Interview: Brooke Fraser-Brutal Romantic

 

Brooke Fraser on music, marriage and being a creative artist living in the world.

Brooke Fraser on music, marriage and being a creative artist living in the world.

When Brooke Fraser was a student at Wellington’s Naenae College, she imagined that her love for words and storytelling would be expressed through a career in journalism. But that all changed after she met ‘Elemeno P’ drummer Scotty Pearson while on a trip to Auckland in 2002.

After hearing her play (Fraser was already and accomplished musician), he introduced her to producer Matty J. who became her manager. They recorded some demos and shopped them around. The interest from various record companies was immediate and after some thought Fraser signed a multi-album deal with Sony Music NZ.

Her first album What to Do with Daylight was released in 2003. It debuted at number one on the NZ charts and yielded five top twenty singles. Demonstrating her talent for thoughtful lyrics, a gift for melody and a penchant for powerful and uplifting choruses, the album established the basic template for what was to follow.

Albertine arrived three years later – an album forged through her experiences promoting social causes in Africa, in particular, Rwanda. Like its predecessor it was a huge hit in Australasia and broke through in North America, peaking at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

Flags was released in 2010 and was a sensation from the get go, with the lead singleSomething in the Water topping the charts in several international territories including Germany, the world’s 3rd largest music market.

After an extended period of touring, Fraser took time off to get married and then went travelling, searching for ideas and inspiration for new songs – a journey that has taken her and her husband from Stockholm to New York and finally Los Angles, the city she currently calls home.

Preparing for her new album she put aside her usual compositional tools, the piano and guitar, and applied herself to learning to write music on a computer, an arduous and exhilarating process which opened many new doors for her creative expression. “It was a bit like being a kid in a candy store with all these new sounds and beats to lay against my voice,” she says.

It was while in Stockholm when suffering from the flu that the ideas that would establish the themes for her new album took root. Lying in her bed, she was contemplating the forms of social interaction that have proliferated since the arrival of the internet when the songPsychosocial appeared fully-formed in her head. She sang it straight in to her laptop, some of the original vocals remaining on the finished album track.

The new album Brutal Romantic, co-produced by Fraser, was recorded in stages over the last two years in various London studios. With bigger beats and layers of synthesizers, there is a harder edge to her sound. She acknowledges that while some fans would prefer her to keep on making What to do with Daylight over and over, her instincts have always been to challenge herself and innovate rather than rely on a workable formula.

Fraser is part of a particular tradition of female Kiwi singer/songwriters that include Shona Laing, Sharon O’Neil, Bic Runga, Ladyhawke, Kimbra and Lorde;  women who have all forged unique musical careers.

She appreciates the opportunities NZ affords women – an encouraging society that she says makes no distinction between the sexes when it comes to career and life choices.

When asked about the explicit sexuality exhibited by many current female artists, in particular American performers, she says that while she is no prude, she is disturbed by the exhibitionism that many women feel they must resort to in order to sell albums.

Fraser recently attended the MTV awards in Los Angeles and was somewhat shocked by the overt sexuality on display. “I was the only woman wearing trousers in a room full of tiny skirts,” she says.

She expresses pride in the fact that for most NZ female artists, the music is first and foremost and that sexual themes are mostly explored with subtlety and depth of feeling rather than bombast.

Her musical career has been unexpected and largely unplanned and she has no concrete goals for the future other than to keep writing songs.

“I hope to record a new album sooner rather than later, four years between albums is way too long,” she admits. Her most pressing ambition at this point in her life is have a child and “add to our little family unit of two”.

She is enjoying married life and finishes our interview with a quote she picked up recently: “Marriage is being with someone who bears witness to your life and you to theirs.”

A state of union that she says has further enriched her life.

Fraser will be touring the country to promote her new album Brutal Romantic early next year, beginning March 20 at the Founders Theatre Hamilton and finishing April 1 at the ASB Bank Arena Tauranga.

Check out the full interview below:

 

 

 

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