The time has come – the music world has birthed a true nightingale whose artistry distinguishes her from the industry’s current herd of wannabe R&B/pop phenoms. This chanteuse doesn’t adhere to conformity and defines her music freely. The artist is Brooke Valentine.
A native of Houston, Texas, Valentine ups the ante for creative expression with her Subliminal Entertainment/Virgin Records debut disc CHAIN LETTER. A melodic pilgrimage through the perils and joys of a young female life, CHAIN LETTER is refreshingly skimpy on gimmicks and ample on innovation. Valentine’s diverse musical tastes create the album’s universal pulse by serving a delectable stir-fry of R&B, pop, alternative and rock – offering something for all music lovers. Only 19 years of age, she explores the kaleidoscope of human emotions – the good, bad and sometimes downright ugly. “When you’re listening to my album, I want you to know that things happen and eventually you get over it,” she declares. “CHAIN LETTER takes you on a ride as you go through the different phases in your life.”
All this press stuff has to be pretty new… but from what I hear a lot of people are interested in you and that can’t be bad.
How can you get attitude when people are interested?
(Laughs) This is what I wanted and it’s great.
You are so young, When did you know you wanted to get into and when did you get into it?
In 1997 (she was 12) I signed with the CEO of the label Subliminal Entertainment. I met him in a mall and introduced myself and that was the best thing I ever did. He put me in a studio and started to develop me and then I caught the bug. It was so exciting because I could write a poem and turn it into a song. And then I could play it for my mother. It was so good taking my poems and turning them into songs. It was so exciting. It was a way for me to scream without screaming. I cry through my music and am happy through my music. It’s a great way to express myself.
It is pretty amazing that he took you up so young, at twelve.
I know. It was something I was waiting my whole life for. I didn’t know it but that was what I was waiting for. I always knew there was something I should be doing but didn’t know what it was until I was in the studio. I always wanted to play and I was the drama queen and now I can get on stage and do all of that. I can get on stage and do whatever I want and express myself and there will always be people out there who will understand that. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have it.
And you wrote or co-wrote every song. When did you develop the skill to become a songwriter?
It’s not a situation where they gave me a song and pretended I wrote on it. I knew I had to write my songs. That is why Virgin was the right fit; they let me be free. I am so grateful because a lot of new artists get walked over. Some labels will be like ‘she’s trying to write—she doesn’t know anything.’ I mean I would be writing things that they didn’t always like and want me to re-write things but that would help me sharpen my craft. Sometimes they wouldn’t understand what I was writing about. I love taking my—I’m a little crazy. I’m kind of crazy and all these things are going on in my head and it’s great that I can write a song and you understand. That’s the world for me. Instead of telling someone they hurt me I write it in a song and then play it for them. I’ll be like, ‘hold up, I have to go and write a song about you.’ (Laughs)
That might put some future relationships in jeopardy—I mean I wouldn’t want to turn into a song.
They would be infamous.
100% of that album is me and my situations. There are people who will hear the album and know I was talking about them. I’m not going to yell at someone—I’ll just do it on the mic.
Do you listen to the things you did when you were twelve and just to see how much you have changed?
Oh yeah! Each and every time I go into the studio I’ve grown. Every day is something new. Sometimes I like to just go in and try new things. Each time I try to sharpen my craft. I learn a lot from other people. That is why I allowed people to co-write with me on the album. I wanted them to come into my world but to bring some of theirs along. I might be sitting there and someone might be able to bring something out of me. Why are you doing this if you can’t learn and grow? If I’m doing an album I want to make one better than the last one.
If you don’t then what excitement is there?
Yeah, it’s the same old thing. You have to learn something. I really enjoy taking advice.
How long before ODB passed did you work with him.
A couple of months ago… so it was right before he passed. It was so sad. No one can control when it was time. I’m so happy that I got to meet him and do the song with him in person. I got to sit right there in the studio and watch him do his thing. When you hear the song “Bla Bla Bla”—you feel the energy. So many people can’t say they got to work with him.
Was singing always natural for you?
It was—I mean I didn’t even know it. My brother and sister would hear me sing all the time and got sick of hearing me sing and would tell me to shut up. But I had to find out from other people. I would sing at recess and the kids would be silent and I thought I had to stop and then they started clapping. Even the teachers thought I had a cute voice and then I was told I should join the choir. It was really exciting. You what is crazy? I don’t even have a musical family. They like music but in my family you become a lawyer or a doctor. When I said I want to be a singer and they wanted to know what that meant. Being a singer? They wanted me to be a doctor.
When did they realize you could do it as a profession? When did they cross that bridge?
My mom saw me perform a long time ago when I first start and she was excited. But it was like a boomerang because I was in the studio and performing so much that she didn’t want me away from home so long. She was so irritated by me being in the studio so much that I had to move away from home. But when they would read about me in a magazine or hear me on the radio they started to see. And now she understands. And then I’d give her music and show her what I did in the studio and then she would understand. But it took a while to change their way. I would work 9 to 9 and she didn’t think it was normal.
But at the same time it is rare to get signed to a label so that had to help.
It did, but there are so many entertainers out there—I’m blessed to have the opportunity.
When did it hit you that it was coming together and this was going to happen for real?
A lot of people don’t know this but I finished the album before we even signed the papers. The album was done while the lawyers were working on the contract I was in the studio working on the album. When I was officially on Virgin the record was finished. I don’t like to waste no time. I had faith it would all work out.
+ Charlie Craine