country heartache song in that vein, two people who shouldn’t be together but can’t seem to give each other up.  And it was fun to write in 3/4 time, with that great country waltz feel that no one seems to use anymore.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

We’ve all known couples like that – but this is not about anyone in particular!

Any plans to release a video?

Absolutely!  We’re planning on releasing a couple of videos right after the album release later this Spring.

The single comes off your new album Lucky Charm – what’s the story behind the title?

Meg and I have been singing and playing music together since she was a little girl.  “Lucky Charm” is an old song of mine I wrote and used to perform more than 20 years ago.  She heard an old tape of it and asked if we could do the song on the album – I told her we could so long as she would sing lead!  I’m really happy with the way it turned out on the record, and since the song had a lot of history for us we thought it made sense to call the album “Lucky Charm.”

How was the recording and writing process?

All of the songs were written before we went into the studio – we had twelve originals, five written by Meg, six by me and one we wrote together.  I’ve been playing music in Atlanta since the 80’s, so I know all the players in town, and knew exactly who we wanted in the studio.  Adam Goodhue is on drums, Rob Henson on bass, the best rhythm section in town.  One of my oldest and dearest friends, Scott DePoy, is on fiddle, and Emily Backus is on banjo.  I’m on lead guitar, Meg is on rhythm, and we swap off on lead and harmony vocals. We knew we wanted to track everything live with the band in one room to let the musicians play off each other and let the songs “breathe.”  When you have players that good, you have to take advantage of that live chemistry and getting that good “bleed” over all the microphones to get the warmth we were looking for.

What was it like to worth with Damon Moon, and how did that relationship develop? 

Meg knew Damon from some other musical projects she had worked on, so he was definitely first choice because of his devotion to vintage sounds and vintage recording equipment.  Standard Electric is set up in an old house in Decatur, Georgia with great acoustics and vintage recording equipment.  Working with Damon was a dream – he completely understood the vibe we were trying to get, and the richness and warmth of the record is a credit to his skills and ear.  As much as possible, everything was recorded on analog gear, and the final master was mixed down to analog tape.  This was particularly important to us since we are bringing the record out on vinyl as well as digitally.  There’s still nothing like the warmth of vinyl – plus we’re pretty old school and we wanted to make a “real” record!  The record was pressed at Gold Rush vinyl in Austin – they were great to work with.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?

Our working process is really a bit of both – we both write on our own, then come together to develop the arrangements for the songs and the harmonies.  I’ve played in lots of bands over the years, and part of what I love about being a musician is the give and take of playing together, listening to each other, and crafting something that is greater that the sum of its parts.

What role does Atlanta play in your music?

Our roots are deeply here, not just in Atlanta but Georgia and the South.  My father’s family has lived in Georgia since 1796!  Blues, jazz, gospel and classic folk and country all have their roots in the South and we live and breathe that influence in our music.  The energy and diversity of the Atlanta music scene is always an inspiration for us and we are proud to be a part of it.

What aspect of your life did you get to explore on this record?

It was a real joy to create something in collaboration with my daughter – we’ve been singing and playing together since she was a little girl, but it was her gift for songwriting that really gave us the impetus to create a band together and craft an album.  That family harmony is a real thing, just listen to the Carter Family, or the Louvin Brothers, or the Delmores.  I’ve sung harmonies with some amazing women singers in my career, but there is something very special about the way Meg’s voice blends with mine, it’s almost like there’s a third voice in the mix.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Like all good writers, I think we both keep our ears and eyes open to the world around us, and pick up bits and pieces of what we observe and turn them into songs.  I will say that I think most of our songs tend to be about the challenges of the human heart, and the way we find our way through the world.  Some of the songs do come out of a desire to write to a particular style, or what we’ve been listening to.  For example, I had been listening to a lot of Woody Guthrie when we were writing “If Tears Were Whiskey.”  You can definitely hear that Dust Bowl feel in the song.  And “Calico” definitely draws on the influence of old country murder ballads.

Any plans to hit the road?

Absolutely!  We are planning on doing a Southeast tour in June and July after the album comes out.  We’ll be posting all the dates on our website and facebook page.

What else is happening next in The Brookses world?

We’re having the album release party in Atlanta on May 2 at Red Light Café, our favorite listening room in Atlanta and the club we really think of as home base.  The full band will be playing, with lots of specials guests.  Y’all come!

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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