A modern torch record, Michelle Brooke’s new EP Let the Light In gets into the intricacies of love and loss with soul-infused style and aplomb. It’s neo-R&B with a big, beating heart, and doesn’t shrink from confronting the pain of those relationships – those matters of the heart – that define us. But the pain is balanced with optimism, making Let the Light In a record about light and dark, desire and regret. Now a Nashvillian who has shared the stage with notables like Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, Brooke is currently an integral part of the famed house band at Nashville’s celebrated Lower Broadway venue Acme Feed and Seed.
You can hear the experience: Michelle brings serious vocal and songwriting chops to her latest release. Michelle has indeed found her place in the hyper-competitive Nashville music scene. In 2019 alone, she sang background vocals for a multi-artist benefit show at the Ryman Auditorium, learning 30 songs in two days for the event. This super-professional versatility, and Michelle’s well-honed musicality as a singer and songwriter, informs Let the Light In.
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?
I grew up in West Bloomfield, Michigan. I got started in music because I was born into a very musical family. My mother is an amazing singer, my father is a guitar player, and all four of my Grandparents had a very special bond with music. My Grandmother loved Elvis, and my Grandfather was a violinist. I followed in his path, and even though I haven’t played in awhile, I have a great understanding of music and theory because of it. I’m very lucky that my entire family has supported my decision to pursue this roller coaster of a career. Growing up, they attended every play, dance recital, orchestra concert, cabaret, and drove me to dance classes and voice lessons. I didn’t realize until later in my adult life how monumental it was to be born into my family.
As an artist, how do you define success?
I’ve been a songwriter/artist for less than 4 years, but I’ve been pursuing music my entire life. I am still considered “new” in Nashville, but I’m chipping away at what feels like the world’s largest mountain. To me, success is a feeling of strength, confidence, and movement in my career. I had a show last night, and there were a few people in the crowd mouthing the words to my song back to me. That’s a wild feeling, and also an incredibly validating one. The 7 piece band with me on stage didn’t know each other until we rehearsed and played together, and now we are going to be connected in each others lives and surely make music together again. I love cultivating relationships through music, performing my original songs on stage, and knowing that I’m setting the building blocks in place for a long career to come. Right now, that feels like success to me.
What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?
My greatest struggle is staying true to what I want to say and represent as a creative without caving into “what’s popular” or what I think everyone wants to hear. Creatives are sensitive, and we tend to be people pleasers. I’m always making sure everyone in the room is comfortable, and if I ever feel that’s starting to translate into what I’m producing creatively, I have to walk away. Knowing where “the line” is, is a struggle I think that most people in the music business feel.
What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist? What do you hope to achieve?
Right now, I’m without management, a label, a booking agent, or agent of any kind for that matter. As an independent artist, we now have the tools to do a lot of things on our own, but that’s doesn’t mean that we should. My plate is very full as I’m trying to do the job of probably 20 + people, and my goal by the end of this year is to have a team in place. I’m releasing my debut EP in April, and what I hope to achieve in doing that is for people to get to know me a little more as an artist, and know that I’m someone to fight for.
Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?
I’ve actually gotten so many ideas from the Barre3 fitness instructors at the studio I go to in Nashville. They’re incredibly motivational (and scary), and there have been so many times when I run out of the room to go type something into my phone that they’ve said. It could be something as simple as a little phrase that just clicks with me. They also play great music there that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to hear. The title of my upcoming EP was actually inspired by a teacher there named Charo Bishop. Let the Light In is out everywhere music is streamed April 10!
Words by: Jonathan Frahm