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CQ Exclusive: Michelle Brooke

by Cindy M. Emch

It isn’t common for a new voice to land on the country scene with such a resounding thunderclap – but that’s exactly what Michelle Brooke did on October 18th with her dramatic and touching new single ‘Storm’ – which was recently spun on Nashville’s Lightning 100 and was named DJ Casey’s DJ pick! ‘Storm’ is a big song about a turbulent love affair with powerful vocals, passionate crescendos, and lush Nashville production, and it is absolute lightning in a bottle. I spoke to Michelle recently to get the exclusive Country Queer scoop on the song, how she got there, and where she’s going next.

Hi Michelle – how it’s going? I hear you just had a new single come out – how’s that feel?

It feels amazing! I’ve been living with this song for a little over a year, and I’m so excited to finally share this piece of my journey and my heart. I thrive off of human connection and finding similarities in shared experiences. I’ve been looking forward to sharing my story in hopes that folks can connect with the song and with me. I hope that people find themselves relating to the storytelling in this song, and it can somehow offer emotional support to anyone who feels like they’ve been through or are currently going through a “Storm” in their life. I’d also just be really happy if people liked to blast it and sing along in their car or the shower. That imagery makes me happy.

I heard a rumor that this song – which you wrote about a relationship that you had with a woman – is in a way your own coming out as well?

It is. You’re actually the first writer that I’m speaking to openly about this, and while it is a little daunting answering this question, it also feels like a big weight lifted off my shoulders. This song was inspired by my first relationship with a woman. I had always dated men, and having feelings for and eventually being in a relationship with a woman came as a big surprise to me. That relationship was a tough one to navigate, and it turned everything in my life upside down. It was like I had been living with someone that I didn’t really know for my entire life, and that person turned out to be me.

Michelle Brooke by Aleigh Shields

How hard was the decision to come out to your friends and family via a big hit single that’s going to be heard all over the world?

Wow, well, first of all, thank you for calling it a hit single, that’s
incredible to hear. I had spoken to the majority of my family before releasing the single, and they’ve been nothing but supportive, which I realize is a huge blessing. I don’t take that for granted. A lot of my friends don’t know that I’m bisexual, and to be honest, I’m really relieved that I finally feel comfortable speaking about my sexuality. Releasing this song was a big contributor to feeling at peace with who I am. I’m very supportive of my LBGTQ friends, and I’m happy to say that Nashville has an AWESOME LGBTQ community, many of whom are artists and musicians. We have a voice and a platform, and we should be using those tools to speak up.

You live in Nashville now, but originally grew up in Detroit… I’m a fellow Michigander too – from out near Brighton about 90 minutes from Detroit – how do you think your Michigan roots have led you down this path of being a professional singer-songwriter? Did you perform there much before moving to Nashville? Was the community supportive?

That’s amazing! I just raised my hand to point where I’m from on “The Mitten.” I attribute a ton of success I’ve had in my professional career to growing up in the Detroit area. I have a very musical family, and my parents and my grandparents introduced me to soul music, Motown, music theatre, and movie musicals at a very young age. I’ve been performing since I was about 5 years old, and I grew up acting in school plays and musicals, taking voice lessons and dance classes, and eventually forming my first band, Aphorism. I recorded my first radio commercial at WOMC, sang in countless bars and venues; I’ve got roots there. The support, love, and encouragement from my Michigan friends and family have been exponential in who I am as a person as a singer. You can definitely hear Hitsville in these pipes!

Charles Kelly & Michelle Brooke by Keith Griner

Since you’ve been in Nashville you’ve performed with folks like Dierks Bentley, Danielle Bradberry, LOCASH, Darius Rucker, Drew Holcomb, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Mark Bryan of Hootie & the Blowfish, Kristian Bush (Sugarland), Devin Dawson, and even had a FEATURED DUET with Charles Kelly of Lady Antebellum! How did all of that come about? Did you find it easy to get into the Nashville music community? What was that transition like?

I moved to Nashville in September of 2016 and quickly got to work. I was very curious about the music industry. Because I moved here, I fell so much deeper in love with music and how it’s made.

Moving to Nashville was a big leap of faith for me; I only knew a few people here. However, even knowing just a few people helped me become integrated into the incredible local music community. I tell people that it’s like a big spider web, it’s all very much connected. However, you have to be a nice spider who is determined to work very hard and get out there and support their local community and fellow spiders. EVERY single opportunity I’ve had in this town has been because someone spoke up for me and said: “You should hire this girl.” I’m building my business, and it’s because of my friends who continue to support and fight for me.

Also – here’s a cute post of me at The Ryman after singing there when I was 14!

https://www.instagram.com/michellebrookemusic/

Who have been your strongest influences as a songwriter?

That’s a tough one! If I had to narrow it down, I’d say Sara Bareilles and Chris Stapleton. Chris actually wrote “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” by Adele, who I also love. They’re all such eclectic artists and songwriters and have had a huge influence on me as a singer and songwriter.

Did you have a musical mentor that’s helped you navigate these waters?

Jordan Phillips and Adam Stark of the band Apollo LTD have been like family to me in helping me navigate the (sometimes dark) waters of the music industry. They are the co-writers on my song “Storm,” and they introduced me to my producer Mitch Dane, who I recorded the EP with at Sputnik Sound. Mitch helped me find my voice as an artist. These folks and others here in Nashville have helped me find a light in the dark.

What’s on your musical bucket list for the next five years?

Oh man. What ISN’T on my bucket list for the next five years?! I just want to keep working and keep making music. I’d love to tour (nationally and overseas), continue to write and collaborate with artists and songwriters in Nashville and in LA, release more music, and continue to find a healthy balance in life and art.

The song “Storm” is so good – when do you think you’ll be releasing a full album?

Thank you so much. My debut EP *Let the Light In* will be released in early 2020! I’ve already started working on a new record, so I’m excited to get my first EP out there.

Anything else our readers should know?

Thanks so much!!!

“Storm” is currently available on all music streaming platforms! I’d love to hear what you think, and hear your story about your Storm. You can keep in touch with me on Instagram (Michellebrookemusic), Facebook (Michelle Brooke), and Twitter (michbrookemusic).

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