There is something beautiful about artists whose intuitive insight into the human condition opens them up to creating works that truly meet the moment. With the release of her infectious, emotionally impactful third EP, Showin’ Up, singer/songwriter Brooke Josephson pulls off the feat of creating a perspective-shifting six track collection that powerfully reflects the Zeitgeist of the pandemic era and contemporary social justice issues.
Ironically, she composed most of the set’s five original songs prior to 2020, without the foresight that her soulful pop/rock artistry would become more of a collective cultural necessity than simply an intimate window into her own life. With initial recording sessions taking place at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground studio in Nashville and later dates completing the process after she was vaccinated in 2021, Showin’ Up marks the first time that Brooke has taken the reins as record producer of one of her own projects. From the material to her vocal performance, the vibe and the overall sonic aesthetic, the EP showcases a newfound self-confidence and development as a forward-thinking, visionary artist.
She laid the foundation for her now burgeoning solo career with her 2013 debut Live and Let Live (produced by fellow Berklee alum John Mark Seltzer), then took a fascinating, eclectic stylistic detour with former Geffen Records A&R executive and veteran record producer, Tony Berg on 2018’s Sexy N’ Domesticated, with a sassy, new-wave flavored flare designed to empower women who, like her, have to balance their personal lives being a busy mom while also working full time. Brooke received the Best Performer Award by American Tracks Music Awards, and received Best Video from Los Angeles CineFest, Western NY Film, Art, and Music Event (FAME), International Independent Film Awards and others.
A huge fan of songwriter/producer Dan Wilson (Adele, Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift), Brooke excitedly bought his Words + Music in 6 Seconds deck of cards, designed for songwriters, musicians and producers – offering nuggets of advice, insight and encouragement. One of the cards suggested writing a memorable song to open every show – and this was the spark that lead her to pen the edgy pop/rocker “Showin’ Up.” Written from a very personal perspective, the track features lines like “Showin’ Up. . .With or without applause….willing to fly or fall” and shares her song work ethic and commitment to her music: “Ever since I got a taste/A taste of my potential/I’ve been addicted. . .to every breath, every step. . .all I’m meant to be remembered for.”
As the pandemic became a dominant force in our lives, Brooke realized that what she meant as a passionate statement about career pursuits now took on a whole new meaning as the world became dependent on healthcare and essential workers showin’ up. “Schools, businesses, students and their parents had to show up through a cold, sterile, socially distant screen that created a vacuum of desire for the days of in person concerts, school, meetings, coffee, meals and the luxury of a hug,” she says.
Another key track on Showin’ Up is Brooke’s empowering anthem “Rainbow,” the EP’s lead single (later released as a dance remix by noted house music DJ/producer Roukin) which rolls like a high-octane variation of the self-affirmation/self-acceptance and beauty in diversity theme. The song also perfectly captures the renewed spirit of multi-culturalism and the importance of accepting those different from us in the wake of renewed social justice issues that came to light during the transformative events of 2020. The dynamic video for “Rainbow,” which artfully juxtaposes celestial imagery with depictions of social justice in action, was produced by Brooke and directed by Michelle Bossy, who also helmed her official “Horrified” music video. They created it in less than a month using green screen and special effects all while Brooke was holding down the fort with her two kids while her husband’s work required he be overseas for 6 months. “Rainbow” and its dynamic video have thousands of streams and views on Spotify and YouTube.
Another song that Brooke wrote about herself which took on new universal implications in the wake of COVID-19 is the fiery pop/rocker “Hangin’ Up My Cape,” a testament to the many roles she plays (wife, mom, music business professional) and the drawbacks and insecurities that come from being a “hot messed hero that’s over-yessed myself into a martyr.” She wonders, “Who would I be/And would you love me or leave?/If I hang up my cape/Let you see my real strength…” The song took on deeper meaning to Brooke as she watched medical heroes in their masks and capes battling life and death on a daily basis, sacrificing time with their families for their safety. “I wondered what they would have given to hang up their cape during the nightmare of 2020,” she says.
Showin’ Up’s other Brooke-penned originals are the beautiful, haunting power ballad “The Lesson,” a unique love song/reflection on a poignant moment she spent with her mother at the beach where she was physically present but mentally a million miles away, caught up in thoughts of her overwhelming responsibilities; and “Don’t Say,” a heartbreakingly beautiful but also incisive mid-tempo ballad addressing the emotional turmoil dear family members were feeling in the wake of betrayal and divorces. The EP’s lone re-imagining of another artist’s song is a new rendering of Bonnie Raitt’s rootsy 1972 song “Love me Like A Man” (written by Chris Smither), which artfully blends longing with the theme of women’s empowerment.
Born and raised in the small town of Warsaw, Indiana, Brooke’s earliest musical memories came from singing songs like “Jesus Loves Me” in church and at her Christian school. She learned to play piano on a $200 red mahogany upright and her mom found her a voice teacher at age 13 to cultivate her talents further. While raised in a religious home where secular music was not allowed, she has a fond memory at age eight of attending a friend’s birthday party where she heard Madonna’s “Material Girl” for the first time.
Hooked on pop music from that point on, she became a huge fan of that song’s producer Nile Rodgers and grew up inspired by everyone from Alanis Morrissette and Annie Lennox to Brandi Carlile. She chased her dream of becoming a singer and actress to New York where she started in theater and later worked on “All My Children,” “Bones,” Disney’s “Enchanted” (on whose set she met her now husband), NBC’s “Good Girls” and other shows. Brooke later earned her Masters in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music.
“It’s been a long, fascinating life journey getting to the point where I can be as honest with myself as I am on the songs of Showin’ Up, and I’m grateful that the songs have deeper universal implications that so many can relate to in their day to day lives,” she says. “When I listen to the EP, I feel like it’s raw and honest, has grit and I can feel the emotions to my core. It may sound funny to say, but I’m proud of it because it makes me feel comfortably uncomfortable. There are so many joys that have gone along with the learning, and I’m enjoying the growth process and sharing my truth with others.”