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A New York Minute with Musician: Brooke Waggoner

Behold the spark of magic that is Brooke Waggoner’s Originator. Madly bold and fearless, the album’s dramatic force is a testament to her years of classical training. A natural composer, her songs are often tiny flickers that burst forth into wild flames at unexpected moments.

Her music is lyrically agile, balancing a literary sensibility with a desire to speak clearly. Originator operates on a grand scale, and yet has moments of almost prayerful solemnity that seem incredibly personal. Waggoner’s brief hiatus from music has erupted into an album worth the wait.

NYMM: When did you start playing music?

BW: From the beginning. I come from a musical family, and I have more of an influence and fingerprint in the classical world. I started out as a young kid on the traditional route; a lesson a week with a piano teacher, practicing 30 minutes a day. I feel like I took to it pretty fast and it always felt like second nature. I didn’t get into songwriting until I was around 9 or 10. That was the missing piece for me – to be able to get creative in a way that was not just performing. I went to college and wanted to do film scoring, and ended up studying orchestration and composition.

NYMM: Nine is pretty young for most songwriters.

BW: I started learning to read music around the same time that I started learning to read words. So the language of music was already there. My mom showed me how to learn by ear also. Fortunately, I was so young that I found some of the sounds and melodies that I liked before I got exposed to a lot of other music.

NYMM: How did songwriting change as you got older?

BW: In college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with writing. I’ve always enjoyed cinematic music and learning how an orchestra works. However, I was never fully committed to that path. I’ve struggled between the poles of very serious classical music and fun pop songs. I finally decided that I didn’t have to pick one.

NYMM: Where did the inspiration from Originator come from?

BW: Lyrically the content came from the middle space of wanting to start my own family but still feeling like a child myself. I was starting to picture myself in a more maternal way, and making that leap into adulthood. A lot of it is about trying to maintain some sort of innocence, while immersing myself in the speed of life.

NYMM: How about one of the songs off the album?

BW: “From the Nest” was a melody idea that I recorded and later decided to flesh out. I usually mess around on the piano, and start with phonetic sounds that I like, randomly singing things as I’m playing. I start to hone in on what the content will actually be about from there. What was on my mind, at the time, was that idea of taking flight from childhood to adulthood, but never feeling fully adult. I don’t think anyone ever really does. You age, but you still maintain all the phases of aging.

NYMM: What has changed for you since the previous album?

BW: My last one was basically a classical record. After releasing that, I took some time off. I think I started losing my way for a little bit. I went from putting out a lot of music, to stopping altogether. It was a weird time. I was newly married and trying to figure out how to do it all and what I wanted to say. It was a phase where I didn’t have anything to say, and I’d never gone through that before. Instead of just putting something out, I wanted to sit in that for a while. I didn’t want to put out anything that felt halfway done. Then I got really excited to write again, and decided to put everything I could into this album.

NYMM: How do you measure success?

BW: Building something that has some longevity. My livelihood comes from the music I make and I get to be creative for a living. It’s incredible to me that people are interested in what I’ve made. I’m really fortunate to get to do this for a living. I’m very happy. There have been a lot of ups and downs in the last six years, but when I step back, I can see growth. And that’s what matters.

You can find more Brooke Waggoner here:

You can see the music video for “Squint” here:

Photos by Jon Karr

Title Image Source by Jon Karr

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