With a sound reminiscent of Sara Bareilles and One Republic, Caroline Brooks is proud to tell you those are her influences and, of course, humbled when told she sounds like them. A few months ago, Caroline released her new single, “Tomorrow, Tonight,” with an online video release. Her single, “Parachute,” has been featured in the film, A Little Bit of Heaven, with Kate Hudson. Her side project Goldheart, that is signed with Position Music, is always being pitched for television and film placements.
Along with being a talented singer, Caroline also plays guitar and piano. She was raised in Tyler, Texas and was encouraged to keep music in her life, and grew up listening to Paul Simon, The Beatles, and at the age of seven, began to sing and write her own songs. She pursued her music well into college where she attended the University of Texas at Austin and was a member of the the popular acapella group, Ransom Notes.
Shortly after attending college, she left for LA to pursue her musical career. After releasing her self-titled debut in 2010, the music industry had begun to take notice with critics and fans alike praising her incredible singing and musical talent. Her talent extends to her generous charitable work with The 24 Foundation, which is an art program for at-risk youth.
We had a nice and laid-back conversation with Caroline, and she happily chatted about her music in film and television, and California’s suddent heat wave.
GGM: How are you doing?
Caroline: I’m doing good. LA’s having a bit of a heatwave today. It’s been over a 100 lately, so it’s been interesting. I’m from Texas so this is really nothing.
GGM: You left the University of Texas in Austin for LA to create and collaborate with your music there. Why did you choose LA to do so?
Caroline: For me, personally, I left Texas because LA’s always been a city I wanted to at least try living in, and I gave it a test drive just to kind of see how the industry works. Music-wise, it’s great, because it has not only a lot of radio industry, there’s also a lot of licensing in TV and Film. So, there’s a lot of people out here. While you might not get your song on the radio right off the bat, it does seems to be more accessible to get a song placed on a movie trailer or a commercial,and that makes it a great avenue for your music. In Texas, Austin is obviously great. I felt for me it was more about the live music, and after you’ve been playing shows everywhere, you’re kind of like “Where do you go from here?” I know every artist is different, but I felt for me LA was a better fit.
GGM: Your music has been praised by loyal fans and critics alike. What do you want fans to take away from your music, and how do you want fans to connect with your music?
Caroline: For me, when I write a song I have to believe what I’m seeing. I have to connect with it or have some experience where it’s relatable , or there’s some kind of level of vulnerability and truth. Because I feel like a listener connects to it when they can also relate to it, and when you’re singing something that you don’t really believe yourself, then you feel the listener can sense that, and doesn’t really care. It’s interesting as an artist and a songwriter, because sometimes when you’re just singing for it to sound pretty, it’s almost like people can tell, or when you don’t connect to the song at all, people are kind of like why should I care, because that person doesn’t.
GGM: You’ve recently released your single “Tomorrow, Tonight” (back in April). Can you give us a preview of your new material to be released later this year or is it under-the-radar?
Caroline: I would say the EP I’m working on is almsot finished. It’s going to have five songs on it. Four of them are solely produced, and one of them is going to be an acoustic track. I’m very excited about it, because one of the songs, “Parachute,” was on the movie trailer for the Kate Hudson film, “A Little Bit of Heaven,” and that was cool because it seemed to connect to a lot of people. There’s one song in particular I’m excited about; well, I’m excited about all of them, but there’s one I wrote in an interesting part in my life and career, where I hadn’t had a day off in awhile, had my heart broken so many times, and I was tired. So, I was just very cynical, so a lot of the songs I wrote around then are a little dark, and I was writing with a guy in Nashville, and I had all of these ideas that I was pitching to him, and I was kind of nervous, because he’s a much bigger songwriter than I am; he wrote a lot of Kenny Chesney songs–he wrote Chesney’s song, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” He made the comment that in most of my ideas I was kind of playing the victim, and what would happen if I wrote a song where I was a heartbreaker? So I wrote a song called “Killer,” and it was a lot of fun; about breaking hearts, and kind of fun to jam to on the guitar and sing at the top of your lungs.
GGM: Do you hope to have your music in more film and television?
Caroline: Yes, actually. I’m really excited about that, because I just got approached by somebody at ABC Family that is just looking for original music for their TV shows, so they’re going to give me a heads up on what songs they’re kind of looking for. So, I’ll write it, produce it, and I’m excited about that. The placement that I got with my song, “Parachute,” kind of opened the door with other music supervisors and other contacts. I’m very excited about that, and I am hoping and want to say I expect to have a few other things in television and film placements.
GGM: You do play guitar as well as piano. Which came first, and which do you enjoy playing the most?
Caroline: I feel like a hypocrite, but I feel like I would have to say piano, because I started with it. I started with piano. Growing up in my small town of Texas, we had a piano in our living room, and it was kind of like my safe haven. I was kind of socially awkward, so I would go over to the piano and write songs. So there’s something about my childhood that would connect me to that instrument. But, the guitar is definitely more accessible, and it’s kind of nice to have different instruments to write on; you can write completely different songs, with completely different feels, with two different instruments.
GGM: Now, did you teach yourself how to play piano by ear or were you given lessons?
Caroline: I started taking lessons when I was 7. The funny thing was I really loved playing the piano and I really loved learning songs. But, I needed practicing and I know every kid says that, but my teachers would always get so frustrated with me because I played better by ear than by reading the sheet music. And I would just kind of listen to what my piano teacher played, and then I would play it back by what I heard, and she would get frustrated, because she would tell me “You’re not even looking at the page. You’re supposed to be reading music.” I enjoyed writing my own stuff and creating my own renditions of songs than I did reading sheet music. But, obviously it’s nice to have that discipline anyway.
GGM: When you were in the acapella group, Ransom Notes, during your time at the University of Texas (Austin), it obviously helped shape your career now. Do you feel like it still helps you or do you feel like that’s something that catapulted you to where you are now? Do you still enjoy acapella?
Caroline: You know, I like what I do more now, but I do love acapella. There’s a special place in my heart for acapella. Even learning different harmonies and learning how to blend your voice with other people, even comes in handy when you’re in the studio. I’ll be recording vocals for a track, and I’ll think of some interesting harmonies that would go well, and it helps you think outside the box, with what musically is going on around you. So, I definitely think I love that and appreciate that. I don’t know if I would ever go back to an acapella group right now, but I definitely am really glad I did it and really enjoyed doing it. It’s funny because I would say I was in an acapella group before it was cool (laughs), but back then I was a nerd.
Caroline and I had a fun chat about our nerdiness for books, coffee from a coffeepot and 80’s music! Ha!
GGM: What is your dream line-up gig?
Caroline: There’s a band that I’ve always wanted to open for, even when people will ask what my music sounds like, I’ll say I want to be the female OneRepublic, because I’m a big Ryan Tedder fan. I would love to open for OneRepublic; that would make my day. Them or Sara Bareilles; I love those two artists. I actually got to meet Ryan (Tedder) last year, and I don’t normally get star-struck, like living in LA, so you kind of get used to it, but when it’s someone you’ve been following for awhile, and you’re just a big fan of them; I was probably just sitting there, drooling (laughs) and shaking.
GGM: What is the best gig you have ever performed?
Caroline: Hmm…the best gig I have ever performed wasn’t actually even a full performance. Since I was pretty young, I had on my bucket list to sing at the Staples Center. I got to sing the National Anthem at a basketball game at the Staples Center and it was the coolest, most surreal feeling ever, singing at the Staples Center.
GGM: Who was your first concert and do you have a favorite?
Caroline: My first concert was (I feel like I should know right off the bat)…the first concert I remember going to was when I was little with my Mom, Dad and sisters in Colorado to see James Taylor’s daughter actually opening for James Taylor. It was Sally Taylor, and I just remember thinking it was so cool. It was just her, an acoustic guitar, and she had cowgirl boots on and she was just so badass, you know. That’s the first one I remember going to.
I think, by far, the one that I remember the most and love, was actually this past January; I got to see The Goo Goo Dolls perform, and was able to use a connection to watch them in the front row. I was already freaking out about that, and literally during one of the songs, the lead singer stands right in front of me on the stage, and reaches out his hand to me, and I got to hold his hand for about 2 seconds. I was that crazy person that just sat there with my mouth open and my eyes wide open. It was the coolest thing ever.
GGM: Do you have a guilty musical pleasure?
Caroline: Ooohhh, I feel like I have a lot of those. You know, I have a place in my heart for just angry girl, punk music. There’s just something really great about it; maybe it’s my therapy of coping in LA when you just deal with some buttheads; you’re leaving an interview and you’re just putting on an early Avril Lavigne or Paramore, or even Green Day; just angry punk music. I’d probably say I have a guitly pleasure for that.
GGM: Is there any music that makes you cringe?
Caroline: Hmmm…you know what, I guess it’s not really a kind of music, it’s more like a style that’s produced. Sometimes when there’s too much autotune on the vocals, except when it’s supposed to be like that, like T-Pain or something. When there’s just too much autotune on the vocal and you can tell that person isn’t really connected to the song they’re singing to, that annoys me, I guess. It feels like nails on a chalkboard. I’m just like you’re wasting my time, and it feels like a person singing a karaoke song that someone else picked for them, you know.
GGM: Thank you for interviewing with us, Caroline!
Caroline: Awesome, thank you so much!
Purchase Caroline’s single, “Tomorrow, Tonight” via iTunes!
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