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
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.
SONGWRITING & INFLUENCES
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