Some are calling British MySpace sensation Joe Brooks the next John Mayer. With his honest lyrics, feel-good melodies and charitable nature, it’s no surprise he’s on the road to a successful career. After playing at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, Ga., the laid back and down-to-earth 23-year-old took some time out of his busy tour to talk to the Chronicle about his life and his music.
Brooks didn’t start playing an instrument until he was 16. He went to a show with a blues guitarist, fell in love with music and went home longing to play the guitar.
He dug up his mom’s old three-string and began to make melodies.
“I played until my fingers bled,” Brooks said. Singing came shortly after.
The talent is a mix of perseverance and the musicality in his family. Brooks spoke of his mom singing in choirs and playing the piano. His father, on the other hand, is a different story.
“My dad is tone-deaf,” Brooks said. “He can’t keep a rhythm. He’s one of those people that can’t tap in time. So there’s a mix.”
Nonetheless, music has become an integral part of his life.
“I think everyone finds escape in different ways and I think I found a big escape in playing the guitar and singing, and mainly writing lyrics,” Brooks said. “It’s amazing when you’re inspired how fast you can write a song, and you can get out all your feelings and emotions and situations that you’ve experienced through song and music.”
Of course, traveling is a perk for Brooks. And playing for fans all over the U.S. and U.K. can’t be too bad, either.
“Touring is a lot of fun,” Brooks said. “Playing live is always an amazing experience, whether there’s one person in the room or there’s thousands of people in the room, it’s always a lot of fun to play live because you never know quite how the song’s going to go.”
His new album, “Constellation Me,” dropped Sept. 7 with plenty of fun, meaningful songs to play to eager crowds. Yet, Brooks still has his favorites to perform live. He prefers “Holes Inside” the most, as well as “Lightning in a Bottle.” Another song, “World at Our Feet,” is a hit too.
“It’s just a really feel-good song,” Brooks said.
Although he loves touring all over the U.S., his hometown of Southampton, U.K. has a venue he loves to play at called the Talking Heads.
Venues across the U.S. have proven to be great experiences to play at as well.
“We found a couple of great venues on this tour,” Brooks said. “We played at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, Ga., and it was the place where John Mayer was the doorman when he was 19 and played there a lot. His pictures are all up on the wall.”
In regards to the renowned singer-songwriter, Brooks said it’s a great feeling being compared to him.
“He’s a big influence of mine,” Brooks said. “I look up to him and aspire to achieve what he’s achieved. And it’s a huge compliment.”
Brooks and Mayer certainly have differing music styles. However, the similar talent in lyrics and melodies is certainly something to be noticed and admired.
Longevity in the industry is also important to Brooks. He is the furthest thing from a one-hit-wonder. Despite the many obstacles in the industry, he has prepared himself for the future. After all, he was discovered from merely posting videos on MySpace that blew record execs away.
“There’s a lot of challenges. It’s a bumpy road,” Brooks said. “And it’s a long road. I guess, at the end of the day, we’re driving a good eight, nine hours in between venues in my car. And if you prepare yourself for the length of the journey, it really doesn’t seem that long, mentally you’re ready for it. It’s kind of the same with music. I’ve prepared myself for this to be a lifelong adventure and challenge. It can take a lifetime. So really I’m just going with it. I’m going with the flow, and trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”
As if his focus and easy-going attitude aren’t enough, Brooks stands out from other musicians trying to follow the same path.
“I think honesty in music and lyrics and in approach and attitude,” Brooks said. “A lot of ‘BS’ I guess you Americans call it, in the music industry. There’s a lot of just bad music…I think honesty is definitely what I strive to achieve in anything that I do.”
Comparing the U.K. and the U.S. is impossible for Brooks.
“They’re two different giants. I absolutely adore the U.K,” Brooks said. “I love being British, I would never want that to be any different. I absolutely adore America as well…By the end of this tour, I will have visited in my life about 40 states. That’s more than most Americans…I’m having a blast.”
In 2006, Brooks experienced something inspirational that would certainly leave an imprint on his life. After longing to do a mission trip, he traveled with his father and Habitat for Humanity to the island of Zanzibar to build houses for a village.
“It was an amazing experience, one that I’ll never forget,” Brooks said. “And out of that came the song ‘Broken Hands.’”
His lyrics are alluring: “The sky is grey it clouds your world/ Clear the air child, break the mold/ Find a place, in your heart/ To build a shelter from this cold and winding road.”
Brooks is signed to Lava Records (Universal Republic). Despite his talent, he didn’t know what road to take when his music played for executives for the first time. He received offers from various labels, yet took his time in making a decision.
“I was signing at a time when the music industry was, and it kind of still is, in limbo,” Brooks said. “I went down a more traditional route, I guess…to be able to have that boutique, personal attention from Lava Records but then have the might and the power of Universal Republic behind your radio and your promotion, it was really like the cherry on top of the cake….That was the opportunity.”
Joe Brooks is playing at The Space in Hamden on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. For more information and to listen to tracks from his new album, visit www.myspace.com/joebrooksmusic.
Photo credit: myspace.com