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Jonatha Brooke

A Conversation with Jonatha Brooke (continued)

PM: Essentially, this great DVD is from the Back in the Circus period, right?

JB: Yeah, yeah.

PM: Shot in 2004, but it incorporates a lot of your best songs, I think, dating all the way back to '91.

JB: Well, that was a big part of the whole concept, to put together a show that really covered everything, that brought in some of everything-- the first song I ever wrote is on the record, and some of The Story era-- those intense harmonies and those gorgeous sort of brooding melodies. And then to rock through the Steady Pull era, and then come back to the intimacy that Back in the Circus had--I mean, we really wanted to cover everything that makes me passionate about what I do. I mean, I love every element of the dynamics of my songs.

PM: Yeah, I mean, it's a beautiful perspective for the really serious cult following that you have. I mean, the Brooke people out there are a really fierce audience.

JB: Yeah, for sure.

PM: You refer to the first song that you wrote; that was such a cool story that you told in the DVD about "Love Is More Thicker Than Forget."

JB: Yeah.

PM: Would you share that here, maybe in an extrapolated form? I think that's a really inspirational little story.

JB: Well, my sophomore year of college, I was in the Amherst College in Western, Massachusetts.

PM: Being the smart girl you are.

JB: Ah, I was a big smarty pants--nah, I'm a big faker. I just kind of snuck through somehow and got a degree.

PM: Some schools you can sneak your way into easier than others. Amherst isn't too--

JB: Well, okay, I got in, that was a big deal. But once I was there, I can't say that I was a real smarty pants.

PM: Right.

JB: But anyway, this particular professor who taught this composition course was kind of a crunch ball. I mean, he played sitar, and he'd have parties and invite all the students over.

PM: Really? What was his name?

JB: David Reck, a lovely guy. Especially for a very kind of snooty, very classically oriented music department, he was taking some chances and having kids write songs based on poetry that they would choose themselves. So that semester, he assigned E. E. Cummings--"choose an E. E. Cummings poem, set it to music, use these kinds of techniques that we've talked about in class, like word painting, etc." So I wrote my first song, and it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.

PM: So did you get to play them, then, in class?

JB: Yeah.

PM: And were you a guitarist at the time?

JB: I was a hack. I mean, I'd always played the guitar, but--

PM: Played around.

JB: Yeah. Someone taught me three chords and I would cop stuff off records. I had a good ear, so I could sort of figure things out on the guitar and piano from Stevie Wonder records, and James Taylor records. I could sort of clunk along. But writing was this opportunity to make stuff up.

PM: So when you brought in your version of "Love is More Thicker Than Forget," how did it go over?

JB: It kind of was really cool. I mean, I got an A.


JB: And then that led to him giving me and my friend Jennifer Kimball, who then became my partner in the--

PM: Wow, she was in your class?

JB: No. But he gave me a full course credit to do an independent study and write a bunch of songs, and then put on a concert at the end of the semester. [laughs]

PM: How interesting!

JB: So at Amherst College, I got like a full course rated independent study to write some songs and do a concert.

PM: Good scam.

JB: And we got an A!

PM: Wow. Now, that's the same Jennifer Kimball that's still a popular singer in the Boston area with various good groups, right? The Wayfaring Strangers and...

JB: Yep. She has a band with her husband called Maybe Baby, as well.

PM: Right, right, right.

JB: And I think she just had a record out recently, her second record. But I think she's staying closer to home because she has a kid.

PM: Yeah. But a great singer.

JB: Oh, lovely singer. Really. I mean, just devoted to amazing harmony and thoughtful writing.

PM: And are you still friendly?

JB: I haven't talked to her in ages, but we're certainly not--

PM: No love lost?

JB: Yeah. I mean, it was rough at the time, but I think we're both rooting for each other.

PM: That's great. [Visit www.jenniferkimball.com to find out what Jennifer is doing.]

Jennifer Kimball

And I was happy to see that in the collection on the DVD, certainly an old favorite of mine from The Story was included, "So Much Mine."

JB: Oh, my God. I'm just--yeah.

PM: What a great song.

JB: I love that song so much, and I was desperate to get a decent performance of it, because I really, really wanted it to be on this DVD. And I was so nervous that we'd just get a crummy take of it, or something, because it was only an encore, it wasn't in the show every night.

PM: Right.

JB: And I think we only actually did it once. We did it like the last encore of the last night. And we didn't have any dough at all left at this point. So we were only filming the last two nights. And it was just favors, basically. We had five friends with cameras who came in, and we gave them 200 bucks and said, "Please, please, please will you come film this stuff for two nights?"

PM: I really appreciate you sharing that--

JB: Oh, God, we had nothing.

PM: That's really amazing. Five friends with cameras.

JB: Basically, "Please, please, please."  continue

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