Home > Interviews > Jonatha Brooke



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Boston Beats: Please state your name, age, and occupation for the record please.
Jonatha Brooke: My name is Jonatha Brooke. I just turned 41, and I am a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and producer type.

BB: How did you first get into music?
Jonatha: Well, letís see, I always sang and I always copied things off of records. I got a guitar when I was 12 for Christmas from my dad, and started figuring out chords and making stuff up. I was in a rock band in seventh grade that my science teacher started, we were called Science Function, and I was always in the school choir or the acappella group or whatever. But it wasn't until Amherst College that I actually started writing songs and realized that I might have some kind of future in music, and that music was that exciting to me that I would go fully into it. Because up until then my main focus had been dancing, I thought I was a dancer.

BB: Do you remember anything about the first song you wrote?
Jonatha: Yeah, it was a class assignment. I took a composition course my sophomore year of college, and our first assignment was to take any E. E. Cummings poem, just anyone that we liked, and set it to music. That became my first song, and itís actually on my first record with the Story, Grace and Gravity.

BB: When did you decide that music was going to be your career?
Jonatha: I kind of started falling into it inóI guess it was about Ď89 or so, when Jennifer and I were living in Boston. Jennifer Kimball, of The Story. I was still dancing a lot. I was in a bunch of modern dance companies, and Jennifer was working as a graphic designer. We made a demo tape and we started getting more serious about pursuing gigs and we were both juggling other careers. I think it was when we got our first independent record deal with Green Linnet Records, which then lead to Electra Records, that it was kind of like, wow, this is working you know, I think we have something here, and we might have to quit our day jobs and get on the bus.

BB: How did you guys first meet?
Jonatha: We met freshman year at an audition for the acappella group at Amherst College, The Sabrina's, and we both got in mostly because our voices blended so well together. So we were the soprano section.

BB: What was the story with the Goodyear Commercial, ďSerious Freedom?Ē
Jonatha: That was Ď94, Ď95. I loved it; it paid the bills for two years. A friend of mine had written the jingle, David Buskin. He called me, I was in New York for something, and he called me and said hey, want to come down and hang at the session and see what I do. He has written some of the most memorable jingles that I ever heard. And I thought it might be a lark, and Iíd go down and hang out and maybe sing some background vocals, and I ended up singing the lead. And there were all these jingle pros there, but somehow I got the gig. It was just completely a fluke, but it saved my butt financially for a year.

BB: You seem to be able to play a lot of instruments. Which do you feel most comfortable with?
Jonatha: Guitar, just because you can bring it anywhere, so it's the one I end up playing the most. I used to write pretty much 50/50 on keyboard and guitar, especially when I was first writing. And then the piano kind of fell away from me because I didn't have one for a while. Now I've got a Wurlitzer, and a big keyboard here in my little music room so I'm getting back to the piano, but I think I'm a better guitar player than I am a piano player.


BB: Tell me about your songwriting process. How does a new song usually come about for you?
Jonatha: I torture myself for weeks. I try to reassemble all the pieces of paper and the notebooks that I've been scribbling in for months and line them up with the melodies that I've been obsessed with in my head. Especially lately, they have been starting separately. A lot of times I wonít have a Dictaphone with me or anything, and Iíll just call my cell phone and leave these non sequitur ideas or these loopy melodies on my own answering machine. So my cell phone is just clogged with 20 different melodies that I've thought of over the past few weeks.

BB: What are some of your favorites of your own songs? How did they come about?
Jonatha: It changes day-to-day but I love on the new record, No Net Below, and I love Better After All. Last week it was Paris from Plumb and Walking from Steady Pull. One I wrote recently for a movie, it really was kind of weird. All of a sudden, it was there on the page, and I had no idea how I really came up with it, and it was one of those all at once ones, too. The movie is called Hide and Seek, it's a De Niro movie. They ended up not using it; it was so perfect, I was so bummed. I love this song, it will end up somewhere on a record or iTunes because it so creepy, I had to really put myself in a really creepy horror mode, and sing like a little girl and make it really scary. It was fun producing it as well as writing it.

BB: What are your own musical influences? What are your favorite albums?
Jonatha: I have to say classical music influenced me, because it was always on my stereo growing up. Rachmaninoff, and Chopin's Ballads. My mom would play opera a lot, and I would walk around the house trying to sing along. I associated music with great emotion because my mother would always cry when she heard beautiful music. My brothers brought home the Beatles, The Who and Neil Young and Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell they were my next sort of palette. My mother and I, the thing we shared the most was the Mama and the Papas. I loved the harmonies. There were a couple of records that I just wore out, The Sound of Music, God Spell and West Side Story. I love Radiohead, and pretty much anything they've done. I love Coldplay I know that itís probably not cool anymore to love them but they're still frickiní great. I love this guy, Teitur, I think he's from the Fair Isles. I just really like his record, it has an innocence and beauty to it. Damien Rice I like. I'm trying to think of some chicks that I'm into lately. I like Casey Chambers, she's very twangy but I just love her. And I love Gillian Welch. 




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Part Three


*Pictures courtesy of http://www.jonathabrooke.com/

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