26 Nov 2016

'Being a big fish in a little pond doesn’t really appeal to me'

From RNZ Music, 2:25 pm on 26 November 2016

Brooke Fraser is releasing A Sides this week, a collection of some of her biggest hits from the past 14 years.

Brooke Fraser, June 15 2015, at Holy Trinity Cathedral

Brooke Fraser, June 15 2015, at Holy Trinity Cathedral Photo: Megan Moss

It’s like she’s been in our lives forever. Without doubt one of our favourite songwriters and performers, Brooke Fraser has won a bunch of Tuis, she’s won the Silver Scroll, she's been in the charts and in our ears for over a decade.

Fraser just had a baby girl and is happily living in Los Angeles. She’s releasing an album called ‘A Sides’: essentially a greatest hits but with one fresh new song called ‘Therapy’. She's not quite 33. 

“I guess my philosophy in life is that the only thing that will outlast me is what I can leave and give to the next generation and the people who come after me and that extends to the way interact with the people around me and the way that I invest into people’s lives and also through art and through music.”

The move to Los Angeles is something that happened slowly and steadily after recording and touring there over a period of years, and now it feels like her home in every way.

She has strong support networks through her friends and family, and of course, LA is the international capital of pop music. 

“I’ve done a bit of pop writing here in Los Angeles with and for other people and one thing that I have never been able to do is just write stuff that I don’t mean or don’t relate to or would never feel comfortable saying or singing myself.

"When it came to ‘Therapy’ and what we wanted to talk about, it’s a light little pop song but it’s also a song about being able to be honest about where you’re at in your life and getting to a place within yourself where you’re in a safe place to be able to express yourself and also becoming that safe place for other people.

"I really like that line in the chorus ‘Tell me what you really want, cos it isn’t strange to me’.  It’s about being a person that’s trustworthy enough that people can be honest with you and be their real self with you.”

So Fraser is living and working in LA and she’s still totally grounded. Which is amazing in many ways: LA is awash with musicians working, gigging and trying to ‘make it big’.

It’s surprising at times that she didn’t stay closer to home, where everything was comfortable. 

“The idea of being a big fish in a little pond doesn’t really appeal to me, how can you grow from there? How can you maintain an accurate view of yourself and your art if you think that you’re a big deal when actually you’re not.”

Actually, she is quite a big deal. A whole generation of young New Zealand musicians have grown up with her as a role model.

In fact Georgia Nott of Broods once went backstage at a Brooke Fraser concert to meet her idol and holds on to the memory of Brooke telling her how beautiful she is. Georgia was 11.

Despite how well regarded she is at home, as an artist she has always evolved her own sound and style, her last album raised a few eyebrows, and the new single is also provoking comments like ‘is this Brooke Fraser?’.

 “I also remember when the same thing happened with ‘Something in the Water’ back in 2010 when people said ‘This is NOT Brooke Fraser, what is this?’.

"So I guess it tends to be a habitual thing with me. I like keeping people on their toes a little bit.

"The new song ‘Therapy’  was quite fun to write because I’ve always written songs in the context of an album so there are themes that go together and light and shade and things that you look at achieving across the sound of a whole record.

"Whereas this song because it was going to the single from an album of already existing songs we could write something that existed in a vacuum in a way.

"Something that was in line with ‘Brutal Romantic’ but we went after something that sounded like someone’s stereotypical idea of a single.”

But of course music and songs aren’t the main focus of her life right now, that position is happily held by her young daughter. 

“I love motherhood, it’s everything that I expected and more and she is such a special little person and she is just the love of our lives obviously. We are the cliché obsessed parents.

"If I'm honest the one thing I’m still not used to is getting up early. As a musician that touring musician body clock is so ingrained into me that every morning even though I get so excited to go into her room and pick her up and see her, I’m like, this is bloody early.”

Brooke Fraser’s ‘A Sides’ is out now and she will be performing on the Winery Tour with Bic Runga over summer.

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  • Brooke Fraser - Live at the Holy Trinity Cathedral
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