Nashville (by way of New Orleans) native Brooke Waggoner spent last year working for a rather mysterious boss. The classically-trained pianist was called in to jam on some tracks for another Music City transplant: Jack White.
“I got a call one day to stop by and play some piano on a couple of things,” Waggoner said. “I had no idea what it was for or what Jack was working on. I was literally shoved into a room with three other girls I had never met. We just started playing, and Jack was there and the chemistry was really good. We just kept coming back every day, and about six weeks into it, we realized, ‘Oh, this is Jack’s solo record!’”
Those sessions blossomed into membership in a proper band called the Peacocks, the all-female back-up group during White’s huge tour for his solo debut Blunderbuss. “I had never played with that many females before,” Waggoner admitted. “It was really unique and cool. Honestly, I don’t really ever think about gender in music, but it was an interesting scenario to focus on gender in order to create mystique within the bands.”
The tour was only supposed to be a few dates and ended up becoming a lot more, leading to a nearly 12-month commitment that culminated at the Grammy Awards, where the Peacocks backed White on his single “Love Interruption.” “We didn’t even know we were going to [perform] until like two weeks before,” Waggoner said. “So many surprises! I was so enthusiastic about the giant baby-blue grand piano. We had never taken that on the road, and that was specific to the Grammys. It was completely surreal—a really cool way to end this album cycle and this year.”
Now that her time in the Peacocks is over, she can focus on her new solo album Originator, which just hit store shelves today. Recorded in Nashville, Waggoner’s third full-length is a bold step forward. The lovely collection of songs are still built solidly on Waggoner’s piano-based melodic sweetness and confident voice, but Waggoner adorns them with bold brass and a bevy of rhythmic trickery. That ideology comes across clearest on “Rumble,” the album’s first single. “It had been about three years since I put anything out. There was something about the brass that seemed to fit the feeling of angst I had,” she explained. “I was really ready to get something out. I was really feeling a second wind, and ‘Rumble’ really reflects the theme for me mentally going into the project. The brass seemed to fit that idea of a bombastic come out with a shout.”
The striking clip for “Rumble” was shot at a most unusual location. “There’s a place about an hour and a half outside of Nashville called Crossville,” Waggoner explained. “It’s a little Podunk town, but it bizarrely has the country’s largest treehouse. It’s so random. It’s just such an incredible place. You feel like you’re in Swiss Family Robinson. There might have been a little bit of trespassing involved. It used to be open to the public, but now…it’s perfectly stable, but definitely not safe for large groups of people. But I love the setting. It just has this Tim Burton feel to it. It’s amazing.”
Waggoner will be taking Originator on the road with her band, a tour that begins tonight in Nashville and will take her to Austin for South By Southwest next week.
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