Interview with Brooke Fraser

Brooke Fraser 1 (by Nirrimi Hakanson)New Zealander, Brooke Fraser, has just released her new album ‘Flags’ and is currently on tour in Europe. She stops off in Dublin on April 9th for a Sold Out gig at The Sugar Club. Brooke took some time out from her schedule to answer a few questions for

Hi Brooke, Thanks for taking the time to answer these. How are you and where are you?

I am well, currently in London town about to head to Paris (sounds very exotic).

You had a break from music for a while, what was it about Coachella that made you fall in love with music again, the people, the community or was it just Fleet Foxes?

I didn’t have a break from music and I think that was the problem! My last album was three years of hard touring so at the end of that I was burnt out and didn’t even want to look at my guitar. I wouldn’t say Coachella made me fall in love with music again as I was never out of love with it, simply very doubtful about my own ability to make anymore meaningful contributions to it! Coachella was like a breeze on an ember in that I experienced, as an audience member, a ‘perfect moment’ – the setting was gorgeous (sunset in the desert), the temperature was perfect, the crowd was small but devoted, the sound was great and the music was pure and powerful. It’s funny because Robin Pecknold made an apology at the end – perhaps their monitors were bad so they’d thought they’d had a stinker – so for him it might have been an awkward, forgettable gig, for me it changed my year!

You said that you thought that singing songs from your point of view contributed to you burning out. You’ve been touring with ‘Flags’ for a while now have you found singing about the characters in the songs has helped ?

Absolutely! I’m still telling my stories but through the stories of other characters and voices and it’s been so refreshing and enjoyable for me. I’ve never enjoyed touring as much as I do at the moment and in many ways it feels as if I have a clean slate and am starting anew. It’s a great feeling.

The promotion you are doing for ‘Flags’ has meant that you’ve covered a lot of ground in a short space of time, after Europe you go on tour in the U.S. for two months. How do you mentally prepare for being on the road that long?

I should say I’m used to it by now but I don’t think I am! Touring for me is all about what you said – mental preparation. I take the schedule in week long or three week long chunks and try and just focus on that period of time, making it count and enjoying it. And I think it’s important to speak out gratitude… I try and remind myself every day of how wonderful this is and take a moment to be thankful.

You got married since your last album too, has that changed how you view these trips?

Yes! I was married (on St. Patricks Day actually) three years ago and it has only made life a million times better! My husband is my best mate aswell as being an incredibly fun, creative and skilled guy who has a really key role in our small team. It’s so much fun being able to travel the world together! We know we’re very fortunate.

Brooke FraserYou’ve already been to the U.S. this year with some gigs at S.X.S.W. : Everyone wants to be there and every band wants to play there. From your point of view why is S.X.S.W so special?

I loved S.X.S.W. It’s different to other festivals because of the vast numbers of bands and industry delegates around and because of the venue – a city centre in Texas! It’s really amazing to walk down 6th Street and see a band playing in every bar, café, restaurant or pool hall. It’s also a real leveller because the gigs are brutal from a technical point of view… usually you have a 10-15 minute changeover between bands and no soundcheck… you’ve just got to get up and play, whether everything is plugged in yet or not! And I really loved that… I think deciding that you are just going to fang it and play balls-to-the-wall no matter what is definitely the way to go!

There seems to be a bit of a love affair going on with this side of the world and Australia and New Zealand at the moment. You’ve got yourself, Tame Impala, The Naked and Famous, Cloud Control.. Why do think music from your part of the world is making such an impact here?

Ooh I love all the bands you just mentioned! I get very proud when I hear or see them name-checked over in these parts of the world. I don’t know that it has much to do with geography… I just hope it backs the story that good music travels, good music will find ears that want to hear it!

You produced ‘Flags’ yourself and used handclaps on knees, dustbin lids, there are lots of different sounds and textures in the songs. Is there any part of the album you took a chance on, trying something different with and were pleasantly surprised with ?

One weirdo thing that I wanted was a particular sound in the chorus of the song ‘Ice On Her Lashes’ – I wanted a slow, low shaker sound without any attack. We achieved it by close mic-ing my jeans as I rubbed my leg! I should have credited myself for that actually but it would have sounded rude: “Brooke – Nudie rubbing”.

The concept for ‘Flags’ is interesting, that we are all connected to the world and we see a glimpse of the characters lives. They could all sit nicely together in a book, have you ever though of doing something like that, or would you always prefer music as your medium for storytelling?

I love stories in all forms and I wouldn’t rule out anything, though I certainly don’t feel as though I’m old enough, wise enough or interesting enough to write a book yet! Literature is a huge influence on my songs though and the medium which I would say moves me the most.

You’re an active member of Hillsong Church and have appeared on albums with Hillsong United worship band. Is it difficult to keep your solo material separate to that of the church or are you happy to let the two mingle?

That’s been an interesting tightrope to walk! To me, my involvement in church is the same as a furniture mover who moves people’s houses during the week but on Sunday helps put out the chairs for the morning service. Music is my skill and vocation so it’s how I can serve my congregation at home, but I have tried to keep it completely separate from my career as a recording artist.

Brooke Fraser 3You do a lot of charity work and you are a World Vision ambassador, how important is it to you to keep involved?

Very important. I have recently aligned myself with a great organisation called Charity:Water who build clean water wells in developing nations. During the initial tour to launch ‘Flags’ in NZ/Australia/USA/Canada at the end of 2010 my audiences gave $50,000 to my ‘birthday campaign’ for Charity:Water, so in October this year we’ll be heading to Ethiopia to be at the drilling of some of the wells that will be built because of my audiences’ generosity. To me, it makes everything worth it… however long the life of this album will be, we’ve been able to make a tangible difference in people’s lives along the way, and that’s a beautiful thing.

It’s been said that you were playing DoRayMi on the piano when you were two and you released your first album when you were twenty. Was there ever a time when you questioned if music was for you?

Never. Regardless of if things had ‘worked out’ for me in terms of a career as an artist, I know I would be writing songs. Even if this should all end tomorrow and I have to get a desk job somewhere, I’ll still write songs. I must. It’s the way I process the world.

You’ve had an amazing array of musicians play with you, do you still have the same live band or what can we expect to see in Dublin?

Dublin, you’re in for a treat! We are touring in the UK/Europe in a trio set up, which I haven’t done for a really long time. It’s been really challenging and fun to reinterpret/reapproach these songs in a stripped back setting whilst creating a dynamic set. I’m stretching myself more than I ever have in terms of playing and technology… you’ll see what I mean on the night! My husband had a killer cover suggestion that we’ve included in the set and I’m also playing a couple of songs I have never played live before this tour.

We would all obviously love to see you work on another album, have you any plans or what would you like to do when this tour is over?

I will get home from the road at the end of this year and I’m hoping for a couple of months off as I would LOVE to get rested and replenished and working on a new record! Hopefully we’ll be able to return to Ireland later in the year and play a show from this record once more, then the next time I’m back, hopefully it’s with a new record – that’s the dream!

Check out Brooke’s website, Flags is out now!