Stand Out Stories: In Conversation With Brooke Combe

Stand Out Stories: In Conversation With Brooke Combe

Sharing her own story, from music to influences, Brooke Combe is featured for our most recent In Conversation With edit. After going viral with her series of covers over lockdown, we talk to her about her story so far.

First off, talk us through the story so far. What sparked your interest in music in the first place?

I’ve always loved music. Growing up, there was no shortage of great music about the house. We’d listen to Motown, old-school R&B, soul, funk. So I feel like a certain love for music was ingrained in me from a young age. I just had a sense, straight off the bat, that I was being exposed to some amazing tunes. I was just in love. So I kept rolling with it.

Are you from much of a musical background?

I’m the only musical person in my family! My papa tinkers with the mouth organ and the guitar a little bit. But it’s only really me.

Who were your major musical influences growing up?  

Growing up, I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Marvin Gaye was a big one for me too. Diana Ross, of course. The big ones. We’re not messing about here!

Scotland is no stranger to social media musical sensations, and it’s safe to say you’ve had some experience with it yourself. Have you always seen the potential in platforms like TikTok and Twitter? Do you think they point to a new way of artists getting their music out there?

One hundred percent. Social media has it’s good and bad sides, don’t get me wrong. But it’s an incredible tool for promoting artists. It really helps build such a strong following, and it only takes one little spark to really get things going. Everybody uses social media in some form – so the potential is massive.

Can you give us a little insight into your experience of going viral? What was it like to become famous overnight in the comfort of your own home?  

I can’t lie, it was surreal. I uploaded ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ and within 15 minutes it went viral. It was a good feeling though; it was a bit of vindication. I’d spent so long doing all of these videos on Twitter and everything. Finally, one of them took off. And that’s what you want as an artist; that spark that gets things going. I’m really proud of it.

The gap between artist and fan has never been smaller. Are there challenges that come along with that lack of separation or are you good at switching off from it all?

It can definitely get a little overwhelming. Everything moves so quickly. But I have great friends and family to help me keep my feet on the ground. I have good people to talk to. I enjoy the social aspect of it all though. I love reading the messages of support. It feels so good to have people behind me. I’m in a really good place.

How would you define your musical style?

I’d say my style was soul with an edge. There’s definitely a rock n’ roll influence. A little pop element in the mix too. I like to mix things up without conforming to any one genre too much. It keeps things interesting.

I’ve heard you’re quite methodical in your music research – are there any specific movements or styles or artists that you find yourself continuously drawn to?

Oh yeah! Once I hit a brick wall with my own song writing, I like to deep dive into other artists as a way of taking my mind off things. One time I became absolutely obsessed with Fleetwood Mac. I was fascinated by their lyrics. Obviously, I already knew their songs, but once I got into their lyrics, I realised they were more like poems. I thought that was incredible. Just getting some insight into how they wrote, what they were about, really getting into the stories behind their songs. It really inspired me. It certainly helped me in carving my own path without worrying about the confines of a particular style or genre. Their songs taught me to enjoy the process.

Does that methodical approach extend to your creative process? How do you approach your song writing? Is it meticulous or off the cuff?

Usually, I’ll come up with the title first. I know that sounds weird, but that’s the foundation for me. That’s what gets the whole thing started. Sometimes I’ll even have friends send me title suggestions and I’ll see if that sparks anything. Otherwise, I’ll take a few chords and see where they lead me. It really depends; there’s no one set path and inspiration can come from the smallest things. That’s exactly what makes it so much fun.

I’m a bit of a night owl when it comes to writing too. I find it really difficult to write during the day, for some reason. It’s always when you’re laying in bed at night that thoughts pop into your head. I’ll shoot up out of bed at 3 am and grab my guitar and get the voice notes going. My mum, bless her, is so used to me doing that now.

How did you find your voice? Is it something you’ve had to work at? How has it evolved over the years?

I used to be really shy, so I’ve only really been singing for the last couple of years. I needed a bit of a push from my high school music teacher, but singing really helped instil a sense of confidence in me.

As for my voice, I still don’t even know if I’ve found it yet, to be honest! But I’m told I’m headed in the right direction, so that’s something. And I’m staying inspired and I’m staying true to myself. That’s what counts.

I feel like you can always learn something. That’s why I love finding new music. I love to see how other people sing, what other techniques they use. I like to try to adapt my techniques and try new things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s all about finding what works for you.

Talk us through the experience of suddenly finding yourself working alongside the likes of Miles Kane. What was the dynamic like?

That was both unreal and surreal! I love Miles Kane; he’s someone I’ve always looked up to. To be able to do a tune with him was just amazing. I went in and I was so nervous, but he was chill. It was a really good session and I learned a lot. When I’m in a session with these people I really look up to – Miles Kane, Charlie Salt, James Skelly – I’m like a sponge. I just want to learn all I can. That was one of those sessions; I’ll never forget it. He was really good to work with.

How did it feel to perform and record tracks at Parr Street?  How did the experience stack up against your expectations?

It felt pretty natural to be honest. I’d done a bit of studio work through college. But it definitely felt significant; like I’d taken the next big step in my career. Parr Street Studio was an incredible experience for me; it helped me grow as both an artist and a person. It feels like it’s a home for me now.

Parr Street has a fair bit of history – was there an element of pressure there?

I actually didn’t know too much about Parr Street before I got there. That was intentional to a point, as I thought that doing a little research would just crank the pressure up when I got there. I like living in the moment, going with the flow. If I think too far ahead, I get a little overwhelmed. So, I just wanted to take it in my stride. I knew I would have a good time, that I was in safe hands. I now know the prestige that the studio has. And I’m all the prouder to have laid down some tunes there.

By the same token Glasgow’s King Tut’s has had a few heavy hitters through its doors over the years – are you looking forward to getting stuck in yourself this summer?

Knowing what I know about the place now, I honestly can’t wait to get stuck in. Scottish fans are something else; they always give it their all. So I’m absolutely buzzing about that.

It’ll be my first gig and it’s completely sold out. I was nervous at first, but I’ve been rehearsing for the last few months and I’m feeling ready to go. Obviously, lockdown has meant that I’ve not been able to do any gigs – it’s been the monkey on my back. I feel like I just need to get it done and I’ll get the bug for it. I’m looking forward to it.

The King Tut gig hit a few delays along the way, how does it feel to finally have a solid date? How’s your mindset going into a sell-out gig?

I mean, it’s frustrating but there’s nothing we can do. We all know at this stage that it is what it is. Nothing is certain at the minute. It’s just a case of staying positive. I know I’ll get to do it either way, so it’s just a question of being patient. It’ll definitely be worth the wait!

How important are your Scottish roots to your musical style and sense of identity?

I love being Scottish. I honestly do. Even with everything that’s going on, with my music taking off, you come home to Scotland and everyone is just so supportive. Everyone feels like you’re theirs; they’re so proud. I love that about them. I just feel like we’re really united and I love that. Makes you feel like you’re a part of something and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Style plays a big part in both social media and being on stage. How important is the idea of style to you? Not just musically, but in the way you present yourself?

Personal style is so important. It’s a statement of who you are. I like to feel confident in what I’m wearing. I love heeled boots; they give me a certain strut, a poise and elegance that I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise! I like to look cool; a bit of a 90s girl group vibe going on. Love the shades, they’re quite important to me when I’m feeling shy.

How would you define your style? How has it changed over the years?

Comfortable, I guess? That’s a hard one to pin down on the spot. 90s chique? If you’d seen a picture of me ten years ago, I looked like a little boy with cornrows! I’m a bit of a tomboy, I guess. I just like to be comfortable. But I love being able to dress up and go out. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at pulling off both looks nowadays. But back then? Not so much. I’m grateful to have grown up a little.

Explore the collaboration between Brooke Combe and Juicy Couture now.

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