Corby Brooke — “Winnebago” interview
Fresh off the release of her debut single, “Winnebago,” North Carolina singer-songwriter Corby Brooke is a new face in the Piedmont music scene. With a distinct voice and unique observations, Corby’s single contemplates self-discovery as well as the longing to return to the place she feels most connected: Palmer, Alaska. Check out our conversation about her debut single, her inspirations, and her plans for the future.
Americana Highways: You are kicking off your musical journey with your debut single, “Winnebago,” that is now officially out on streaming platforms. I take it that you are originally from Alaska and you now live in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. Tell me about the song, “Winnebago.” Listening to it – it makes me think of a journey toward self-discovery. Where did it come from?
Corby Brooke: “Winnebago” is about a road trip that I aspire to take one day. It’s about leaving the Carolinas and going home to the place I was planted… Palmer, Alaska. When I miss the mountains, I think about hopping in a 70’s Winnebago and taking off. I may be on the verge of breaking down along the way, but the will to get home keeps the RV running. The song is ultimately about hope. The belief that home is awaiting despite the risky journey. “Winnebago” began with a completely different purpose. I wanted to write a story about the social tension that has been undeniably present in the U.S. — the “sociopolitical divide.” But, as I wrote, I became mentally exhausted. I found myself reverting from the “bad” by reminiscing about the good ol’ days… Can a 22-year-old say “good ol’ days?
AH: I can hear flares of country as well as rock and roll sprinkled in there on the recording. What was the process like for you deciding how you wanted the recording to sound? What stylistic elements did you know from the get-go would be featured on the track? Did you learn something or discover something new during the recording of the song that made its way into the final mix?
CB: The original instrumentation of the song was written via acoustic guitar with the intention of a much bigger sound. I knew that “Winnebago” had the potential to be a southern-rocker, and that was my entire goal when recording in the studio. With that said, it was a must to have a full-kit and lead guitar in the mix. Once all of the instrumentation was complete, I still wasn’t quite satisfied. I knew that the song needed one more climax, and to do that, I decided to bring in saloon-style keys. This was not part of the initial plan, but it truly made the song a complete toe-tapper. It added variety and depth. Jack Gorham was magical. He did an incredible job in the studio.
AH: Who were the musicians that played on the track and where did you record it?
CB: I recorded the track at Black Rabbit Audio in Greensboro, NC. The studio is owned by a very talented sound engineer and producer named Tom Troyer. He was awesome to work with and helped capture the sound that I was looking for. He also played acoustic rhythm on the track and recorded the electric slide just before the bridge on the tune. In addition to writing and co-producing the song, I played the bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and sang on the track. Matthew Armstrong, lead-singer in the band Viva La Muerte, played the lead guitar, Jack Gorham played the keys, and Aaron Cummings, drummer in Tom Troyer’s band Farewell Friend, played the drums. All musicians were extremely pleasurable to work with. We laughed and learned a lot from each other.
AH: You mentioned that you wanted to write about the social tension that is prevalent in the United States, but that you ended up writing a more personal narrative in the form of “Winnebago.” What are the different conditions that inspire you to write? Can we expect to hear a song in the future about the socio-political divide?
CB: I wrote as a form of therapy when I first learned to play the guitar. My family had moved across the country to a place that was very different from Alaska, and I used music to cope with the massive change. Now, I tend to write strictly based on “feeling.” As I said before, I wanted to write a song that would capture the state of the country, but I wasn’t in the headspace to do that. As a result, “Winnebago” surfaced. I’d like to say that I will be able to write a song about division in the future, but I’m really unsure what will come of my writing.
AH: Being a transplant to the Carolinas, your country sound is indistinguishable. In what capacity were you around music growing up? Who are some artists that inspire you?
CB: Winnebago is inspired by the Doobie Brothers, Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I listened to all three bands as a kid, and I loved them all. My parents listened to country music because both of their parents had, but I specifically remember listening to grunge and alternative rock with my mom. We listened to a wide variety — Nirvana to Beck. Rock n’ roll has always been a huge influence in my life. Instrumentally, it has inspired me, but as a storyteller, I tend to veer towards bluegrass and country. I’d say my style fits within the broad realm of Americana. “Winnebago,” particularly, is a country/southern-rock tune.
AH: If you were stranded on an island and could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
CB: This is probably disappointing, but it would have to be a “Greatest Hits” album from the Eagles. Though, I pretty much enjoy every album from the Eagles; all their songs are class. It’s hard to commit to an eternity to one album… It I had more time to think on this, I’d probably opt for silence.
AH: Do you ever take inspiration from other artistic mediums such as literature or film?
CB: Yes. A few years ago, I was actually in the process of writing a book. I really enjoy reading mysteries and true crime literature. My song, “Paranoia,” is actually inspired by the TV series Criminal Minds.
AH: If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
CB: If I could collaborate with any artist, I think it would be Janis Joplin. She was a rollercoaster of a person, and an incredibly talented artist. Her time ended far too soon, and I would have loved to have a conversation with her before she went into the bright lights.
AH: As a young artist navigating the music scene, what is the best advice you received?
CB: The best advice that I’ve received came from a dear friend, and he said, “don’t forget the ‘why.’” Every decision I’ve made has come from my heart. Passion is the why, and I play to live by that forever.
AH: What’s next for you? You mentioned the song, “Paranoia.” Has that one been released yet?
CB: As of now, I’m primarily focusing on playing soccer in college. Music has been on the backburner for a little bit. My life is quite the rollercoaster right now, but in a positive way. I need more time to gather additional funding for an EP or album. A few tracks have been recorded for “Paranoia,” but it isn’t complete… a work in progress.
Listen to the debut single by Corby Brooke, “Winnebago,” below!