It seems like there’s nothing Jonatha Brooke can’t do. Aside from being a successful singer and songwriter with multiple albums to her name, she has a history in modern dance and recently wrote and starred in a one-woman show.
While we spoke, her kitchen was being renovated, and she may or may not have been involved in its construction. But where she shines brightest is on stage, and you’ll have the chance to see her in the spotlight as a keynote speaker and featured performer at the 10th annual Singer-Songwriter Weekend in Cape May on Saturday, March 25, at Congress Hall.
“I love my job … I love performing,” Brooke says of her upcoming show at Congress Hall. “And this trio — I’m performing with Jo Lawry and Sean Driscoll — we love each other musically and personally, and it’s going to be so much fun.”
It’s hard to keep up with Brooke, in the best possible way. At once excited about a performance and wistful in reminiscing about her family, she brings a level of fun to her conversations and her performances.
“The show will be a wild range from funky to poignant, from ballad to romp,” she says. “It will be fun because I’m such a goofball … there will be amazing harmonies, tasty playing, good words.”
Those “good words” are part of what makes Brooke’s songwriting so successful. The daughter of a poet and a journalist with two brothers who also write, Brooke has a unique perspective on the written word.
“I felt like I better hold up to this,” Brooke says of her lyrics. “The written word is so sacred.”
Brooke’s capability with the written word is apparent in her songwriting. While she’s busy writing for herself (as evidenced by her more than 10 albums), she also writes for other artists and, more recently — after successfully performing her own one woman show “My Mother has Four Noses” — for musical theater.
“It’s a different type of writing than I’m used to,” Brooke says. “There are all different rules. I bristle at some, but some are there for a reason.”
While the two types of writing may be different, Brooke’s capabilities and determination are similarly present for both.
“I know I’ve done this before,” Brooke will often tell herself during moments of songwriting despair.
“Right now I have 10 notebooks all over the floor … I’m working on four projects at once,” Brooke says of her process. “I’ll go from thing to thing and hit each hard for about 10 to 15 minutes, and maybe I’ll make some leeway … or I’ll go make toast, or I’ll go for a walk. There’s a rhythm to your footsteps, a cadence, a tempo, and they provoke lyrics.”
Her advice to other songwriters?
“You have to have so many layers of ideas. Now that music is streaming and no one is getting paid, you have to be super nimble,” Brooke says. “You have to be a shape-shifter.”
You have to be like Brooke herself.