“I’ve always just been interested in music – I just never had any other interests. People think it sounds really boring!” she laughs. Aged just 12, she wrote her first song. However, Brooker didn’t just follow the time-honoured tradition and sketch down some poetry in an adolescent diary then warble a tune into a mobile phone. Displaying the dogged determination that’s stood her in good stead throughout her rise through the music industry, she nagged everyone she knew in the hunt to find a producer. Eventually, she was put in contact with a guy who had a recording studio in east London.
“It was like a cupboard and he probably only turned a few knobs on and off. But I thought the whole thing was amazing – I played the song to everyone.” It was called ‘Summertime’ and it was, of course, rubbish. “After about a year of playing this song I was mortified and never played it again!” But having made her recording debut at the ripe old age of 13, a suitably inspired Brooker kept at it. She wrote song after song, hassling musician after musician, following up any sniff of an opportunity.
By the age of 15, she was hanging out in a studio complex in Hackney, working with different producers, trying to develop a sound. At home, her equally music-obsessed Dad played Aerosmith, Queen and AC/DC. Liking his old school rock with a side-order of R&B and hip hop – Brooker remembers being driven to school with her dad blasting out Tupac Shakur. Her Venezuelan mum, meanwhile, liked Fleetwood Mac, Prince and Latin artists such as EXAMPLE? To this day, Brooker – a fluent Spanish speaker – sprinkles her live sets with Spanish-language classics such as Contigo En La Distancia, by Juan Carlos. “We only speak Spanish at home,” she says adding that her plan is to record an entirely Spanish-language version of her debut album. Her parents met when her Dad’s family played host to foreign students. One day they held a barbeque.
A teenager, over from Venezuela to study English, turned up, making an instant impression on the local lad. When she returned home to South America, he promptly followed. “My dad’s a little bit of a stalker!” she laughs. But it paid off – aged 18 [is this correct?], the pair were married.
After four years living in Caracas [correct city?], the young couple returned to England. Throughout Brooker’s childhood, the family – she’s the middle of three children – would return to Venezuela for extended visits. This rich cocktail of influences – English, American, Latin-American – fed into the songs Brooker wrote throughout her teenage years. She didn’t have to work much at her voice: rich, expressive, soulful, it was a natural-born gift. But, candid to a fault, she admits she had to hone her songwriting. “I was writing all the time, and just trying everything – one day, I was doing a load of jazz, another day, rocky stuff.
Then I was doing lots of pop. It was just a bit of a mismatch – I didn’t know what I was doing, so I tried everything.” This included every aspect of the music biz. Brooker didn’t want to go down the talent show route. Not prepared to become anyone’s puppet, the idea of being a pretty face and a big voice fronting someone else’s songs and vision was anathema. So, determined to make her own sound and her own opportunities, she secured a concert booking agent, a US publicist, a lawyer, making contacts wherever she could.
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