Singer-songwriter Brooke Waggoner defies genre. She can swing wildly between pianos instrumentals, folk-pop and dark melodic music over the course of one album. Her latest, Sweven, explores aging as an adult reflecting and as a child experiencing wonder.
Brightest Young Things: I read that Sweven features songs written as far back as your childhood. Why revisit that music now?
Brooke Waggoner: There seems to be something pure in pulling from a place in time that’s “innocent” and untouched by outward opinion. I wanted this album to have threads of my past to enrich the topics I wanted to address about aging.
BYT: I think this album does a fantastic job of capturing the feeling of wonder– particularly reflecting on it as an adult who was once a child. What does wonder sound like to you?
BW: It sounds otherworldly and mysterious, submerged under a bed of spacious texture. A place of awe where don’t have answers to all of your questions.
BYT: This album seems to trace the process of aging as it progresses, starting with childlike songs, kind of pivoting into realities of adulthood somewhere around “Sweven” and then later “Adults” where this is actually addressed. Would you consider this a concept album?
BW: That’s an interesting observation. I wouldn’t call it a concept album in the full sense of what that typically implies, but I did have topics and concepts I knew I wanted to address. The pacing of the album comes more from the sonic side and less from the lyrical content.
BYT: It’s bold to include both an instrumental track (“Egg Shells”) and a spoken word track (“Cherry-Pick”) where you are the voice at the forefront of the rest of the songs. Why did you include these two on this album?
BW: I wanted characters and added texture on this one. I wanted to treat the human voice like another tool in the toolbox. A true instrument and not just “I’m the singer / face of the project.” It added dimension to include sound bites and spoken word along with instrumental tracks. That’s the stuff I get into when listening to records – those unexpected moments that glue an album further together.
BYT: Your ability to switch between grand orchestrations to acoustic folk to dark, almost art-pop is astounding. Do you think your lack of adherence to one genre is because you haven’t found a singular one that suits you yet (in your personal opinion) or because all of these genres are integral to the type of music you want to create?
BW: I don’t believe in landing on one genre. That’s too limiting. I don’t think about that when I’m writing and recording. I just make what I feel should happen. Genres almost feel like something that’s more for the listener; a need to organize it in categories.
BYT: Have you considered a full instrumental album?
BW: Yes, I have. I think I’m getting closer to doing something like that.
BYT: How did your exposure to music as a child influence the music you have made as an adult?
BW: I was only exposed to a very limited amount of music as a child. In a lot of ways I think this helped my writing develop in a purer sense. I wasn’t trying to copy a lot of what I was hearing because there wasn’t much I was able to listen to growing up (strictly classical music, film score, and gospel music). So it left the creative spectrum wide open.
BYT: Are the songs about growing older intentionally darker in tone or am I mistaking darkness for maturity?
BW: I would say it’s more maturity than darkness. Definitely. A sense of acquiring more mistakes and regrets the older you get, but also deeper growth in learning from these things. The value of experience.