Interview | FFS 5 with The Brookses

Photo by Mia Yakel / Courtesy of Baby Robot Media

The debut LP from Atlanta-based father-daughter folk duo The Brookses, Lucky Charm, is the culmination of a decades-in-the-making partnership, harnessing and presenting an energy that could only be borne from family bonds. Between Jim’s experience in the Atlanta music scene–having performed with acts ranging from Kelly Hogan (Neko Case, Drive-by Truckers) to Michelle Malone—and Meg’s narrative-driven songcraft and soulful voice, this album’s blend of timeless folk themes and rich, lively production lends itself to a masterful recording born from the hearts and minds of two seasoned music professionals.

For Folk’s Sake recently was able to pick these minds for a brand new addition to our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ interview series…

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

The Brookses are Meg and James Brooks, a father/daughter traditional folk and country duo from Atlanta, Georgia, and we have been playing music together since Meg was a child.  Our family first settled in Georgia more than 200 years ago, so the music and culture of the American South are in our blood, and we come from generations of musicians steeped in that tradition.   Blues, jazz, gospel and classic folk and country all have their roots in the South and we live and breathe that influence in our music. James has been part of the music scene in Atlanta since the 1980’s, playing and leading some of the top blues and jazz bands in the city; Meg started her musical career just a few years ago, becoming known as a singer/songwriter on the folk scene.  Writing songs and creating a band together has been a labor of love celebrating our family bond as well as our love of traditional music.

As artists, how do you define success?

Primarily, we want our writing and performing to feel part of a timeless quality – if you listen to one of our songs, ideally we would want it to feel just as at home in the 1940s or ‘50s or ‘60s as it would today.  Songwriting is fundamental to us, and we think of ourselves first as songwriters and then as performers – we try to craft songs that have real meaning and musicality that tie back to the traditional songcraft of classic country and folk music, but still feel contemporary.  Success for us is having an audience that understands our ties to the past but appreciates that we are contemporary musicians creating new music. And success to us is having lots of opportunities to perform live, whether it’s in a small club for 100 people or a festival with an audience of 10,000.  We’re not just a recording act, we believe that live performance is a sacred tradition of music; the interaction and chemistry with the audience is part and parcel of making real music.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

Without question it is the constant balancing act of trying to put real time and energy into creating and performing our music while holding down day jobs so we can pay the bills.  It’s tough at the end of a long work day to re-energize yourself to write or go play a gig, but our love of the music and of playing together always seem to help us find that second wind!  

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as a band? What do you hope to achieve?

As singer/songwriters, we love performing our own material, but a dream of ours would be for us to get wide enough exposure that other artists might hear are songs and record them.  As live performers, we want to be able to grow the band to the point where we can tour regularly in the Southeast, the US and perhaps even do some limited European touring. One thing we particularly enjoy is playing music festivals, so we really want to have the opportunity to do that on a regular basis.  

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

We are both avid readers, especially of fiction and poetry, and we also love live theater; being exposed to how other artists express themselves and generate ideas helps feed our creativity and informs our writing and how we find our way through the world.  And on a more personal level, we have lots of extended family and friends in Atlanta – we both love to cook and have people over to hang out and relax, it keeps us grounded. And of course, at the end of the evening, the guitars and fiddles and banjos come out!  

Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jonathanfrahm)