Hailing from a small town outside Edinburgh, inspired by new-wave soul and with roots in indie-rock, Brooke Combe’s varied influences exude from her latest collection of tracks. Navigating feelings of heartbreak and insecurity as well as grappling with identity, race and gender, Brooke deals with personal themes on a wide and intimate scale.
She describes Black Is The New Gold as the most “mature” writing she’s ever done. The titular tune boasts a moody tone and a powerful, poised quality, informed by Brooke’s introspection of culture and belonging. It reflects her deeply personal journey of exploring history and race and how they speak to one another.
“It’s important people know who I am,” she says, “I think it’s been an important step for me, learning more about myself by reading and researching more. I like to write music I can leave with people to ponder.”
Effortless vocals are layered with soaring instrumentals and earthy rhythms on the mixtape, which features her impressive run of 2021 and 2022 singles ‘Miss Me Now’, ‘Impress You’, ‘A-Game’, and ‘Are You With Me?’. It’s the next step in a mounting journey for Brooke, after winning Breakthrough Artist at the Scottish Music Awards in 2021 and charming audiences on supporting tours with indie heavyweights like The Courteeners, Miles Kane, The Coral and Blossoms.
At only 23 years old, Brooke spent much of the past few years experimenting with her writing and sound, evolving as an artist and carving out a distinct lane. The pandemic allowed Brooke to flex her style-spanning prowess, proving she can bring her jazzed-up tenor to a range of genres.
A few covers that garnered a buzz during Covid included a sultry reworking of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’, and a pared-down rendition of Baccara’s disco classic ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’. Next up? She’s set her sights on taking on Rhianna, Sister Sledge and Chic, citing Nile Rogers as a personal hero and Ri-Ri as her dream collaborator.
Indie rock n’ roll, as well as experimental phrasing and poetic analogies, influenced Brooke’s early songwriting days. However, she’s steadily moved into more storytelling and narrative-informed writing.
“When I started getting into songwriting, I was almost too metaphorical, too abstract. So I took a step back and reassessed. I started falling back in love with soul and funk music. Now I’ll come up with a tune to create a mood first, and then whatever mood I’ve created, I’ll tell a story to fit it.”
This relatable lyricism is evident in ‘Impress You’, an honest account of contorting oneself to impress the object of your affection: “Should I wear it should I not? / The guys go crazy for the blondes / If I dress in heels this once / Maybe I can get their love.”
“We’ve all been there, haven’t we?” asks Brooke. “We’ve all felt we needed to dress or act a certain way. Women, in particular, feel so much pressure to sustain a specific look, or act a certain way of being, and it’s bullshit. I’m not going to conform just because I’m a woman.”
Flaunting soul, funk and disco influences, Brooke’s sound naturally resonated with an American audience during her recent stint at SXSW. “Playing to an American crowd is so different. It was interesting to see which songs they liked most; it was actually the slower ones. It definitely made me reconsider my sound and enjoy playing those slow tunes a bit more.”
“The US audience enjoyed the soulful elements. Obviously, the genre originated in America and then came here, but then it died down again. I want it to be as big as it once was. I want to bring soul music back to Britain.”
Ultimately, Brooke wants her music to ignite joy and empower audiences. “I want listeners to know they can feel however they want to feel, I want them to feel empowered, and at the end of the day, just have a good time, have a party.”