You had to know where to find it: That’s the way Rachel Brooke sums up how she got her fill of country music sounds and shows living in Northern Michigan through her late teens and early 20s.
Along the way, she was introduced to folk and bluegrass thanks to her father, banjo player Barry Van Guilder, and when a friend of hers passed along a Hank Williams CD, “it was all uphill from there,” Brooke says with a laugh.
Making her way down to Detroit, however, is what got the ball rolling for Brooke’s own music career, she says, noting that the city has “a little scene” that skews toward country music.
“There’s something about Detroit that welcomes you with music,” Brooke says. “When I started playing [there], I started meeting tons of people who were really interested and supportive — kind of inclusive, which I didn’t necessarily have up here.”
Brooke lived in the Detroit area for a while; she’s since returned to Northern Michigan, which is where she recorded The Loneliness in Me, her first solo album since 2012’s A Killer’s Dream. During those years in between, she was busy in myriad ways, among them working a job, teaming with singer-guitarist Lonesome Wyatt for 2015’s Bad Omen and coping with the 2019 death of her father.
And quietly, she was building the foundation for The Loneliness in Me, stockpiling “little ideas” for songs.
“They weren’t fully formed — just a basic melody or a chorus,” Brooke says. “We really finished them in the past year.”
By “we,” Brooke means herself and husband Brooks Robbins, marking the first time she’s collaborated with someone on lyrics and music.
“It’s more fun to write with somebody else,” she says. “Your brains are connecting. By myself, it can get a little dark in my brain when I have no one to share it with.”
Among the standouts on The Loneliness in Me, released Oct. 23, is the title track.
“[The words] ‘the loneliness in me’ struck me very strong — it was almost like a premonition,” Brooke explains. “In most of the lyrics, each verse is a true aspect of my life. The first verse is talking about my paranoia and anxiety — kinda making it sort of funny. The second verse was about work, and the last one was about music. So all three of those things were big parts of my personality. That song really represents me.”
The title track’s humorous aspect “was very natural” for her, she says, because “it’s second nature for me to make fun of myself. I really love to laugh. I need humor, so I create it in weird ways.”
However, Brooke adds, she “definitely didn’t want to make a joke. I wanted to talk about who I am, and the humor just kind of came out. That’s just what I do. And I stand by it as truth.”
At the end of the excellent video for “The Loneliness in Me” (directed by Nicholas D. Gascho), a smiling, fancy-dress-wearing Brooke is shown onstage with her guitar when a tossed tomato lands at her feet.
Asked if she’s ever had a tomato or any produce thrown at her during a show, she says, “No, luckily. But now that the video is out, it might actually happen.”
As long as it’s a ripe one, right?
“Oh, yeah. Don’t throw any rotten ones at me.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Rachel Brooke concert dates (schedule subject to change):
- Dec. 4: American Legion — Grayling, Michigan
- Dec. 18: Tinker’s Junction — Grayling, Michigan
- Jan. 1: American Legion — Grayling, Michigan