User:Evan-Amos/Interviews/JoeBrooks

Interview Data
Subject: Joe Brooks
Date: October 4th, 2011
Format: In person
Recorded: Yes, audio
Length: Two hours

Interview TranscriptEdit

Growing up in Southampton and getting into musicEdit

Evan Amos – So let's start out the interview with some basics. Your full name is Joseph David Brooks?

Joe Brooks – Yes [Note: Brooks is not his birthname.]

Amos – You were born on May 18, 1987 and raised in Southampton, is that correct?

Brooks – Yes.

Amos – How would you describe Southampton to someone who's never been there?

Brooks – It's pretty much a regular city in England, as many are. I think it's cleaner than a lot of cities. There's plenty to do... there's music if you search for it. There's plenty of talent in Southampton, but there's nothing huge that jumps out about it. It has the old walls from the first World War, I believe.
The other thing is that the Titanic set sail from Southampton, which is like the thing that we're famous for: a disaster.

Amos – It's a coastal town.

Brooks – Yeah, it's got the ports. It doesn't have any beaches, it's all ports.

Amos – So it's like a cliff that just goes straight into the ocean?

Brooks – No, it's all ports, so there's just docks and ships. There's no real shore that comes up and goes back, you have to go down the coast a little further for that.

Amos – Can you swim in the water at all?

Brooks – Nooo, you wouldn't want to swim in the water at all, that's for sure. Again, if you go down farther you'll hit the beaches, but there's really nothing in actual Southampton. It's just old ships, which is cool. You hear the ships go at night, the foghorns and stuff; it reminds you that you live in Southampton.

Amos – Lighthouses?

Brooks – Uh, no... no. Not in Southampton, outside of. There's the Isle of White, but... uh... not that I'm aware of... it's... Sorry, I'm just trying to get my words out and it's been a long day already, but no, not that I'm aware of. Where I live is about 15 minutes from the docks, so I rarely go down there. It's pretty.

Amos – What did you parents do growing up?

Brooks – My dad had a haulage company, which is trucks, he ran that ever since I can remember. He started with one truck and built it up to quite a substantial size. Then it went bankrupt and now my dad fits kits for trucks to make them hybrid. It's really not very interesting. [laughs]

Amos – My parents didn't have interesting jobs, either.

Brooks – Yeah, so he's in the trucking industry and my mum was a teacher.

Amos – Music teacher? Elementary school teacher?

Brooks – Yeah, we call them primary schools, but yeah, just a primary school teacher. She now teaches autistic children. The amount of patience and the level of tolerance that she has and the willingness to better people with problems is unbelievable. Both of my parents are huge inspirations to me.

Amos – You've said that your parents started you on piano lessons when you were young. Was it something that they pushed you toward or did you just want you to try it?

Brooks – Yeah, they didn't push me at all to do any music. One day I remember running into my mum and saying, “I'd really love trying to play the piano” and that was it. They set up a few lessons and I took it for a couple of years. The trouble with piano lessons is that I was learning the classical piano and it was boring. I wanted to write, I wanted to make my own music, so I stopped that. I didn't take up any more music until I was 16, 17 when I was playing the guitar.

Amos – When were you having those piano lessons?

Brooks – When I was 10 or 11. So I guess that set me up in my mind, musically, to be able to understand music, I guess. It wasn't until I was 16 or 17 that when I picked up the guitar and decided to teach myself because I didn't enjoy my piano lessons and I didn't really want to go through that process again. You know, going every week and having stuff to learn.

Amos – Did you have a hard teacher? Would she whack your hands?

Brooks – No, no, no. I remember her, she was lovely. She was a good teacher, so she made me work hard. I didn't really want to work hard on classical piano. I was much more into pop.

Amos – Did you ever ask her to teach you a pop song?

Brooks – I think so, maybe. I really wanted to play jazz. As a kid, before I took up the piano, I wanted to play the saxophone. That was my dream as a really young kid, like 8 years old, I wanted to play the saxophone. I went to a local mall and saw this incredible saxophone player and then I really wanted to learn that. I remember going into school and saying, “I want to learn how to play the saxophone!” to the music teacher. I remember distinctly, this was exactly the conversation. She held up a clarinet (because you had to learn the clarinet before playing the saxophone, that was her rule) and put my fingers to it. She said, “No, your hands are too small.” That was it. There goes my career as a saxophone player.

Amos – But they have five-year old kids from Japan learning how to play classical instruments.

Brooks – Right, so she just didn't want to bother. You can't learn the saxophone because your fingers are too small for the clarinet. I never did get to learn the saxophone.

Amos – Did you have any good music programs through your school that you were interested in or could have used? You know, besides that experience.

Brooks – Um... I guess not. I guess not. That was my only route in school. Out of school, of course, you know, but a year or two later I decided that I wanted to play the piano. Yeah, but I remember that, the saxophone thing. I never talk about it in interviews. Don't know why, really. But that's good, because now it's out there that when I was first interested in playing music I just got the big middle finger. [laughs]

Amos – Well, you kept with it. Thinking about that, it seems that you're inspired to play instruments by seeing musicians do it. Who did you see playing the piano that got you interested?

Brooks – Yeah, for the piano it was seeing my mum do it, she plays the piano. She used to; she doesn't anymore. She was really talented. But she always went by, “If you're going to do lessons, get it done by someone else.” Don't get your mum to teach you, because the whole discipline of practice is there if someone else is teaching you and they're qualified to teach lessons. She was, she could have done it, but it was more of that there has to be a barrier between the teacher and the pupil. I stick by that. I don't recommend doing business with family. Family's family.

Amos – Have you ever tried to show your parent how to use a computer? You just end up yelling at them.

Brooks – You know what, this conversation comes up every now and again because it's universal, but I would never recommend anyone to go into business or do anything official with a family member if you can help it. It's great to help out your family and do stuff together, but when it comes to money and official business, contracts, managing me as an artist, I would never, ever want my parents to manage me as an artist.
However, I would absolutely go into business with my dad. He tour manages me in the UK now. He drives and does the logistics. We basically have the same mentality in everything that we do. He understands absolutely how I work and I understand how he works. He's the only person that I would ever do business with, inside my family, otherwise I would never recommend doing business with family.

Amos – You would never have your brother in your band?

Brooks – Uh... I don't know. He's pretty good at the piano. I would say “Yes” because he's very chill and my brother and I have an understanding. We know each other extremely well. We don't get into fights. We've never gotten into fights, ever, but... no, I would just recommend anyone to just stay away from that. I don't know. There's some great bands with brothers in them. Kings of Leon?

Amos – Yeah.

Brooks – They're like, what, two brothers and two sets of cousins?

Amos – Something like that.

Brooks – Yeah, some kind of incestual thing. I think that there has to be some amount of chilledness to your personality to be able to work with family, because you'd just be arguing the whole time since there's more than just business at stake. You're connected in far stronger ways, more intense ways.

Amos – Before the music that you started around 10, you were big into tennis and sports?

Brooks – I played tennis from the age of 4. I remember my first lesson distinctly. I took it on competitively and competed until I was sixteen. I played county level. I was pretty good.

Amos – Trophies good?

Brooks – Yeah, I used to have a lot of trophies and medals. I remember those days vividly. We traveled a lot and I spent four or five days a week training as an eleven or twelve-year old. I took it very seriously. At sixteen I just put the racquet down and said, “I'm done with this.”

Amos – Did you lose a big game?

Brooks – No. Sports are funny because you're only ever going to be so good. At sixteen I realized that I was never going to make it as a professional so my choices were to go and coach, so I went to university and studied coaching for one year. It was Coaching Sciences and Sports Development or something. My other choice was to be a professional.
After a year I decided that I didn't want to coach; I wasn't interested in it at all. If I was interested coaching why am I at university studying coaching? Just go out there and coach, you know? Just get your certificates and do it.

Amos – I don't know if I'm aware of many coaches that actually had degrees to coach. It seems like they really just start doing it or they're retired players.

Brooks – I guess my aim was to be a high-level coach, to govern other coaches, to run schemes and government stuff, be involved with the Olympics. It's not just the basic coaching. I always wanted to do something with sports and I had a dream of having my own leisure centre.
When I picked up the guitar later, though, I fell in love with it. I spent everyday, all day playing it. I was terrible at the guitar for the first year and a half. I saved up my pennies and bough a little 8-track digital recorder and I learned how to use it.
On a whim, I last minute chose to do Music Technology at college, which is the last two years of high school in England, age 16 through 18. I learned how to use the equipment and I recorded my own demos and put them on Myspace and that's where the story began.

Amos – So you had some professional training on how to use the equipment in the beginning?

Brooks – I wouldn't call it professional training, I was sixteen. [laughs]

Amos – Well, I mean you were better off to be going to school and learning about it, where a lot of people in a similar situation would only have themselves to be learning how to use their equipment.

Brooks – Actually, it almost worked the other way. I got the recording equipment and I started recording on it, then I went and decided that I wanted to study it. I actually had a little bit of a foot up when I started in college, because I already had my own equipment and had started using it. I was aware of how to plug in a microphone and press record, that stuff.

Amos – Were you using an actual sound studio to record stuff when you were in school? The demos that you put up on Myspace?

Brooks – Yeah, yeah. It was nothing spectacular. The year after I left college/university, they put seven million pounds worth into the building, with two brand-new studios and all brand-new Macs for the students. It was after I left, so I never saw any of that. I was using old PCs and some old Q-based (?) program that was terrible and there were three students to a computer.
But, yeah, absolutely, the two were hand in hand. I would be learning stuff at college and then going home. I didn't have a computer, just the digital recorder, so it was different, but the techniques were the same and that helped, for sure.

Amos – You've cited in the past that the inspiration for your playing guitar was from seeing Derrin Nauendorf at a local show when you were 16. After you got home from that, was that the first time that you actually picked up a guitar, or had you been playing around with it a little before?

Brooks – After that show was the first time I picked up the guitar and started playing. It just inspired me. I was like, “Damn, I want to be able to do that.” He was really phenomenal, a blues-root guitarist from Australia. My mum had this guitar in the attic and it was a classical guitar with three strings on it. I remember after a month of... doing nothing with that, when I was just trying to make melodies out of it, of getting a family friend to string it up and tune it.
At the same time I went to a festival called Soul Survivor, a Christian festival in the UK. I actually played there recently, it was a dream of mine. I went four years in a row to this Christian festival. It was the first time I ever learned a chord, somebody there taught me. I had never sung any kind of words because I was so shy. No one wants to sing for the first time in front of anyone; you don't want to look like an idiot. That inspired me, being there, we'd watch bands. I would unrealistically at the time imagine and dream of being on the stage at this festival. I learned how to play eventually and five or six years later I went back and went to the festival. We hardly got paid anything to do it, but I just wanted to go there and play since it was this dream that I had as a kid.

Amos – When you were growing up and around this time, did you try anything like plays or theatre? Anything that would have focused on vocals or singing?

Brooks – Yeah, I did one thing when I was eleven. I played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz at my little school. We had to sing in it and, by god, I was terrible. [laughs] I remember one point when I was on stage, and I was tiny -I'm quite small now- and wearing this straw hair and a hat... straw whatever, and we were singing a song from The Wizard of Oz. I remember being on stage and singing and thinking to myself, “This sounds terrible, but just go for it. Just sing as loudly and proudly as possible.” Even though there was four of us on stage and it was just terrible. Terrible.

Amos – Oh, no one cared. Your parents were out in the audience with a camcorder and-

Brooks – It was cute. It was cute, yeah, I understand, absolutely. They have that recording somewhere I'm sure. I understood that it was cute and we were eleven. I just remember that I didn't have a singing voice. I started playing the guitar at sixteen and singing a year after.

Amos – How did you discover or develop your singing voice? Figuring out that you had a voice that could actually sing? If I started singing it wouldn't take long for me to realize that it wasn't going to work out.

Brooks – Everyone has to start somewhere; it's perseverance, I think. If you really want to get good at it and, well, I think everyone has a singing voice. It might just be a matter of someone taking ten years to sound in tune and some people will take six months to have a good voice. For me, I had good pitch from playing the piano and starting the guitar, being a music lover as a kid. I listened to a lot of Bryan Adams. I had good pitch, it was just finding my voice.
I think after a year of just practicing and playing, six months to a year, I remember playing a song that I had written where I had went downstairs and just braved it. I told myself, “I'm going to sing a song to someone for the first time in my life.” I was really worried and scared. I sang to my sister and my mum. I went down, played, and when I looked up they were both in tears. It's an amazing memory for me. I remember playing to my girlfriend at the time and who is one of my best friends now, but afterward she cried, too. Maybe I'm actually quite good at this. Maybe I can do something with this. Maybe I can perform one day to people.

Becoming a Myspace artistEdit

Amos – How long does the bedroom phase last before you actually perform on stage?

Brooks – It was a long phase. When I actually performed I wouldn't actually call it a stage, it wasn't like a gig or a concert. I first played... two or three songs and one of them might have been a half song, one was a cover, Ben Harper's “Walk Away.” It was just me and the acoustic. I remember that I went up and started with that song and my mum and dad were there. It was a charity thing that my sister was running at the church we went to.
I just got up there to play, sat on a stool, and I remember my right leg was involuntarily shaking so hard that I couldn't control it. I was playing and my leg was just going out of control. I was so terrified. But I did it and so I give myself props for doing it. It probably didn't sound that great, but I remember my sister coming up to me and being like, “My friends were amazed that you actually sounded kinda good!” [laughs] It wasn't like, “You were amazing! You're going to be famous!” It was like, they were surprised that I got up there and sounded okay and entertained people. I didn't sound terrible. I didn't suck.
That's my first memory of performing. I was just absolutely petrified. I've had a lot of experiences since then: completely different environments, completely different audiences and different songs.

Amos – Did your performing and ability stay at that level for a while?

Brooks – Maybe... no, well, the internet played a big part. It goes hand-in-hand with being in my bedroom on the computer and the internet. I would go downstairs and get on the family computer and put things up. The viewers and the listeners would just grow, grow and grow.
I figured out how to exploit the system of Myspace where it was all about banners, of getting your banner on someone else's page. I realized that really quickly and made some really good banners. Before long I had a lot of plays on my Myspace. That helped me build this profile of playing at that level to then playing at bigger levels. Managers wanted to get involved.
I pretty quickly got my first big manager and I was playing to 2,000 people where I was opening with just me and my acoustic.

Amos – So you started your Myspace page on April 3, 2005.

Brooks – I did, huh. [laughs]

Amos – So that's very-

Brooks – Wow, how did you look that up?

Amos – It was on the older, archived pages of your Myspace.

Brooks – Nice, I didn't know you could do that. April 3, 2005? That's six years ago. Wow, dude. Fuck... That's a long time ago. How old would I have been?

Amos – You would have just turned 18.

Brooks – Yeah.

Amos – So around this time of starting the Myspace page, it looks like in Spring of 2005 you signed up for something called South Star Music? What is that?

Brooks – Umm... Well, it isn't much any longer, but that was my first manager. He's a friend of mine, good friend. Basically, the story is that I went around to this guy's house. I was looking around on the internet because I was looking to buy a compressor. I just found out what compressors were and I wanted one for my recording setup. The guy around the corner was selling one for £50. It was on eBay, so I went around to his house and I saw that he had a studio online, on his website. So I was going to his house and I was telling myself, “Maybe I could take a CD to him. Maybe I could take my guitar and play him a song. Maybe he'll be interested in doing some recordings.” I didn't have a clue how it worked. I think my naivety helped, because there's something to be said for being naive and just trying to get things done as opposed to over thinking things. Things like contracts. The world is just bogged down in things like contracts. Yeah, there's a lot to be said for just getting out there and doing it.
So I just went there and I took my guitar. I bought this compressor off of him and I played a Damien Rice cover, “Delicate.” It's one of my favorite songs. He listened to me and from that he wanted to record with me. He wanted to do something straight away. He said it was great, that I had a great voice and let's just get recording. After that I signed this agreement with him and it's probably in a filing cabinet somewhere in England. I got a lawyer friend of the family to look over it. He's actually a decent music lawyer. He's my second-cousin and he was part of Robbie Williams £80 million deal. He's a legit music lawyer and he's worked for Paul McCartney, stuff like that. I don't really know him at all but he helped me out and put me onto a smaller lawyer and they looked over it. They looked over this deal and management contract which was four pages long and we recorded my first EP in his shed in his back garden. It was all, literally, 200 yards from my house. We did M a y b e T o m o r r o w which was my first CD.

Amos – Can I ask you something, because I was trying to figure out the correct formatting for the title. Is it MaybeTomorrow as a single word or is it M a y b e T o m o r r o w with the spaces between all of the letters?

Brooks – Yes, it has the spaces between the letters and there's no extra space between the two words. I did that because, as a kid, if I do say so myself, had a phenomenal business and marketing mind. The reason that you brought that up because it was there, it was different. People asked about it all of the time. It's different and it stuck in their head. They remembered the name because of the way that they read it. I did it purposefully for that reason. I'm glad that you brought that up, because I had forgotten about that. It makes no sense at all and in the inside of the album you'll see that there's no punctuation, there's capitals, no stops. I don't believe so, anyway. It makes no sense, but it's there.

The other Joe BrooksesEdit

Amos – Since it came up, what about the name “Joe Brooks”? Did you think about your name in the beginning as far as branding? Because it's popular name and there's a lot of people called Joe Brooks.

Brooks – Yes it is.

Amos – There's another singer, too.

Brooks – There is; I've met him before.

Amos – You've met that guy?!

Brooks – Yeah... Oh! Not that guy! There was one who recently committed suicide.

Amos – Yeah, that's the Joe Brooks that raped all of those women.

Brooks – Right. I haven't met him. He goes by Joseph Brooks, mainly. So that's never been a problem. No one's ever gotten me mistaken with an 80-year old guy. People have gotten me confused with another Joe Brooks who's a singer. He must be in his late 20s or early 30s now.

Amos – He's got frosted blond tips, I think.

Brooks – Right. He hasn't put anything out in years but he won't take his stuff down. I have a trademark for Joe Brooks in the US. Legally, he doesn't have to take his stuff down, but he sells a bunch of records in the course of a year because my fans will buy it not realizing it and they'll post the review on iTunes saying, “This isn't what I wanted. Where's 'Superman'?” He's had plenty of people turn up at his gigs before and be like, “Wait, this isn't the right guy.” Or they're asking for “Superman,” so I'm sure he's had it rough. Well hey, I mean, equal competition.

Amos – You know who my favorite Joe Brooks is?

Brooks – Who's that?

Amos – The guy that broke the world masturbation record.

Brooks – [laughs] Dude, I reckon I could give him a run for his money. [laughs]

Amos – I had to figure out what that entails and-

Brooks – What were the rules?!

Amos – I don't know if there's a Guinness World Records guy there with a clipboard going, “1. 2. 3...” but it was quoted as being 36 times in 24 hours.

Brooks – That's ridiculous. How does... how does that even count? I mean, I guess obviously... by that time you've got nothing left. That's insane.

Amos – I'm not sure... I think that if a guy were ever going to pull off... multiples... in his life it'd be when he was15.

Brooks – Absolutely. Even so, I couldn't or wouldn't have been able to do that when I was 15. That's got to hurt. 36 times?

Amos – 36 times.

On being P.C.Edit

Brooks – See, I want to Facebook that, be able to update my status with that, but I'd get some crap if I did that. I got enough last night because I was at this secret Myspace concert last night at the Best Buy Theater and three acts were there. The Far East Movement opened and they're apparently this rap band. They sound a lot like the Black Eyed Peas to me, without any memorable moments. They did the “G6” song.
They were just abysmal. They were terrible. They were the worst band that I've ever seen live in my life. I was there with my fingers in my ears, and I'm never like that. It wasn't really appropriate. No instruments were playing apart from the drums. The drummer was awesome, but he was just a session musician, he wasn't part of the band. All they did was just get on stage and start shouting. “You say that, I say that!” There was no musical ability there whatsoever.
So I Facebook statused saying, “I'm at the Myspace secret show and watching the Far East Movement and they are terrible with a capital terrible.” Then I said, “Good job, Natasha Bedingfield (because she was up next) because she actually has some talent.” The crap that I got from my fans, though some of my fans were like, “Thanks for being honest. I agree with you. You've got good taste in music.”

Amos – So were half of your fans also fans of this band as well?

Brooks – I don't know. Some of them were like, “How dare you disrespect other artists in public?!” It baffles me.

Amos – I think that any time that you make a strong statement like that you're going to get a fifty/fifty reaction. Either “You're so right!” or “You're terrible for saying that!”

Brooks – True, true. Go google them live and go make your own mind up. I think that people's opinions are completely valid, but when people post... it seems to be in America, very much so, that you can't be anti-P.C. at all. In England it's allowed a bit more. It's that whole Simon Cowell mentality. If you're being honest you're being honest.
But one girl on Facebook was like, “It doesn't matter if you don't like them, you can't say that in public.” I was like, that's exactly the problem with society: you're not allowed to give your opinion without getting ridiculed for it. If you don't agree with me, tell me you don't agree with me. Don't tell me that I'm not allowed to say my opinion.

Amos – A part of that is negativity will only further breed negativity. There are times that I've criticized others or expressed my opinion about something, but then people only get all butthurt about it and then you learn that the consequences aren't worth making the statement in the first place.

Brooks – I don't think that I'm a negative person, but I think that people should be allowed to say what they think. I'm not a negative person at all. In fact, I'm a very positive person. But sometimes I think that the world of music doesn't need Far East Movement. That's my opinion. They have zero amount of talent and to me the song is dreadful, so... calling them terrible... I could have called them something a lot worse.
Also, I think that people should be aware that they're terrible. My fans should see it for what it is. They had zero amount of instruments live. They had a drummer and mics, that was it. They were all on stage just miming, with two or three guys just shouting stuff. There's no talent there. Natasha Bedingfield, she's got talent. My next comment was, “Wow, she's got a great pair of lungs on her.” She was effortless and her live vocals... she just never makes a mistake. Unbelievable. She did an incredible cover of “Purple Rain”. It was unbelievable.
That's what we need. We need people with talent playing and young kids coming up need to see talent. They don't need to see abysmal... you get my point.

Starting a music careerEdit

Amos – Okay, going back to earlier, you had signed with South Star at a young age and worked on and released MaybeTomorrow with them. Did this lead you to try and focus on a career around Southampton, becoming a local, playing artist, or did you mainly focus on the internet with Myspace?

Brooks – Myspace. I think that Myspace was able to give me more of an audience than Southampton could ever have, simply because it's a global reach, you know? So I was selling... when I released MaybeTomorrow, I sold more of those CDs in Australia than I did in Southampton. That's what really blew my mind: the possibilities. This was in... when did MaybeTomorrow come out?

Amos – March 7, 2006.

Brooks – Yeah, so this is 2006 and I'm just a kid in my bedroom selling records to Australia. That to me just blew my mind. I don't know when exactly you'd pinpoint the rise of the internet in the music industry, I guess Napster or somewhere around there, but to me that was just the beginning of the possibility of the internet for my music career.

Amos – You set up your first website, joebrooks.co.uk, around that time. Was that a website you set up yourself?

Brooks – Absolutely. I had a friend who set up the website, but I think I designed it myself. I've always enjoyed designing and I also designed my recent page at joebrooks.com. That was a big fight as well... not a big fight, but I had to be relentless to try and get a hold of joebrooks.com. It was difficult. It was owned by some guy, but I managed to get a hold of that. Yeah, but I think that joebrooks.co.uk just forwards to joebrooks.com now.

Amos – About how long after doing the whole Myspace thing and you start to gain momentum with yourself online do you start to get label attention?

Brooks – I had it before we even started recording MaybeTomorrow. I had Pauly North (?) phone me up and it was the first phone call that I ever got from the Myspace thing. I had my email on Myspace and this guy emailed me and I gave him my number. He phoned me while I was in the shed recording MaybeTomorrow. I told him I was working on this EP and so I went up to London a couple of times and met with a couple of different people. That's when I met up with my first big manager.
My first big manager I had met when I was about 18 and it was this guy called Tim Byrne. He had in his career at the time sold about 25 million records as a manager. He created the band Steps and the band A1 and both those bands just sold a ton of records. He found me on Myspace and I went in and met with him with my other manager at the time. I got out of my first manager agreement and went with Tim. He is now at SyCo Records and he's Simon Cowell's creative director. He's big time. He lives in LA so I still see him. I'm going to have dinner with him soon.
I can still keep in contact with everybody. Every name in the past, I'm still friends with, for sure. I think that's very important.

Amos – Besides Polydor, did you have other record companies that were trying to approach you, big and small?

Brooks – Of course. I had all sorts of production deals with different songwriters, deals coming from all sorts of areas that I would never consider doing a deal with. Everyone wants to sign you up as soon as possible when you're young. They want to sign a deal where they take a good chunk, so when the labels sign you and you make it big, they've still got that deal from when you were 15 and in your bedroom.
I've met a lot of sketchy people. The sharks that are on the cover of my latest record A Reason To Swim represent those people. The shark at the end of “Holes Inside” music video represents everybody who has tried to... everyone in the music industry who hasn't worked fairly. Someone who will take myself at 17 and give them a really dodgy deal. That's what it represents to me and A Reason To Swim are those reasons to keep going, to keep wanting to be successful. But those images represents everyone in the music industry that is a shark, basically.

Amos – Was it a situation where they tried to mold and market you as someone that you didn't want to be? That you wouldn't have creative control over the things that you were doing?

Brooks – Partly both. There was definitely times where I felt like I was going to be packaged as someone that I never wanted to be, like, per say, a “Disney kid”. Partly because the deals that were on the table, the biggest one at the time was from Sony/Epic. For the deal my lawyer was just like, “I would never sign this.”
It was the start of the 360 era, which is taking a chunk of every element that an artist has without necessarily contributing to anything apart from the record. A label will want to take 20% of, say, your merchandise. They're not going to make the merchandise for you. They're not going to pay for the merchandise for you. They're not going to sell the merchandise for you. The just take the 20% at the end. It really doesn't make sense.
What I'm seeing and what's becoming more common is that not only are labels trying to buy up companies or have bought up companies, so they're trying to facilitate those areas like merchandise and touring, by bringing agencies on board, whatever. Artists also have some leverage where labels are not the be all or end all anymore. I feel like if I was going to go into a record deal into the future I would hope that it would be done fairly. If they wanted a piece of “X” then they'd be able to contribute to it.
Yeah, so some of the deals were extremely dodgy and I didn't want to be packaged as something that I wasn't.

Amos – Around September 2006 you went to California to play shows. Was that your first time in America?

Brooks – I love these dates. When anyone asks me something I'm like, “I have no idea when it was.”

Amos – If you asked me something personal about when such and such happened, I would never be able to give you a good or specific time for it.

Brooks – Right, right.

Amos – So when I do research sometimes I'll pull things from personal blogs and that will give me a specific date or range, and it's better if I do that rather than trust what is sometimes a hazy memory.

Brooks – Yeah. So I went to California and I was in university. That was the first year that I was in university. I remember meeting up with an American... uh, what do they call them? Teachers? From American universities? Lecturers. An American lecturer who was from California and who I'm still friends with now. He actually put me in touch with someone that I could meet when I was there because I didn't know anyone. He told me all about California and the ins and outs.
So I decided that I just wanted to get out of just life. I wanted to explore and see the world, to get all of these experiences. I recommend anyone doing that. I recommend everyone to do that as soon as possible in their life, just travel and see the world. How old was I?

Amos – About 19.

Brooks – So I just took me and a guitar and I phoned up venues, “I really want to play there and I've got this following on Myspace.” I went and played coffee shops for, like, ten people with just me and my guitar. I played in San Diego. I flew up to San Francisco and I did a tour down to Vegas, through Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I went across to LA and spent a week in LA. I met another manager there who I ended up working with. I did my first photo shoot. They were all things that I just sorted out myself. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Focusing on AmericaEdit

Amos – Is that the point where you quit university?

Brooks – Yeah. I got back from LA and I just realized that this is what I wanted to do. I had a management offer in LA and so I went back out there as soon as I could. I can't remember when I went out there, but it was soon.
I would go out to LA and stay there for three months at a time. I wasn't allowed to stay any longer than three months without a visa. I'd go out for three months, I'd come back for a month, go back for three months. They really tightened it up so at one point I went out there and they didn't let me through immigration. Well, they did eventually, but they took me to another room and I was just shaking because I was really nervous. They were really intimidating to a 20-year old kid. I remember one immigration officer sat me down and was like, “We know what you're doing man! We're going to get you!” It was just insane.

Amos – “You've got coke in that guitar!”

Brooks – It wasn't even that. They thought that I was earning money and I wasn't. I just stuck to my story and I remained calm and confident and I managed to get through it. It was at that point that I realized if I wanted to come back to America I needed to get a record deal; I needed to get a visa. A visa is expensive; it's about $7,000. Fortunately, I then managed to go back and spend three months in America, then go back to England, sign a record deal out of New York and have them pay for a visa.
I remember also when I was 20 and I was in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Casino, because we went to go see Colbie Caillat play, because I'm a friend of Jason Reeves and he was playing. I was playing some blackjack. I thought you only had to be over 18 because it was an Indian reservation but it was 21. Throughout the night I got my ID checked like five times. At the end this lady actually checked it -because it was a British driving license and they didn't really understand, we do the date the other way around- so this lady looked at it and was like, “You're not 21, are you?” “No, I'm not.” The management came down and they just asked me to leave. I had like $300 worth of chips that I'd won, which I had my friend cash for me.
At 5:30 in the morning, that night, six police officers banged on my door. I was in my boxers and I opened the door, they all came in in their suits and they had guns and badges. They just asked me loads of questions. I think that they thought that I was some kind of terrorist because I was meant to be in LA, I had flown into LA and on my visitor's visa it said that I was staying in LA. I must have come up on some kind of computer when they scanned my ID in the casino.

Amos – Maybe because you were already flagged for having a lot of activity back and forth already.

Brooks – Right, right. So I was in Connecticut and it was right before I was going to leave to go back to England. But then they opened the door and saw that I was this skinny white kid with a guitar who was no threat to anyone and they left after ten minutes.

Amos – At least you didn't get arrested.

Brooks – That would have been the end. I asked the guy if this was going to go against me getting a visa or anything. He said no and it didn't, so whatever.

Amos – When would you say that you really picked up on playing at venues? I know that you did the touring through California and when you came back from that you went on a tour in England with the band Journey South.

Brooks – I did. That was through the manager that I had at the time who also managed Journey South and so we did a tour together. We played to 1,500 to 2,500 a night and it was just me and the acoustic guitar. It was a lot of fun and it was a great break for me, a really good break for me.

Amos – How much would you post to Myspace and YouTube around this time? I know that you posted music and videos, but a lot of it has been taken down since then.

Brooks – Yeah, I'm a big believer in keeping it fresh. When you search my name I don't want you to come across songs from MaybeTomorrow. I want the latest stuff. Videos that are irrelevant anymore and aren't going to get me anywhere I'm going to take down. I try to never have more than sixteen videos on my YouTube channel, where as some people have hundreds. That's just the way I like to operate.
I don't even think that my new EP is up on Myspace yet. That's saying a lot because it came out a month ago and we haven't even bothered to put it up. We feel that's how irrelevant it is now.

Amos – Yeah, do you really try and support Myspace at this point?

Brooks – No, they never helped me in any way. This is what happened to Myspace, in my mind, they were so greedy and they didn't want to share anything. You were never allowed to put a link on your page to the outside; they would just delete it. If you were trying to link to your Facebook or if you were trying to put a widget from certain sites. They were just greedy. They didn't want to share at all. They ended up dying. Facebook and Twitter always had these schemes where you were able to integrate the two and the language would be similar. They'd work together in a certain amount. Myspace never wanted to do that. They never wanted to help me at all. They were very greedy. Whatever happens to them happens to them.

Managers and record labelsEdit

Amos – How did you end up meeting your current manager, Ken Krongard?

Brooks – He was at J Records. He had a joint venture with his company at J Records. I flew out to New York with a different manager --I've had five managers and Ken has been the longest one by far and the one that I truly trust. We're friends and it's a good relationship.
I was with Jesse McCartney's mum, who was managing me at the time. We're still friends. Like I said, I always keep a good relationship with these people, but it just didn't work out. I had came to meet with Atlantic where an intern at Atlantic was interning for a guy that had brought me out there, an A&R guy. The next day I had met with Ken at J Records. It turns out that the intern for Atlantic ends up working for Ken and she's my day-to-day now. That was a long time ago, three or four years ago. Maybe longer actually. It was longer than that. From that point, when Ken scoped me out he really liked me. We kept in touch for a year and it wasn't until a year after that he started managing me.

Amos – So Ken helped you to sign with Lava... well, before that, have you always been seeking out deals with records labels? Is that something that you've always been active in pursuing?

Brooks – You never count it out, but right now we're not. We're considering it. We could do it in certain markets. I signed with Sony in Korea and I signed with Sony in Malaysia. Right now the independent route is kinda doing fine. There's going to be a bunch of labels at the show tonight but you never know. You just never count it but you're never desperate for it.

Amos – So what made you decide to sign with Lava Records, finally?

Brooks – The deal just seemed right. Jason Flom had signed some of my favorite acts. He signed one of my favorite bands of all time Matchbox Twenty. Universal Republic had a good track record of radio so that kinda worked for me. In my mind it was the best of both worlds going with Jason Flom, with having the attention of him and having the backing of a big label like Universal.
But it turned out that I didn't really get the attention that I wanted. I didn't get the financial backing at all that I needed. It's one of those boring old major label stories. We made a record and they didn't promote it at all, then I got dropped.
The irony is that I just released my independent EP this month and we've outsold the record that I did on Universal.

Amos – When you were dropped from Lava did they just bring you into a room and saying something like, “You haven't met your sales and-

Brooks – No, no. They didn't bring me in. I phoned them. I phoned him. I'm a very direct person and I have good relationships with everybody. I still have a good relationship with Jason Flom. I speak to him on the phone about once a month about something. He recently sponsored me to go to China. He helped finance the trip. I did a marathon to raise money for my trip to China. He put some money in for that and he's a good guy.
But I just phoned him and asked, “Are you dropping me?” “Yeah.” We had a conversation about it and he said, “If you need me, just give me a call, but it hasn't worked out this time.”
Lady Gaga got dropped. George Michael got dropped by several labels. It happens, it happens. To be able to move on as an artist you've got to understand that and realize that my time with Universal is over and I didn't have to deal with them anymore. That was a positive thing.

Amos – But does it still affect you on a personal level? Did you cry or get depressed about it?

Brooks – No, no. In fact, the day that I got dropped was a very... I couldn't feel anything but relief. All I could feel was freedom. I had my wings back again. I could go and do it independently and do what I wanted. I didn't have to go through the label and have this big burden hanging over me, just weighing me back. As a small unit we can move so much faster. You don't necessarily have all of the contacts or the clout that they have, but we can move a lot faster and we can change a lot quicker.
We turned around this recent EP in a manner of two months, from beginning to end, whereas the whole album took almost a year because we had Universal. It was a relieving day just knowing that I had control back. That I was able to now go and do whatever I wanted. So, no, I've never cried about being dropped by Universal.

Putting out albumsEdit

Amos – Okay. Moving on, it's been about five years since you've started your music career and in that time you've put out one full-length album. Is that something that you've wish you had more to show for? Or was it something more like it took you four years to be able to make that full-length album?

Brooks – I think that every artist needs time to find their voice. I've put out four records in my career, two of them were starter-kind-of-thing EPs. One of those was a back-of-the-shed thing and the second one was like an acoustic thing. Those two EPs were to get me to the stage of a major label. Then I did my first album on a major label, got dropped, then I released this independent record A Reason To Swim, which I feel is by far my best. To me it shows where I want to go as an artist and... what was the question again?

Amos – The question was more of, do you want to be putting out full-length records out every year or more often?

Brooks – Oh, right. I'm quite happy to put out two EPs a year. I think that the market has moved away from the album. Albums are being sold now anyway for $7.99, which is so cheap. To me it's not about how many songs, it's about price points. People don't want to spend $13 anymore on music. It doesn't matter how many songs, they don't want to spend $13 on music.
No one wants to listen to... well, I don't think no one, not everybody, but no one really wants to listen to fifteen tracks anymore. They would much rather spend $6 or $5 and get six songs. So my train of thought is that an EP has six songs on it, we release it for $6 on iTunes, which is a dollar or two less than a lot of 12-song albums. So it's just a price point. If you can keep it at that price point and release two EPs a year, you've got $12 there. It's the same as releasing one full album a year, but people are much more willing to spend more for the same amount of songs.

Amos – So are you producing songs at the volume to be able to now make two EPs a year?

Brooks – It took two months to do this recent album but a lot of it had already been written and so it was a matter of re-recording a few of them. I think that my aim now is to try and put an EP out, probably, by March of next year. I would then do another one this time next year. Maybe a Christmas one, who knows?
I think that the idea now is constant content. You have to find a reason to stay in the limelight. People get desperate, Lady Gaga gets desperate, like, “I'm not in the limelight anymore! I've got to be doing this, I've got to be wearing this or putting out this outrageous video.” It's all about constant content. So I think part of that is breaking up the album into two, making two EPs. That will give you two bouts of promotion as opposed to one.
Another thing that we're thinking of doing is putting out an EP, but every two weeks putting out a song from the EP. The first three songs from the EP would be released as singles. One song, then two weeks later you do another song, two weeks later you do another song. On the fourth bout you release the rest of the EP. You complete the EP and you spend three bucks. All they're spending is three bucks at maximum. Anyone will spend three bucks on something, but no one will spend twelve bucks, but they'll do three bucks. It's 99 cents for that song, 99 cents for that song, 99 cents for that song and then three bucks. How cheap does that sound? You're still spending six bucks, though. Yet you've kept the promotion period for two months, as opposed to one. It's a ways of thinking about it.

Amos – You know, I want to just say that I've interviewed other artists and you're easily the most business-minded artist that I've ever talked to.

Brooks – Thank you.

Amos – A lot of them are like, “Oh, my focus is just the music.” Where you're like, “I'm selling it!”

Brooks – Which is fine. I know that Jason Reeves, who's a very good friend of mine and I love him to death, but he's definitely more of a creative mind and is such a music person. I too absolutely adore music, I wouldn't be in this if I didn't enjoy music. My favorite time ever is being up on stage and performing. I'm freaking in my element up there, dude, I love it. We just played Vienna, VA at Jammin' Java and sold it out. There's nothing better than being on stage performing and interacting with the crowd.
I think that if you're going to make it in this industry without being parented by either huge management companies or a label putting a lot of money behind you is becoming more and more rare by the day. That's if it's not extinct. So you've got to be willing to understand the business side at least. You've got to understand how contracts work, understand how a team works and to try and change and move with the industry. That's why I'm still with the industry; so many people come and go. The music speaks volumes, don't get me wrong, but you've got to back it up with knowing how to market something.

Amos – Something that I wanted to go back on was that you said that you were managed by Jesse McCartney's mother at some point? How did you met up with her?

Brooks – Yeah, Ginger McCartney. I met her through a photographer who had shot Jesse. We went to dinner and she's lovely and adorable; she's really sweet. So I became good friends with her and then I met Jesse and went on the road with him. I did six dates with him and the Jonas Brothers. They're great guys as well.
But it just didn't work management-wise because we had different ideas. We remained friends, but the management deal never came to fruition. Through that I met Ken.

Amos – You said that you've had five managers in the past few years. Is that turnaround because you might get antsy or expect something to happen by a certain time?

Brooks – No, I think that you've got to... it's similar to what I said about Ginger where you've got to... it's like a marriage. The manager that you're with, you've got to talk to a few times every day, like on the phone or whatever. You're constantly planning or working on something with them and it's got to be a perfect match. You have to trust them through the nose; I trust Ken implicitly with everything. If finances come through, if he's handling it, then I know that it's taken care of. I'm going to see what I should see from it.
To me it was very important to find someone who's going to be in it for the long run, who really believes in me and will work their balls off for me. Ken is that person. It's not that other managers sucked, not at all, it's just it wasn't right. It wasn't right.
And like I say, I have the phone numbers and the contacts of every one of my old managers and we keep in contact and in good spirits.

Trying out actingEdit

Amos – Another thing that I wanted to talk about is that right now you've been involved with acting and auditioning for roles.

Brooks – I was.

Amos – Was?

Brooks – Yeah, the beginning of this year I was. The trouble is with that is that if you want to do something well, you want to be successful, you have to dedicate a lot of time to it. When we came to making this record and doing the pledge campaign, putting it out, I had no time for studying or learning lines for auditions at all. I been thinking that I could go back and start doing that at the beginning of next year, when I've got some time or something.

Amos – When you're doing that and going to auditions, are you in a room lined up with eight guys that look exactly like you?

Brooks – [laughs] Yeah, it's like a clone factory, being in those waiting rooms. It's quite funny. Yes, absolutely. The funny thing is that for me going into those waiting rooms, I just have a confidence where I'm like, “Thank goodness that this is just a hobby. Thank goodness this isn't it.” Whereas everyone else, the majority of them are just actors. For them this is the be-all-end-all audition, or the next audition, or the next job. Whereas I can be like, “At least this is my secondary thing. I'm not going to be too bummed if I don't get the role.” Obviously, I'm going to try my hardest and I take it seriously, but I have that in the back of my mind. So I have that in the back of mind where I'm quietly confident and thinking that I'm going to go and do my best, and if I don't get it it's not the end of the world. I'm not desperate.

Amos – Does the interest in that start from just living in LA and being in that type of industry town?

Brooks – Yeah, partly. Another thing was because I signed with ICM as an agent and they introduced me into the acting world. The next day after I signed with them as a musician they sent me to an audition, which I knew nothing about. I knew nothing about the acting world, nothing about how to act. It was for an American-speaking role and I couldn't do the accent, but I went in there and they said that they were actually looking for a 17-year old Keith Richards.
So I went back and auditioned for this young Keith Richards role. For three months they said that they were going to offer me the role, from my first audition. Then they ended up deciding that I was too old to play 17, I looked too old, and that they were going to offer it to someone else. That was a tough day. I did not enjoy that day because I was really excited about being in a film. It was only a small part. It was the opening scene of a film, but I was playing Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones at 17.

Amos – Was it a speaking role?

Brooks – Yeah, it was full-on. The movie would have opened and I would have been the first person speaking in the film. It would have been awesome. The film is still being shot, or I think that it's in post-production. It's by David Chase and he wrote for The Sopranos. It was big time, a Paramount movie. I was so excited and when they told me it was no I was just so disillusioned by the whole thing that I was really pissed.

Amos – That would make me want to go see the movie and the actor who replaced me. I would track him down, clutching my fist.

Brooks – I want to see how good he is. Absolutely. I want to see what he looks like and how he is in it.

Amos – “He better look five years younger than me!”

Brooks – Exactly. I don't think that I... well, maybe I don't look 17 but I don't know if I look 24 either. I'm somewhere in between that.

[This session ends, another session picks up a few hours later.]

Record label woes and If I Can DreamEdit

Amos – So I imagine that one of the advantages that you get with signing with Lava Records must be the level of production that you get for your music, with things like getting a music video or access to more resources. Was this your experience for your first major label?

Brooks – We had to push hard for the music video, but... yeah, we did get it in the end. I'd say that that was the best thing about being on a label, it was the single best thing, was having a music video made. That gave me the most exposure out of anything I had ever done. It's content that stays there forever. Yeah.

Amos – One of my favorite things about the video is that it had Giglianne Braga in it from If I Can Dream. I'm not really aware of anyone else who watched that show, so I was surprised to see the connection. Something that's interesting about her doing the video was that it was never brought up on the show, which you think they would have done.

Brooks – Right. It was going to be, but I'll tell you why: Universal took so long to sign the release that it was too late. So it didn't air on the show.

Amos – Well, it would have to be pretty quick, because the show is only a week or two behind when it airs, since it was mostly occurring in “real time.”

Brooks – Yeah, it took them like two weeks before they even put their signature on the paper to release the footage, so they could use the footage on If I Can Dream. It was too late.

Amos – Did the whole crew come-

Brooks – Yeah, yeah, yeah. They came and filmed it all. When you're working with a sloth like Universal then it just takes forever. It takes forever.
But Giglianne, I'm a huge fan of hers. She's not only stunningly gorgeous but she's also really sweet. We had a lot of fun.
Also, I actually went into the house.

Amos – The If I Can Dream house?

Brooks – Yeah, for like one evening. I went in and played some foosball and drunk some beers.

Amos – Did you ever follow up or know what happened to the show? It just ended very abruptly and they threw all of those people out on their asses.

Brooks – You can guess why. The show didn't do well at all.

Amos – I think that it's a weird format for a fully-produced show to be online only.

Brooks – They were trying to sell it to Fox. The idea was that they were going to put people in the house and that they would build it up online, with the interest of taking it onto the TV. It was never interesting enough. Simon Fuller, whose idea it was and who I went to meet, he offered it to me. I was the first person that he offered a place in the house to. This was two years before it went on the air.

Amos – I had heard that this show was in planning for a long time.

Brooks – Yeah, it was called something else back then. It never came to fruition because it took so long that I wanted to get on with my career. They wanted to manage me, they wanted to do everything. I didn't want that. But I have full respect for Simon Fuller, he inspires me a lot in my career as a business man, versus a musician.
There was too much integrity in the show. I like integrity and I think that it's good what they tried to do, in the fact that they tried to show people with talent and how tough it is in Hollywood. They tried to show them making it there. The trouble is that the show didn't have enough drama and it didn't have enough of these scripted events. These scripted reality shows, they're scripted for a reason, because it adds drama and adds a storyline. So because the show wasn't scripted there wasn't anything interesting going on.

Amos – The impression that I got from the show based on how it was presented and edited, I guess, was that none of them were... great at what they did? It would show them not following through on things, not practicing, they were constantly getting rejected or getting involved with all of these things that just went nowhere.

Brooks – See, that's actually a very realistic view of Hollywood. That's how it works. Not only do you get rejected 99% of the time but you... a lot of people don't put the work in that's needed. I didn't watch the show, so I can't say that they did or they didn't, but that's how it goes in Hollywood. It's exactly how you described it. Although, saying that, they were paid in the beginning to be in a house full of cameras. That doesn't usually happen. It's tough, Hollywood, and they showed it for that.

Reality television and record label hesitationEdit

Amos – Speaking of these TV shows, what do you think of these reality music competition shows like American Idol? A lot of them came from the UK originally, like X-Factor and Pop Idol.

Brooks – And before that there was Popstars! But, yeah... I think that ultimately... it just killed the industry. It's... there's been a second wave of... you know... ugh... Napster killed the industry and I feel that the reality format has done as much to kill the industry as Napster did. The fact that... um... I don't know. I don't know. It's a tough one. I just don't like it.

Amos – Did you not like it from the get go? Were you ever tempted to go and audition when you were younger?

Brooks – No, no. I was never tempted to go and audition. I didn't dislike watching the shows, it was entertaining, but at the time that it was first out, I didn't realize what it could do or what it was doing to artists. There's a lot of times that artists don't get the recognition they deserve and yet there's all of these people that go and try out for one of these programs... that end up being, even if there is talent, they conform them to something. Each week they have to sing... maybe it's “Prince Week” or whatever. I mean, what serious artist would go on... what serious artist with any unique features or unique voice, their own thing, would go on and do ten weeks of singing different covers each week, where they're singing “Britney Spears Week.” To me that's not... you're not going to find anyone unique and interesting in that setting, because you're conforming them down to the most mainstream and moldable type of artist.

Amos – I think that you can find unique people but that the process they do... their uniqueness might not come through with that.

Brooks – Absolutely. We've seen it though with like Daughtry. The second-biggest selling album on Idol, I believe, and he came in fourth. He was interesting, he couldn't do “Britney Spears Week” or whatever. I just... they just make so much money out of them. It's a gimmick. That's all it is.

Amos – So there's this undercurrent of hesitation and mistrust with record labels-

Brooks – I think “hesitation” is a better word. I think “mistrust” is... there are good record labels out there.

Amos – Well, I would say that there's mistrust for good reason, when it comes to contracts and record labels. I have certainly heard of and know of stories where artists get screwed by deals that they don't know what they're signing.

Brooks – That wasn't the case with me. I don't regret signing the deal with Universal. You can never see how it's going work out in the end.

Amos – I would say that you ended up in a good spot with your deal. Though I would also say that you've had deals offered to you that would have screwed you.

Brooks – Yes! That's correct.

Amos – You avoided them.

Brooks – Yes, and Universal didn't screw me. I don't regret signing it. You never know what's going to come out of it, but I think that “hesitation” toward major labels is correct. “Mistrust” I don't know, it's a case-by-case.

Amos – Well, I bring it up because of the Idol stuff earlier and I just wonder if that hesitation is just about control of yourself as an artist.

Brooks – No, I think that if you fight hard enough you can get artistic control. It wasn't necessarily about that, it more about the business model. It's why would you put X amount of money into someone, make a product and then not promote it. Why would you put zero amount of money into promoting it?

Amos – What kind of promotion were you seeking for Constellation Me?

Brooks – Something longer than a two-week push for radio. That's all we got: a two week push for radio. More than one music video, more than one single. We got zero... through the press, we didn't really have a press girl. We did, but she... the trouble is that they've got a million artists that they're working on. I'm at the bottom of the pile.
We didn't get one review. We didn't get one rating or one interview. We didn't get any of this. No magazines, nothing. We got a few blogs online, but that would have been nice to have some interviews and some promotion. A longer push for radio. Some money to put into touring. I got zero amount of money put into touring. I had to do all of the touring myself off my own back. These are things that promote an artist and promote a record. They didn't do any of them.

Amos – How many of your tours have you actually set up by yourself?

Brooks – Well, what do you mean? They've all been funded by myself.

Amos – Earlier you said that you would actually call up people and say things like, “Can I play here?”

Brooks – That's when I was 19. I haven't booked my own shows since then. Now I have a booking agent or my manager has done it. It's still self put together, in terms of my manager doing it. If my manager books it it's still “do it yourself.”
I got dropped by ICM. No... I didn't get dropped, we parted ways. It was more of a mutual thing with them. It was about... the middle of this year. They were booking my shows and my auditions. They were great, and I liked them a lot. I still like them, but mutually it wasn't working.
You know it's funny, because I have been... I started out as the independent kind of thing, a Myspace/bedroom musician. I was signed by one of the biggest labels in the world, signed by one of the biggest agencies in the world. I had one of the biggest business managers. I had a big lawyer. Then I lost it all. You know, everyone... [laugh] they give you a five month window when the record comes out, or less, then that's it and they're out. Development isn't a word I would use for the industry right now.

Charity and becoming a volunteerEdit

Amos – One of the things that I wanted to go back to was in the past you've done things for charity like going to Africa with Habitat For Humanity, what prompted that?

Brooks – I've been brought up as a Christian, and I think through that I've been brought up to see that charity is a good thing. Where helping where you can is a must. I feel like my future, I want to be heavily involved with charity work and I feel like that's going to be a big part of who I am.
It was something that I wanted to do, something that I've always wanted to do. I wanted to go to Africa and I knew that I wanted to have that experience of helping. I knew the problems over there. Everyone as a kid has seen the pictures. I wanted to go see and check it out for myself. I think I was... 19? I went with my dad and it was an amazing experience. It was the first time I'd ever experienced something like that. It really changed my perspective.
As soon as you come back to America or the UK, it's so easy to just forget about what you've just experienced. I've done some bits and bobs after that, but then it wasn't until this year that I said, “I've got to do it again.” This industry is so self-involving, being an entertainer, it's so like, “You are the brand. You are the name.” It's so self involved; I had to get out of that for two weeks, at least.
I'd heard about the orphan problem in China. With China being the next superpower, I wanted to go and see it for myself, check it out and see what the culture is like. I wanted to see what I can do to help in the two weeks that I'm out there and hopefully follow up after that. I went in recently and did that with “Bring Me Hope” and it was phenomenal, the best two weeks of my life. It was awesome.
I not only met some incredible people, but the experience far outweighed the one that I did in Africa with Habitat For Humanity. When there's children involved there's just an innocence that really touches you. I looked after this seven-year old kid for a week and he was just so appreciative of me spending time with him. We bought him some clothes and got them out of the orphanage and gave them time and love. It was amazing.

Amos – I think that kind of stuff is definitely worth while and if you have the opportunity to go to a place that's completely foreign, you should, especially if it's with a program.

Brooks – I ran a half-marathon to raise money for that, which was just unbelievably difficult.

Amos – Was it just running?

Brooks – Running, yeah. I almost died. It was ridiculous. At 13 miles I was like stumbling and dribbling.

Amos – How long did you give to prepare yourself for the marathon?

Brooks – [laugh] Like a month. I maybe ran six times in preparation. I had only got to 8 miles in my longest practice run, so I was really nervous.

Amos – You must have fucked yourself up.

Brooks – Yeah.

Injuries and health insuranceEdit

Amos – That actually leads into another thing: you've had two injuries in past year or two, from falling down or something like that.

Brooks – Yeah. I've had two quite recently. I tore the ligaments in my right ankle within maybe three months of each other, the same ankle, the same ligaments, within three months. At Christmas time I was playing soccer, I went in for a tackle and I tore the ligaments in my right ankle. Then I was playing soccer, I didn't play for three months, then the second time of playing again... it was just weak, I wasn't ready. I had stood on a weak patch of grass and it just gave away and my ankle rolled and it did it again. It was just excruciating. It was so painful. I have to take it easy from now on.

Amos – How does health insurance work out with a record label? It must be different dealing with an injury like that in America versus what you grew up with in the UK with the NHS.

Brooks – It was actually kind of fortunate, because I've also broken my ankle before as well. That ankle was just not in good shape. It's fortunate that, because I had dealt with it before, that I knew exactly what had happened and I knew exactly that they're not going to do anything about it. They're going to wrap it up and give you crutches. They can't mend it, it's not like a broken bone. They're not going to put a cast on it, they might just strap it with some whatever.
I didn't use my insurance. I didn't have any money so I didn't want to...

Amos – You just home-remedied it? Got some Ace bandage and wrapped it up yourself?

Brooks – Yeah. I was on crutches. You put two big socks on it and you keep the weight off of it for a couple of weeks until you can put a bit of weight on it again. My girlfriend came and picked me up, she dragged me to the car. I knew exactly what happened.
But I hate the idea of health insurance and the US system of how... you know.

Amos – Yeah, just the idea that you would not go to the doctor because you know it would cost so much money, whereas if you were in England you would have just gone to the doctor that afternoon. You would have just done it.

Brooks – Absolutely. It's way different.

Amos – You have to think about it when you're in the moment. “This could cost me $10,000.”

Brooks – It's a difficult subject, but-

Talking to a fanEdit

[interruption as a fan comes up to Joe during the interview and speaks to him]

Fan – Joe Brooks?

Brooks – Yeah? Hi!

Fan – Hi, I'm Elisha! I'm coming to your show tonight!

Brooks – I hope you enjoy it!

Elisha – I will. I love your music. I'm a huge fan.

Brooks – Cool, thank you! Thank you very much.

Elisha – We just got here.

Brooks – How far did you travel? Do you live in the city?

Elisha – I'm actually up in New York. Not too far.

Brooks – Upstate New York? That's cool. Well, I hope you enjoy the show.

Elisha – I will, thank you.

Brooks – I'll see you afterward, yeah? We're going to be signing and stuff.

Elisha – Really?

Brooks – Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Elisha – My cousin actually just saw you in Massachusetts.

Brooks – Oh great, in Boston? Nice.

Elisha – She drove out from Connecticut for that.

Brooks – Good report?

Elisha – She said she loved it. I'll leave you alone, I have to go. Enjoy your food!

Brooks – Great seeing you.

[end of fan interaction]

On fansEdit

Brooks – I have the best fans, I really do.

Amos – Part of the research that I did was that I looked at some of the fan tumblrs where they just post fifty thousand pictures of you.

Brooks – Yeah. Honestly, they're the most polite, well-mannered music lovers. They love listening to music. That's key, that's so paramount.

Amos – I notice that you have a lot of international fans as well. When you were doing an interview with Fearless Radio in Chicago she was taking questions and she was getting a lot of them from around the world. “When are you coming to Brazil?”

Brooks – Yeah, that's the power of the internet. That's what gets me so excited and keeps me going as a struggling artist. The power of being able to reach a huge audience online. When we did the pledge campaign, we sent out to 22 countries. We did 49 states. It's just so spread.
It's a shame that we can't get all of those people into one stadium, you know? [laughs] That wold be awesome!

Amos – Do you have stronger concentrations of fans in certain areas? You recently did the media tour in Asia, and it seems that you've got popularity in Korea.

Brooks – My biggest two online fanbases are the Philippines and Malaysia, by far. It's by a long way. I have like six or seven times... ergh, yeah, about five or six times of how many there are on the online community in New York for me. It's huge.

Amos – That's weird, because I've seen the Philippines and Malaysia thing come up before. I know that certain artists that have been on American Idol can have an okay following in America, but they're huge in those countries. Someone like David Archuleta.

Brooks – Yeah, absolutely.

Amos – You saw Kris Allen recently.

Brooks – Yeah, we were at the same festival. We saw each other and took a picture.

Amos – You've also seen Jason Mraz. Did you ever see him past that time at the show you were at together?

Brooks – I've seen him a lot of times. I've seen him perform, maybe six or seven times. I've been at lunch with him, had a beer with him. I've meet him maybe four times. He's a really, really cool guy. I like him a lot.

Design & non-musical interestsEdit

Amos – You did the art for your newest EP and you've been involved with stuff like that in the past. You said that you did your website. You've made your own font.

Brooks – Absolutely. Graphic design has been my second passion behind music. I just did some graphics for Jason Reeves for some promotion that he was doing. Their graphic guy pulled out and our manager asked me, so I did that. I love Photoshop and visual art, like I'm a fan of photography and graphic design.

Amos – You know what my favorite pieces of art are? Those really cool tour posters where it's done like real art. On the walls of my apartment I have various tour posters framed up really nicely.

I feel like a lot of artists don't do them that much, it seems to be more indie bands that have this style of tour poster done.

Brooks – That's because indie bands have more say or they do it themselves. If they're going to outsource it they're going to outsource it out to who they want. When I had tour posters done by Universal they just got sent to me. I didn't have a say. Luckily they came out pretty good.

Amos – Did you have input into the design and layout of the Constellation Me album?

Brooks – Yeah, absolutely. I worked with a guy called Joe Spix who really did a great job I think. The idea was just to make it a little eccentric, the inside and stuff, make it British. Make it with lots of colors, a feel-good style.
For Constellation Me I love the dot-to-dot. He came up with that. It's cool.
But I much prefer A Reason To Swim artwork. I found a 17-year old photographer, her name is Felicia Simion, she did that picture and I added some color and photoshopped a little bit, added the sharks. She is just so talented and her photography is unbelievable. For a 17-year old Romanian girl it's unbelievable.

Amos – Was it easier back in the day when you could just be on Myspace and have that single platform? You are probably on, what, six different sites now? Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.

Brooks – It was a lot easier. I wish I had gotten on Twitter and Facebook earlier because I was still relying on Myspace and I didn't do the switchover until later. I feel my twitter followers could have been a lot further if I was there when Twitter exploded. It was a lot easier back then, but now there's a lot more options. I like that it's not controlled by one site. Now sites have to be a bit more on their toes since a site could always come and blow them away, if they're not offering a good enough service in this area.

Amos – How much of your time as an artist do you actually have to spend on promotion?

Brooks – All the time. My day begins with logging on to the computer and logging on to my sites, and it ends with logging off my sites. Or keeping them logged on and just going to sleep. Between that there's always things like studio, this and that, whatever, but it always begins and ends with that.

New album plansEdit

Amos – Have you started work at all for your next EP?

Brooks – I've started writing it, yes. I have a strong idea in my mind of what I think I want to it to be like. A nice evolution, musically. We'll see.

Amos – Do you think that you'll be doing something like another pledge drive to fund the next album? Like what you did with the last one?

Brooks – I don't think so. I think that idea is still a bit of a novelty, however amazing I think that it is. I don't think that you can do it for every album. It kind of wears off, the freshness of it. Probably not. We'll probably find another way of funding it.

Amos – Where does the majority of the funding actually go to for the album? Is it just the literal recording of the album, like the studio time?

Brooks – About 70% goes to it. We did a video. I saw no profit from the pledge campaign.

Amos – So I think that we're good for most of the questions at this point. I know that we've been at it for a while. Have I forgotten anything?

Brooks – Did we talk about Korea?

Popularity in Korea and wrapping upEdit

Amos – We touched on it a little, but I did see that you recently went to the top five in the music charts there.

Brooks – Yeah, I went to number one on the international chart in Korea with the independent EP. I signed to Sony and licensed it through Sony. We went out there and we did five-star hotels and limousines, Vogue magazine, Vogue Girl, Nylon, Dazed and Confused, all of their media outlets. I did a press conference with their national TV station. I sung for this hour special. It was pretty insane.

Amos – It seemed like you had more promotion for that than you did for Constellation Me.

Brooks – Yeah. I'm licensing it through Sony. It's just whether if they believe in it or not. If they believe in it they'll push it and put money behind it. If they don't believe in it they won't.
I don't think that Universal believed in me, where I think that Sony in Korea did. So, that's the difference.

Amos – Did you get that feedback during Constellation Me when you were recording it? Did you send them the songs and then they'd give you the feedback about what they did and didn't like.

Brooks – No one has any balls, so no one wants to tell you exactly how it is, they'll all dance around it.

Amos – What do you mean?

Brooks – No one wants to, well again, we're going back to the P.C. thing. No one wants to piss off the artist. No one wants to say, “We don't think that this is good enough. Let's go back to the beginning.” Saying that, you build certain relationships and through those relationships you understand what's going on. We re-recorded “Superman” five times before we got the final version, and the final one was the most simple.

Amos – I feel that your “Superman” song is almost like your Jason Mraz “I'm Yours” song, where you have that song for years and it's this big, popular song.

Brooks – Yeah, hopefully I'll have another. There's plenty of fan favorites, like “Holes Inside” is one of them as well. You'll see it tonight and they sing every word to it.

Amos – Have you ever tried to write a song with that commercial aspect in mind? “This will be the lead-off single.”

Brooks – Umm... yeah, absolutely. You always have that in the back of your mind. Not always, but during the process of making a record you have in the back of your mind that one of them needs to be a little more accessible than the rest, on the first listen. That's about the extent of that.

Amos – Do you write a lot of songs?

Brooks – I don't. I know that artists do. It's something that I'm going to try and do more of, but I tend to just write a little more than I need to for the album. When I have enough that I like I'll use them.

Amos – Talking to artists, it seems that it's split between people who basically write just an albums worth of songs versus the ones that write 40 songs.

Brooks – Yeah, it's-

[interruption signaling the end of the interview]

Amos – Well, it looks like we're going to cut it here. I wanted to thank you for taking the time and I hope you have a great show tonight.

Brooks – Thank you. It was great talking to you.
Last modified on 15 February 2012, at 20:17