Born Meredith Ann Brooks in Oregon City, OR; married Russell Jackson; divorced. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, 1750 Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028 Phone: (213) 462-6252 Fax: (213) 469-0384.
There are many solo female artists with strong voices, although there are few women who have both a strong voice and can also jam on guitar. Meredith Brooks is one of the few female artists who can both sing and effectively play guitar. Yet, it wasn't her vocal strength nor her ability to jam which helped Brooks land a record contract. As Guitar Player stated, Brooks was able to "reconcile her brash, bratty, guitar-playing self with the unfettered emotionalism and sensitivity of her songwriting." One emotional song "Bi***," with its lyrics "I'm a bi***/I'm a lover/I'm a child/I'm a mother... I do not feel ashamed," finally catapulted Brooks up the pop music charts after almost 20 years in the music business.
Born in Oregon City, Oregon, and raised in Corvallis, Oregon, Meredith Ann Brooks was only in kindergarten when she first performed publicly. Later at age 11, after stealing her older sister's guitar and copying guitar legend Eric Clapton's licks, Brooks discovered that music was her true love. Clapton's "Layla," Brooks recalled in Guitar Player, "became my world. After that, it was all about guitar for me." At 15, after skipping a few grades, Brooks graduated high school and started playing in local bands. She also wrote songs and recorded a few demo tapes, but by 1986, she realized that she needed to move to Los Angeles, California to increase her chances of being discovered. Yet, her goal, as stated by Wall of Sound, was to become more than "just another girl guitar player."
In 1988, after two years of no lucky breaks, Brooks was asked to join former Go-Go Charlotte Caffey's new band, The Graces. The group released only one album, Perfect View, in 1989, before breaking up two years later. After the breakup, Brooks took what became an eight-year vacation from recording. "I went out on my own, and I started writing full time..." Brooks told Billboard, "I met my husband... and [we] ran a restaurant." Brooks also devoted much of her time to charity work and founded Planet Art, an organization which was "geared toward turning creative enterprises into businesses," as described by Wall of Sound. However, Brooks, as quoted in Billboard, never left her music behind because, "music gave me peace and joy. I never felt in tune with the world... my art was my autonomy." It was perhaps the grunge trend in music during the mid-1990s that had left Brooks behind. "I really believe music is cyclical, and I saw this dark, dark pattern for a time, and I wasn't interested in being necessarily a part of that," she further told Billboard. Yet, by 1997, listeners had begun to tire of grunge's negativity and welcomed a surprisingly positive "Bi***" to the airwaves.
In 1997, Brooks, signed to Capitol Records on the strength of a possibly controversial song, released her first album, Blurring the Edges. Hailed by Entertainment Weekly as a "well-constructed, bittersweet blues-pop" album, Blurring the Edgesreached platinum status by August. Brooks was also praised by Newsweek as, "one of a handful of female lead guitarists, Brooks knows just how to hit a perfect hook." Yet, it was one song that grabbed listener's, especially women's, ears. "Bi***" is a song about "honoring ourselves [as women] and self-acceptance," Brooks commented at the Rockrgrl website. The song also attempted to thwart men from using the negative term to describe women. By including "Bi***" in a long description list --"I'm a sinner/I'm a saint... I'm your hell/I'm your dream/I'm nothing in between" then telling men, "You know you wouldn't want it any other way," the song stripped the word of, as Brooks told Newsweek, "its negative meaning by owning it." Men, in turn, Brooks further told Newsweek, "completely get it ... all they want us to do is admit that we can be irrational and illogical sometimes, and then it's their job to put up with it."
For the next year and a half, Brooks constantly toured as a solo artist, as an opening act for the Rolling Stones, and as a part of Lilith Fair. Capitol Records also released See It Through My Eyes, an album Brooks had recorded in 1984. She contributed a song, "Sin City," to the soundtrack of the Nicolas Cage film, Snake Eyes. However, by the end of 1998, Brooks, who was tired of the road and recovering from her divorce, took a break. During this time off, she began to write songs for her new album, Deconstruction. "An artist is going to write about things that they are going through," Brooks commented in Billboard. "I like to pull things apart like a car, have it all laying there, and then put it back together and see a whole new thing. I love changing my perspective."
In 1999, Brooks launched her own web site, located at www.meredithbrooks.com, which allowed fans to monitor the progress of her second album, Deconstruction. Again, Brooks attempted to turn the negativity of the album's title into a positive. "Deconstruction," Brooks explained to Hip Online, "just means to take apart something. Our society has kind of made that word to be negative... [but] I think you have to break things down sometimes to break through to the next level." Released in 1999, Deconstruction's first single, "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," a remake of folk artist Melanie's hit, has "production [that] is cutting edge, creative, and wholly commanding, and it's without a doubt the strongest vocal we've heard yet from the artist," exclaimed Billboard. The album also garnered praise from Hip Online for its "living and breathing" emotion and commended Brooks for her ability to "reexamine" her life and "say exactly what [she found]."
Yet, success hasn't spoiled Brooks. In 1999, she returned to her charitable roots and formed Anybody's Mentoring Program (AMP). The goal of this program, explained Wall of Sound, is to "encourage high school students to network with each other and their community in order to gain resources necessary to explore their creativity and succeed." While traveling to many high schools to promote the program, she discovered that "this mentoring thing in a weird way saved me," as she told the Boston Globe. "It gave me purpose and focus and made me feel that everything I had gone through in my life was suddenly worth it."
Thus, Brooks has not only become a woman with a strong voice who can jam on guitar, she has also become a role model for other struggling artists in the music business. Brooks has encouraged people to "be active in your own success," as she advised in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Listen to yourself, and you'll hear that thing that you want to be more than anyone else." Furthermore, she told Hip Online, "my success is not financial or fame... my story is about somebody who's using her healing to help heal others."
by Ann M. Schwalboski
Meredith Brooks's Career
Learned to play guitar at age 11; played in various local bands and recorded demo tapes throughout the 1980s; moved to Los Angeles, 1986; joined The Graces, 1988; released one Graces album, Perfect View, 1989; split with The Graces, 1992; took eight-year break from recording; signed with Capitol Records, 1996; released first album, Blurring the Edges, 1997; broke through with smash hit, "Bi***"; toured for two years with the Rolling Stones and Lilith Fair; released album, See It Through My Eyes (originally recorded in 1984), 1997; recorded single, "Sin City," for the movie soundtrack, Snake Eyes; formed AMP (Anybody's Mentoring Program) to help kids develop their own music; released second album, Deconstruction, 1999.
- Selected discography
- Blurring the Edges , Capitol, 1997.
- See It Through My Eyes , Capitol, 1997.
- Deconstruction , Capitol, 1999.
- The Graces
- Perfect View , 1989.
- Billboard, April 12, 1997; September 9, 1999; November 6, 1999.
- Boston Globe, September 17, 1999.
- Entertainment Weekly, May 16, 1997; June 13, 1997.
- Guitar Player, November 1997; June 1998.
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 27, 1999.
- Newsweek, May 26, 1997.
- Hip Online, http://www.hiponline.com (August 7, 2000).
- Meredith Brooks, http://www.meredithbrooks.com (August 7, 2000).
- Rockrgrl, http://www.rockrgrl.com (August 7, 2000).
- Wall of Sound, http://www.wallsofsound.go.com (August 7, 2000).