Queensland-based singer-songwriter Brooke Lambert has recently released the single ‘I Don’t Wanna Hate You’, after an EP last year and ahead of a new release in 2019. As I found when I spoke to her, she is passionate about country music, constantly creative and diversely talented. Brooke will appearing at the 2019 Tamworth Country Music Festival – dates below, after the interview.
You live on the Gold Coast and I’ve noticed that a few country music artists are moving there – there are a few on the Central Coast of New South Wales as well, but you come from the Central Coast originally and you’ve moved to Queensland.
I was born in Gosford but my mum and dad were driving up, literally moving from Sydney to the Gold Coast, so I didn’t have a choice. She pretty much popped me out on the way up. But in terms of everyone else, I know with Queensland and the Gold Coast, especially with the Groundwater Festival being so successful, country music is getting really big in Queensland now, which is why I think everyone’s heading up here. And, let’s face it, it’s a great place to live!
Are you finding that more venues are opening? Or are the venues that are there friendly to country music?
More in Brisbane, I’d say, than the Gold Coast. Everywhere I play people are pretty open, but I think in terms of a Saturday night out, people on the Gold Coast don’t really want to hear country music [laughs].
Groundwater seems to get bigger and bigger every year.
I think there are a lot of country music fans on the Gold Coast and there’s nowhere for them to go and see it, so when that festival’s here, because it’s a once-a-year thing, everyone really comes together.
I’ll now backtrack to when you were growing up – what did you grow up listening to and what had the most impact on you?
We got the Country Music Channel on Foxtel when I was a kid, and I always wanted to be on that channel. I don’t know what it was but country music, I just love it. I remember ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Leann Womack – I used to watch that video over and over again, so that was a huge influence. I listened to a lot of Keith Urban and Adam Brand, the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain – I just love it.
You can never really quantify the impact that something like CMC has on a career, but it’s great to hear that basically you’ve gone into country music because of that channel.
One hundred per cent. I remember being absolutely glued to it – my parents would have to turn it off. The fact that I’m on it now is insane, because it’s something I used to sit and stare at and think that it was never possible that they’d play my music videos. So that’s an awesome feeling.
It sounds like your parents were not country music people.
Dad kind of was and then he went off it a bit. And I got stuck with it.
I also saw in your bio a quote saying, ‘From a young age I was intrigued by the power of words and imagery’. Apart from listening to music did you also love reading books or listening to other sorts of stories?
I’m a big book reader and a big storyteller. I’m obsessed with the way you can tell a story with your words. I used to write poetry and about eight years ago I picked up a guitar and realised I could write songs.
Did you ever think you might tell stories a different way? Or once you picked up the guitar that was it?
Honestly, I’d love to be in comedy – I’m animated when I tell stories. I love music so much and I never really thought that I could sing, and then I got into it. But, yes, once the songwriting started it’s never really stopped and it’s literally what gets me through everything, so I;m really glad I found it.
When did you start singing?
In 2010. I always wanted to sing but I thought I was really bad. Then one day Mum heard me playing in my room and she said, ‘Was that the radio or was that you?’ And I said, ‘I’m so sorry, I’ll keep it down’, and she said, ‘No, it actually wasn’t that bad! Show me that song.’ I played it and I remember showing my sister and asking, ‘Is that okay?’ and she said, ‘You’re actually good!’ So I got into it from then. I think my voice has matured a lot over the years but I’ve never had any lessons or anything. It all just happened – it was really random.
I reckon most of the singers I’ve spoken to haven’t had lessons, and that’s not at all a bad thing. Sometimes the only point it trips them up is if they end up with problems on their vocal cords because they’ve been forcing it out.
I didn’t want to lose what made my voice a bit different. I’ve always had this feeling that if I got lessons I’d end up sounding like everyone else. I wanted to keep that personality that came naturally. But it probably would benefit me to do it.
You mentioned comedy – when you play live, do you talk a lot between songs?
[Laughs] I do. Not a huge amount but I like to. Sometimes I don’t even try – I’m just very honest and I just say things that people think and they just fall out of my mouth, and that seems to get the crowd going and laughing, which I really enjoy. I just like making people laugh. And I think they relate because it’s real.
You have an example in Beccy Cole in terms of how country music can work with being funny, because she’s funny every single show she does. It’s not necessarily from the same source as yours but the audiences really enjoy it.
It’s always good. Even when I see other people play it’s good when they tell the story about the song they’re about to sing and it’s a little bit funny and they say, ‘And then I wrote a song about it’, you have that intel on the song and you can relate and get involved, rather than watching someone sing their album front to back.
When you’re writing songs, do you tend to note ideas as you go or do you like to do the song completely when you have the idea?
Because everything I write about is real stuff that happened to me or that I’m going through, I’m not one to sit down and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to write a song about this.’ If I’m going through something, even if I’m talking to a friend about it, I might say something and think, That’s a good song title, then I’ll sit down and write out how I’m feeling. A lot of songs I’ll write all at once in under half an hour, some songs I might write the chorus and I might add to that in a couple of weeks. It depends on what I’m going through and how I’m feeling.
You’ve already had enough songs to release one EP, out last year, and you’ve already recorded another EP.
We’ve finalised the tracks but I’m still writing, saying, ‘I really want this one on there.’ I’m currently in the process of wondering whether to chuck a couple of extra songs on there, because I can’t stop. Once it’s finalised that’s when stuff needs to happen and you write your best songs – it’s just a weird, annoying thing.
I think you have six tracks on your first EP, so if you add a couple that’s pretty much an album.
It was going to be an album and I dropped it back to a six-track EP, and now I’ve written some more stuff and I’m wondering if I want to make it an eight-track album. It’s all in the works – but you know you’ll get at least six tracks out of me [laughs].
In this age of streaming, as an artist and a songwriter do you feel like you have more flexibility in what you do with your releases?
Definitely. I’ve been thinking that even if I do the six-track EP there’s nothing stopping me releasing the other two songs a little bit later. You don’t have to make it like it was when there were only CDs and it had to be all on there and that was it. So you definitely have those options, which is really good.
We talked about Groundwater but you’ve also played a few other festivals – do you like the festival stage?
I do. It’s really cool because there are always people who may not have heard of you and they’re seeing you for the first time, so you get to meet new people. The atmosphere of a festival is really cool – heaps of people, and because they’re country festivals these people have come out to see country music, which is awesome because you know they’re all going to relate and enjoy it. I’d love to play Gympie and CMC so I’m playing as much as I can and hopefully I’ll get onto one of those stages.
Of course, Tamworth is coming up and you have three shows with Josh Setterfield, at the Longyard and the Tudor. Do you already know him – is that how that’s come about?
Yes, Josh and I are good friends and his manager had an idea of us doing a double headliner, so instead of a main act where someone opens, we split the show in half. Josh and I get along really well, so I’m really looking forward to those, and I have a bunch of solo gigs and songwriting stuff as well at Tamworth, so it’s going to be a big one, I think. Usually I have two or three things, but this year it looks as though I have something every day, which I’m really excited about. My new single’s just come out and my new EP will be out a month or two after that, so it’s a really good time to show some of the songs off that.
When you have that kind of schedule, though, do you have to take measures to protect your voice and your energy levels?
I haven’t don’t it yet [laughs]. This will be the first time I’ve had Tamworth completely full. But I have accepted that there will be a little less partying this time and I’m going to need some sleep. This one will be focused really heavily on the music and making sure my show is good for everyone.
Your new single is ‘I Don’t Want to Hate You’ – what is the story behind that song?
That’s about when you’re in a really toxic relationship and when you get out of it all you can think about is the good stuff like, I’m going to miss thisand He was so amazing. It’s not until you get to that anger stage of the grieving that you realise, Actually, we didn’t get along that well – you were pretty horrible to me. So the whole time you were in that relationship you were looking at it through rose-coloured glasses and it’s not until you’re well and truly on the outside that you look back and think, I don’t want to hate you because I loved you for however long, but I kind of do because now I can see who you really are.
When you’re dealing with strong emotions, do you find it takes a long of refining of the lyrics? I suppose as a songwriter you have to step back from your own experiences a bit and get to the point where you can describe them to other people. Or do you go with what comes out the first time?
Pretty much go with what comes out. I do try to write my songs so they’re not cliched. I’m not a fan of listening to a song and knowing what’s coming up – you know, when you hear those lines that have been used before. So I try to steer away from that and keep it as personal as possible because I then when you keep it honest to yourself your story’s not going to match someone else’s story, so therefore it is going to be a bit different. I just try to keep it as honest as possible.
Were you a really creative child? Did you write a lot of stories?
Oh yes. I’ve always been creative. I’m actually at uni at the moment studying animation. I was always writing or drawing or making things. But songwriting’s obviously my favourite thing to do.
It’s very interesting that you’re doing animation because that’s not usually a group of skills that go together: that visual acuity along with words.
Everyone’s saying, ‘Why are you doing animation? Why aren’t you doing music?’ I’m already doing music – I don’t think I need a degree in it. So I thought I may as well use the opportunity to do something else I’m interested in. It’s helping with my music career as well, because learning Photoshop and that kind of stuff is helping me promote my music and do the marketing myself.
Saturday 22nd December – Rivea Italian Dining – Broadbeach, QLD
Thursday 24th January – Tudor Hotel (w/ Josh Setterfield) – Tamworth, NSW
Friday 25th January – The Longyard (w/ Josh Setterfield) – Tamworth, NSW
Sunday 27th January – The Longyard (w/ Josh Setterfield) – Tamworth, NSW