TBA's 5 in 5 Interview with Jonatha Brooke

 

1) Many young, female singer-songwriters state they "sound like Jonatha Brooke." Do you remember starting out, if you identified your sound/writing style with anyone?

JB: When I was starting out, I just sang along with everything. Believe it or not I was IN LOVE with Chaka Khan. I sang along to “Rufus and Chaka Khan, Live Stompin’ at the Savoy” at the top of my lungs, I sooooo wanted to sound like her. Obviously that didn’t happen. Same with Bonnie Raitt. At one point in college I started smoking cigarettes and drinking scotch, hoping that my voice would deepen and crackle like hers. No luck. I was very influenced at first by Suzanne Vega in terms of my writing style. One of my first songs had a princess and an island, I guess kind of like her “Queen and the Soldier.”  I think very quickly, just because of the way my voice works and the quirkiness of my approach to the guitar, my sound became pretty singular, particular to me alone. I’ve always said that the irony of originality is that we are the products of our own limitations. That becomes our signature.

2) Do you own an iPod? If so, or even if not, who is currently on your playlist (feel free to expound)?

JB: I DO have an I-pod. But I have to say I only listen to it on very long flights. My ears don’t really like headphones or ear buds. I seem to need to hear music in a room coming from speakers!! But lately I’ve been obsessed with Lene Andrade. Went to see her live and she knocked me OUT. The Weepies get some play here, and all of a sudden I’m craving the Chopin Ballades. I just love those romantic melodies. Lenine is in constant rotation. (the Brazilians are long term faves; Joao Gilberto, Elis Regina) I do like Feist too.

3) Do you watch much TV, if so, favorite programs? Also, favorite TV program as a child?

JB: I’d like to believe that I don’t watch a lot of tv but over the holidays I became a complete couch potato. We’d had this barely functioning 30 year old tv forever, and then, SHABAM!! Our Christmas present to ourselves was this Mazerati of tvs. It’s ENORMOUS and FRIGHTENING. But now we’ve been watching 24 and CSI and crazy blue ray DVD action movies. I need to go to a 12-step program so I can get some WORK done!!

As a kid I loved anything forbidden. Maudlin love story movies where someone dies of cancer. Mom wouldn’t let me watch so anytime I could see summer of 42 or love story, I was IN. Then there was this very strange Lutheran claymation show on Saturday mornings called “Davey and Goliath.” Very moralistic and patronizing, but for some reason I dug the clay dog.

4) Who do you love more, Eric Bazilian or The Dutch People as a whole? We realize it's not a fair question, but can you describe Eric in a few words? In addition, can you describe playing live for an audience in The Netherlands? (For those who don't know Jonatha is to The Netherlands what David Hasselhoff was to Germany).

JB: I LOVE ERIC BAZILIAN. So I’ll choose him because I KNOW him. If I knew more dutch people well, it might be a different story. And I have to say, the DUTCH are a kick ass audience. Loyal, vocal and lovely!!!

Eric, in a few words, is a ROCK STAR. Fearless, charismatic, fun, and he’s the only guy that can follow my weird brain when we’re writing a song!

5) Create your own question. (It's a chance to ask and answer a question you've wished an interviewer would ask). Alternatively, what does Bad Bog Records mean to you?

JB: BAD DOG records means FREEDOM. As difficult as it is to pay all the bills and figure out how to do what we want to do with marketing and promotion. I love the ability to make decisions quickly, try new ideas, make the records I WANT to make.

Perhaps the question I would like to answer is: What is the biggest misconception about being an artist and owning a label?

And my answer: I think there is a grave misunderstanding in the world about WORKING artists. Because the majority of artists people see day to day are uber successful – the Beyonce, Bono, Springsteen – there is an easy assumption that we are all making great money and doing fine, even though the business of selling records is almost GONE for all but the most highly promoted and publicized artists. Most of us just can’t compete in that field and have to constantly figure out new ways to reach our audience. Although the internet is a great tool, it certainly doesn’t level the playing field in the way we all assumed it would. There is just tooooo much stuff out there. Everybody in the world wants to be a rock star, and technology is such that ANYONE can make a record. So EVERYONE IS making records, and I think it just makes for a lot of mediocre NOISE. It’s like trying to swim laps in the town pool on the hottest day in August when every neighborhood kid is splishing and splashing around.

 

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