Revamping the classics with Brooke Waggoner
Take the orchestration from your favorite Disney Pixar movie, overlay soulful vocals and classically inspired piano and you have Brooke Waggoner.
On Oct. 6. the southern songbird released her second full-length album “Go Easy Little Doves” digitally on her own label, Swoon Moon Music. Today she starts her nearly sold-out tour with piano man “Owl City.”
Waggoner, who cites one of her favorite artists as Thomas Newman, the man behind the baton for “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” and “Little Women” orchestrations, said that this latest album shows her classical side.
“With most of the songs, the skeleton is the orchestra this time,” she said in an interview with The Setonian. “It’s a different approach, rather than having it as just a decoration, it’s the foundation.”
An orchestration major from Louisiana State University, Waggoner wrote all the orchestration and fully produced the album. First, she gathered together songs that didn’t find their way on to her previous albums “Heal for the Honey” and “Fresh Pair of Eyes”.
“A lot of these songs are really old, I wrote them a long, long time ago,” Waggoner said. “I scrounged through all these old cassettes of early writing and tried to take that and make it really fresh.”
Waggoner revamped the songs from their piano base with the addition of strings.
“It’s a quartet, but I have it so layered that each instrument has within a song like three to four parts and then each part is layered five or six times,” Waggoner said. “When we record its only one day, there’s no ‘I hope this works,’ it has to work, there’s no plan B.”
Waggoner said that she’s a purely independent artist and doesn’t have the luxury of drawing out the recording process, as most of her players are only hired for one day, and they only have the recording space for one day as well.
“We get in there and have everything down on paper so everyone knows what’s going on and just knock it out,” she said.
Before her days as an orchestration major, Waggoner grew up in a musical family and doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t able to play the piano.
“My mom started me on piano at four and I just latched on and loved it,” she said. “I started learning piano when I started to learn how to read, I learned how to read music at the same time.”
Waggoner notes that a lot of her inspiration is drawn from childhood memories growing up in southern Louisiana, particularly her mom’s love of musicals like the classics of Rodgers and Hammerstein, which began a lifelong love of big orchestrated pieces.
Immediately after graduating at LSU, Waggoner was involved with a separate music project.
“I was writing for the band I was in, it was very straightforward pop, almost a Coldplay type of thing,” she said. “I wasn’t feeling it and I just knew that I didn’t belong. So, we came back from our tour and I went to Nashville literally the next day.”
Waggoner set out to build her own career in Nashville. Working in a urinalysis lab and missing college, Waggoner said that she began really pushing herself to write more and more.
“I was excited to pull outside of the ABAB format, combining four mini songs into one,” she said. “Just moving to a new city helped a lot.”
On her own, Waggoner said that she began to grow out of the idea of lyrics as filler. “Go Easy Little Doves” shows a marriage of classical music and modern singer-song writer influences.
“I’m changing lyrically, I used to shy away from it,” she said. “Now it’s exciting to learn how to tell stories, how to make rhymes fit together in a new and unique way.”
This is evident on the chanting, sound-play track “Femmes” that utilizes hand claps in lieu of regular percussion instruments.
“I liked how it was pretty much one motif that basically repeats itself,” Waggoner said of the song, which has an almost dark Mother Goose vibe. “I wanted to add in some sort of rhythm beat, I wanted it to be a classical rhyme sort of thing.”
“Femmes” and the 11 other tracks are available for download through Waggoner’s web site as well as on Amazon and iTunes. However, don’t expect Waggoner to rest, in addition to her tour with “Owl City” she is playing a solo show at The Living Room in New York City on Dec. 4 and envisions future recordings.
“I like being busy, being under pressure, the adrenaline is good, I work well that way,” she said.
Meghan Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.