At the beginning of last year I wrote down a list of names that included women that I dreamt of photographing. Women that were chasing their dreams unabashedly, wholeheartedly without shame. Women that were authors, speakers, musicians, mothers, and everything in between.
Brooke White was one of those women.
On a chilly, rainy December morning a few short months later I found myself driving to her home to spend the day with her, getting to know her story and take her picture. By the end of the day I felt like I wanted to dance down the streets, arms flailing in the air, singing at the top of my lungs. When you are around people who are dream chasers; it’s contagious.
Brooke, your story encourages, inspires, and challenges me to keep taking that next step, to run wildly after my dreams, to stay grounded and true to myself. You are a wonderful woman. Thank you 1,000 times for sharing your life and story with me!
A: Hmmm, So I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to that question for quite some time now… closing in on thirty years and this is what I have been able to come up with so far…Brooke White is: London’s mum, Dave’s wife, the firstborn, a music maker, an artsy fartsy lady, wild haired, barefoot shoe lover, stripe obsessed, over-analyzer, free spirit, girl with glasses, child of God.
Q: Has music always been a big part of your life? No one’s journey is overnight, so how did you go about pursuing your dreams of being a musician?
A: Always, Always, Always. However singing wasn’t always a big part of my life, I didn’t discover my own voice till I was nearly 16, however I understood the language. We weren’t a TV family, we were a music family. It was always playing, while we jumped on the trampoline in the backyard, when we took Sunday drives in the Aerostar van, while we did homework, it was as common as breathing. My parents were passionate music lovers, surrounding us with the sounds of the 60’s and 70’s and passing that love down to their posterity. Literally the day after I was born and brought home from the hospital my parents took me to my dad’s band practice. We got a piano when I was 7 from my grandma Tootie. The keys were like magnets to my fingers, I just knew how to play, like recalling information that I’ve always known. The first song I learned to play was “right here waiting for you” by Richard Marx.
Yikes, The second half is a loaded question: the journey is long, and complicated, and never really over.
For a long while it felt as if music pursued me… I lacked confidence, belief in my own voice, doubted my gifts, but it was those around me that saw something and just nudged me enough to try. I resisted, would take a step in the dark, then would quit, only for the “dream” to return like a boom-a-rang. My musical uncle who would play songs on the piano during family dinners at grandmas house, heard me sing along to myself, he said he heard a tone, always told me that I needed to sing out loud for people to hear. Introverted, shy and unsure, I never would, til he drug me to an audition with my cousin for “Meet me in St. Louis”. I was a sophmore, I thought, maybe a chorus part. I sang “it’s a jolly holiday with you Burt” from Mary Poppins. I remember being terrified and then suddenly brave enough. I got the lead role, and that changed everything. Fast forward a year later, a vocal coach and producer came to our high school to give voice lessons, I sang a tune, he asked me what I was gonna do with my life. I was going to beauty school half days, I told him I was going to be a cosmetologist and he told me I needed to pursue a music career. I had never even had the thought. But he convinced me, and my parents and I moved to LA at 17. But after a few short months away from home, I discovered true heartbreak, lost all confidence and ended back in AZ. For the next two years, I had worked selling shoes at Nordstrom, cut hair out of my bathroom, began dating my husband, and he didn’t even know I sang. But there was this hole in my soul, I knew I had to get back to music.
I moved back to LA on July 4th of 2003, went to music school for a few short months and discovered song-writing; it was there that I began to play and sing simultaneously. That was a real challenge, but the best choice I could have made. That’s when the dream got serious. A manager/producer found me through a teacher of mine, convinced me to stay the course. I wrote my first ten songs and recorded an album in his attic. I learned the ropes, played the sunset strip and struggled. Married my boyfriend, moved to Van Nuys and did everything I could to support the music. I cut hair, I drew pictures for a clothing company, I was a nanny for twin babies, and then after four diligent years of chasing, the discouragement settled in, I felt perhaps my time was up and it was time to move on. But then there was American Idol, and maybe it was worth a shot so that I could say that I tried everything, though I never felt like I could ever compete on a show for singers, still having a deep inner conflict with the sound of my own voice. But with the encouragement of my husband, and then manager, I took a red eye to the last audition of the summer in Philadelphia, waited over 21 hours for my first audition, made it through over a handful of cuts and ended up with a golden ticket. Idol was a serious game changer, a pressure cooker, an emotional roller coaster. It was the place that helped to define who I was, musically, and even more important, who I was spiritually. I never would have fathomed I would have lasted til fifth place. Miraculously, I was able to connect with millions of people in their living rooms, singing, barefoot on the piano, on the television stage. But it was merely a beginning, a very big beginning. I spent a year at what felt like the top of Mount Everest. Life at the top was a lot of work, it was scary, it was exhilarating, and it was hard. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay there. Little did I know, I would eventually find myself back at base camp, and slowly work my way back up the mountain. The years following the idol experience were a test of my will, how hard was I willing to work, how much did I want this career, what was I willing to sacrifice? Instead of signing with a major record company, I created my own record later the year after my elimination, June Baby Records, and released my first record, “High Hopes and Heartbreak”. A record that was reminiscent of my childhood, a throwback and a very personal collection of songs that marked moments both high and low. I would go on to live out of a suit case for the next three years, sleeping few nights in my own bed. Hardly ever seeing my companion. There were many lonely days, but all for the music, and for what felt like a true mission. That life was hard, but at the end of the day, I loved the music and sacrificed nearly everything for it. I went on to act for the first time in a made for TV movie on Fox, “Change of Plans” and found that I enjoyed acting almost more than anything, but knew that in itself was a serious and challenging pursuit. I’d also started a quirky online web series “the girls with glasses” along side Summer Bellessa. My projects became quite a juggle, however I continued committed to the path of music I had been pursuing for so long. I went to Nashville and toyed with the idea of a country career, as so many people had told me I needed to do. But after a few trips, it just didn’t feel right, at least not yet. I got lost, didn’t know what my next move would be, and hit a rough patch, until I had a brilliant songwriting session with a young guy out of Sacramento, a good friend of my manager, Jack Matranga, that was the beginning of a musical collaboration known as “Jack and White”. It was a magical time musically. It was organic and pure, we had little money but a lot of inspiration and motivation. Together we released three EP’s in just a little over a year… Gemini, Winter and Undercover. Within that time, my husband and I would finally welcome our first sweet baby into our lives, again, she changed everything. I toured and recorded while she grew in my belly, with my guitar on my hip. From the moment she was born, the dynamic of my career, and my priorities shifted dramatically. After fighting and working years to stay relevant and visible after the idol experience, I realized I couldn’t give it what I used to. However, I knew that I always wanted both, music and motherhood. I’ve spent the last eight months really giving the M&M role a go; it hasn’t been easy. I created my first solo Christmas record, White Christmas. I took my daughter with me, here there and everywhere to promote the record. Music is what she knows, it makes me happy.
Six records later, I still love the music, however the struggle still continues, and currently I find myself at the core of it. The art is finding our way through it, out of it, over and over again… it’s more circular then a straight line, that is the journey. I promise that’s the short story !
Q: So, you’re a wife, mother, musician, and blogger. Does it ever feel like all you do is work? How do you stay balanced and keep your priorities straight while being apart of so many different things?
A: Ahh Yes! It does feel like I always work, and I am pooped, and seriously overwhelmed and feel like I need to breath into a paper bag a good chunk of the time, but here is the good news: I love it all. That must be why I keep saying yes, cause I just have an abundance of passion for my family, for art, for music, for creating beautiful things! And I have incredible collaborators that I couldn’t function with out, from my husband, to my manager, to Summer. I can’t claim I have balance, If I did, I’d be a liar liar pants on fire. I’m struggling with this balance thing, I always have. I think that is the nature of who I am. I’m just too intense, and completely unrealistic! Man, I want to do it all, but the Lord is humbling me in this twenty ninth year of life, and I am finally realizing that I can’t do it all, at least not all at the same time. I grieved that truth when I finally came face to face with it. And yet, trying to do it all is like a old habit, one that is hard to quit. So I continue to try, and I continue to have a few small triumph and moments of complete failure and a lot of mediocrity in between. Though my intentions are genuine, I over promise, and under deliver more then I’d like, and I’m slow…I’m not perfect, and this I am acutely aware. But in my weakness I lean on God, and my dear husband, I make him crazy and he supports me, loves me and embraces my creative spirit. I may not reach the top of that mount everest ever again, or be super rich nor famous, BUT, when I look in to the sweetest eyes of my daughter, and snuggle her squishy little frame that is growing at light speed, I am struck with the intense realization, that she trumps Everest, and that an eternal family is worth more than any earthly pursuit.
Q: With so much on your plate, what are some tangible things you do to stay inspired?
A: We get up everyday, listen to “here comes the sun”, make the bed, dance, and we soak in the sunshine that pours through the window. This simple everyday ritual does so much for my spirit, and my motivation. I pray for inspiration, that I can be open, and aware of beauty around me, of people, of their situations, that I can have compassion and empathy. I am inspired by people and their stories, their complexities and uniqueness. I eat delicious food, and thoroughly enjoy it’s taste. I roll down my car windows and let my hair blow around and turn into a giant knot while I sing along to the oldies station at the top of my lungs. I go to thrift stores and love to give life to old things. On a rough day I make my way down to the beach and put my feet in the sand and watch the waves. My mom texts me quotes and emails me self help articles, I dig that stuff! I’ve become a curator of a slammin’ pinterest board of amazing quotes. I just look at my daughter, and obsess over her cuteness. I take lots of pictures with my iphone and instagram with a lovely community of friends. I clean my house, and I get a slew of ideas while I’m vacuuming.
Q: Your blog Girls With Glasses with Summer is so cute and unique. Your bio video is one of my favorites! What are some of the reasons why you guys started your blog/show
A: Thank you Kat! Three years ago when we met up for waffles at Ihop we were both wearing our glasses, the idea was right before our very eyes, literally. We felt there was a void, a show for creative twenty and thirty somethings. Something smart but not too serious… A lifestyle variety show for the creative gal. We wanted to get to television but like anything else, knew it wouldn’t be overnight, so we decided to create a blog to post all of our webisodes. We wrote a theme song, and with the help of our brilliant friend Angela Kohler, we created a stop motion video that spread like wild fire. Since then we’ve made nearly 70 webisodes and have a load of crazy fun making them. In my efforts to simplify, I am going to take a break from music for the next two months to focus on London and the Girls with Glasses… great things in the works for the GWG in 2013!
Q: There are so many aspiring bloggers out there. What are some tips you would give someone that is trying to enter into the (intimidating) world of blogging?
A: Not sure if I’m qualified to give advice, but in any creative endeavor, I would say first and foremost, be YOU! Be You times a thousand, the best version of you. I think authenticity really counts. Know who you are and really shine at being that. Whether you’re an artist, photographer, foodie, mom or music critic… do what you do with great love, and it will attract others. I also think it is important to not duplicate or imitate others. Focus on original content that you are passionate about. And as you mentioned Kat, it is an intimidating world, but there are also so many wonderful people in the blogging community! Look to connect and collaborate with like minded people. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others that appear to have it all together. Everyone has challenges and had to start somewhere…
Q: Right now, who are the bands/artists that you’re listening to?
A: The Silver Seas, The Lumineers, Young Man, Atlas Genius, Band of Horses, Ellie Goulding… of course mixed in with the classics… Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and The Eagles.
Q: Who are 4 people in your life that influence you most?
A: Mom… an example of authenticity and individuality, always striving for constant self improvement. She is a empathetic listener. Funny with out trying
Dad… The eternal optimist, hard working and faithful. He’s given me the gift of enthusiasm, he has always been there with positivity. He is goofy, like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
Dave Ray CPA… my husband, Always Willing to change, and try harder, strives to serve others. Thinks before he speaks, takes his time in order to be sincere, His support is genuine.
London June my daughter, teaches me patience, sacrifice and pure joy. She doesn’t know how to do many things, she can’t talk, but her innocent dependence upon me influences nearly my every decision.
Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A lot of things, but mostly an artist of some kind. For about five years all I could think about was being a cartoon animator for Walt Disney Studios. I even wrote a letter to the head animator in the fifth grade, he wrote me back on Disney studios letter head, I still have it somewhere. I also wanted to be a hairdresser. I made it half way through beauty school, and I definitely always wanted to be a mom.
Q: If you could give any advice to young women about pursuing their dreams and making them a reality what would it be?
A: Sounds cliché, BUT, Be true to yourself, your beliefs, your values, your character. Don’t compromise these core parts of who you are; it will be tempting at times, but generally regretful. Resist. Be both patient and proactive. Do what you do with great LOVE. Practice, Work hard, Be authentic, be awesome, be kind, be careful. Listen to your gut. Value relationships. Never google your name, and Don’t forget to pray.
Hair and Make-up by the One-and-only: Amy Clarke; Amy you are simply a dream to work with!