After a seven-year hiatus from mainstream music, Brooke Valentine has decided to come on back. Now the mother of a two year old that she says is her inspiration, the feisty yet fun songstress has had her share of downtime and is ready to take advantage of the industry’s acceptance of eccentric.
Picking up where her debut album Chain Letter left off, Valentine promises to offer a more mature sound with her 2012 summer follow-up Forever. Soultrain.com caught up her to discuss the break from music, her inventive style and everyday life which, instead of the music industry’s craziness, she’d prefer to stay accustomed to.
Brooke Valentine: Well not necessarily, I still go by Brooke Valentine. B. Valentine is just a nickname; it’s kind of like my signature. That’s how I sign my name, so you can still call me Brooke.
SoulTrain.com: Your latest single is entitled “Forever.” What made you decide to come back with a motherly, inspirational perspective?
Brooke Valentine: It’s just where I am right now in life. “Forever” reflects my frame of mind right now, where I am with music and my life as a whole. I think it’s important for me to conjoin real life and my music. Before I did the same thing, but it was about what’s going on right now and what people wanted to hear. Now it’s straight from my heart and real emotion. To my surprise people loved it. When you’re coming from the heart this much, there’s a fear, ‘Will people get it, will they like it, understand it?’ This is me. This is my life and everyone that I played it for loved it. It’s been nothing but positive.
SoulTrain.com: Do you think you’re in a substantially different place now than you were with the first album?
Brooke Valentine: No, I don’t think so. I think those who love Chain Letter will love Forever as well. I don’t think I abandoned that sound, I made it better. It’s more mature. Before I was 19 and things are different now. I’m a little older and I’ve been through some things and I think it’s important for the music to reflect that change. I know more, I’m glad I got the chance to take a break to learn about myself and who I am in this industry.
SoulTrain.com: The single “Insanity” was more so alternative R&B. Do you have a made-up genre for yourself or is there a lane you fit into?
Brooke Valentine: No way, never! Like, put me where? (laughs) That goes back to when I was in kindergarten, they just couldn’t put a finger on what type of child I was. As an adult it’s even worse. There’s no genre for me, there’s no box you can put me in. I love and explore all types of music. I’ve written country, R&B, rock, pop, everything. You’ll definitely get those vibes on my album. That’s what everyone loved about Chain Letter; it took you on a journey. Forever does the same thing.
SoulTrain.com: Is there something in particular that turned you on to different genres of music?
Brooke Valentine: Growing up, listening to the radio was an escape. The way I grew up, it wasn’t such a nice place. There was drugs, violence and everything around me. Even with that going on, I could turn on the radio and just dance my heart out. I’d be in the middle of the street just dancing. People would be like, ‘Look at her, she is so happy.’ It didn’t affect me. Music was the way that I could get away and that was any genre. I just loved music. People try to point me in other directions, but I appreciate all music. I’m well rounded.
SoulTrain.com: Chain Letter was very diverse in sound. In 2012, listeners are more accepting of artists trying different sounds. Are you excited or thinking about taking it even further this time around?
Brooke Valentine: People always say Chain Letter was before its time. What I did in 2005, people are just starting to get now. It just makes me even more excited to come with Forever knowing that people will know where I’m going with this album — and they’re ready to accept an album like this where it’s not a certain genre, it’s just good music.
SoulTrain.com: You keep it musically diverse and fun on your albums. Why is that important to you?
Brooke Valentine: That’s definitely a reflection of me in real life. It’s me; I have a funky, fun, upbeat kind of personality and I’m glad the music reflects that. That just comes from me saying, “Hey let it go, let’s just live and laugh.” I’m not saying every day should be like that, because we have our down days. I’m a Libra so sometimes my scales are a little off. Sometimes I’m in the studio crying, pulling emotions out from experiences I’ve been through. We need all of that.
SoulTrain.com: Is there a concept you have yet to explore or have maybe held back?
Brooke Valentine: I’ve let out some more private matters I didn’t think I would share. There are still more to explore. I do think music is a vehicle and I like to encourage other people to tell the truth and explore — and you don’t have to be in music to do that. I have a parent support group that I do [as well as] mentor teenagers. I tell them if you don’t do music, maybe it’s through poetry; make little notes to yourself to get emotions out. You don’t have to tell someone just write it down. I think that’s important for artists to open up so the listener can connect to them as a real person.
SoulTrain.com: How did you get involved working with teens?
Brooke Valentine: That stems from when I had my son. He suffered a stroke at birth. That was a really trying time for me. Through that I’ve learned so many things about cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome — studying these things trying to find an answer led me to meet a lot of people who weren’t so sure either. Meeting them I saw a void and I said, “Parents need to get together, we need to talk.” I met a lot of teenage parents at the church I’m involved in who needed knowledge. I saw that there wasn’t a window for them to talk and say what’s going on, so I started the teenage program and the parent support group through that.
SoulTrain.com: Was it really difficult facing that experience being it’s something you never thought would happen, especially with your son?
Brooke Valentine: Definitely. There was no warning–I had a great pregnancy and everything was fine. I was blindsided by what happened, but I do understand it’s a testimony and it’s my destiny. I feel very blessed to have my son London. It only gets better from here.
SoulTrain.com: Okay, well I hope he’s doing fine now.
Brooke Valentine: He is, he’s doing better than me! He’s so excited about life.
My son London inspired “Forever” the single. He was right there next to me smiling and laughing, he even picked the track. He was dancing to it so I said, ‘I should write a song to this!’ He’s my little A&R and he inspired me to return to music, not just as a writer, but also as an artist. His love for me is what brought me back to music. It’s just a forever kind of love. I’m trying to remind people of what love really is. Your blood — someone like your mother, aunt, cousin who’s going to be in your life forever, that’s a forever love.
SoulTrain.com: Indeed! Overall, how has the album process been different from the first one?
Brooke Valentine: My growth, experiences and I’ve been connecting with the fans more. Before I felt like I was going through the motions going from show to show and I didn’t get a chance to stop. I’m doing more talking and social groups just trying to help where I can and let people know it’s okay to have a connection with artists.
SoulTrain.com: How close are you to completing Forever, and is there anyone you’re looking to collaborate with?
Brooke Valentine: Ninety-eight percent close to completion. Not necessarily on this album, but I would love to possibly work with Lauryn Hill. I think she’s amazing as a woman and a mother. Her messages are always strong and she says something that matters. That would be so cool.
SoulTrain.com: You want the rapper Lauryn Hill, or the singer Lauryn Hill?
Brooke Valentine: Both! (laughs)
SoulTrain.com: During your break from music, besides the mixtapes what were some of the things you were doing?
Brooke Valentine: I was still writing and very involved in music. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I can work Pro Tools, I can engineer, I do all of that. So, getting my hands dirty and getting in the studio with new artists helping them with their craft. Spending time with family was important. I learned a lot about my money — where’s it going, what it’s doing. I got a license, I lived! When Chain Letter came out I was a teenager, I didn’t know a lot about life. I needed that break so I could figure out life and now I can instill great things into my son.
SoulTrain.com: Ultimately, what do you want to do with your music?
Brooke Valentine: Hopefully change the world one smile and one hug at a time, touch people by having a message that leaves them with something positive on their minds after coming across Brooke Valentine.
Makula Dunbar is a journalist covering music, entertainment, business and community. Founder and editor of digital culture magazine Cognizant Measure, her work has been featured in print and across the web via UPTOWN Magazine, The Atlanta Post, Sister 2 Sister Magazine, the Twin Cities Daily Planet, Hiphopruckus.com and many more. Follow her on twitter @Kules.