It might sound strange, but an artist having one smash single from an album can be a gift and a curse at times. Sure the single can elevate that to stardom and the financial success that comes along with it, but on the other hand, that one song can overshadow the rest of the album. That was the unfortunate reality for Brooke Valentine who is known worldwide for her hit “Girlfight”, but not much known for the rest of the amazing work she did on her 2005 debut “Chain Letter”. After her career got mixed up with label mergers and an extended hiatus, Brooke Valentine has returned with a renewed vigor and passion for music. She’s now ready once again to share her gift of music with the world. YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with Brooke for this interview and discussed the power of her debut single “Girlfight”, why her second album was never released, her writing process, her new single “Forever”, what to expect on her upcoming album, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What do you remember about recording your debut album “Chain Letter”?
Brooke Valentine: I remember the excitement of being a new artist. When up and coming artists ask me like, “Any advice you have for me?” I always say, “Take it all in because you’ll never be a new artist again”. That excitement of being new and that first time, you never get another first time. I just remember being excited and that feeling of “Wow my dream is really coming true”. I got to work with such legends like Ol’ Dirty Bastard who passed away. I was actually the last person to work with him in the studio, so I was honored to get a chance to work with him. Everyone that I worked with on that album, it was amazing. It was an amazing experience.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Could you give me some background on the song “Cover Girl”?
Brooke Valentine: Wow, it’s interesting that you ask about “Cover Girl” in particular because I was actually so sick when I recorded that. It was my first time In New York and first time in snow. My body went into a state of shock. Deja The Great, who is the head of the label I’m with, he took me shopping and was like, “Let’s go! You’ve never been in snow! Let’s get you a big New York jacket.” I was walking, having the time of my life and surely after that, I got caught the worst flu ever. They were like “Let’s keep working and keep her in the studio.” We called a guitar player over, he started playing the guitar and I just started singing. They were like “Let’s just put a rough down. When she feels better, we’ll have her re-sing it.” That’s what happened and after everyone heard it, they were like “Absolutely not. Leave it exactly the way it is. We love it, so don’t change it.” That’s how “Cover Girl” came about. It was me singing through my pain.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Even though “Girlfight” was a huge song, I feel like it overshadowed the rest of the album. Do you feel the same way?
Brooke Valentine: I do feel like the monster that was and is “Girlfight”, it took over in such a way. I always say that “Girlfight” was like a big truck and I’m trying to catch it, but I’m on a skateboard, so I’m running after it. *Laughs* I remember my first time hearing “Girlfight” on the radio like sporadically, and then the next day hearing it everywhere I went and on the radio all day. With that being said, it was kind of like a blessing and a curse. It took off so fast and with “Chain Letter” being so diverse and having so many different feelings on it, I do feel like it created a situation where a lot of fans expected something different from “Chain Letter”. I’m excited about this new album “Forever” because it taps back into that realness “Chain Letter” presented and that feeling everybody is looking for that they missed. Everyone that I talk to, including my fans, they’re like, “Yo, we still play ‘Chain Letter’. That album was everything.” Now I feel like the world is ready for that type of album. I think that “Chain Letter” was before its time.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You went on to record a second album “Physical Education”. What was the approach with that album?
Brooke Valentine: There was no approach with that album. It was basically timeline. I was on the calendar with Virgin Records to put out another album and we just did it. There was no strategy. It was like “Hey let’s put her back in the studio with this person and that person.” It was very forced and I called it a “paper album”. It was like, “This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to work with all the hot producers and rappers.” That’s not really the way I like to work. I like to go into the studio and let things happen. I like to just let the session take on. I don’t want to have to clock in at nine and end at eight. That’s just not me, that’s not how my creativity flows. With “Physical Education”, I can’t say my heart was all the way in it. I do think I got some amazing things from that project, and with all that was going on contractually with Virgin and their changes, it was just not something that I enjoyed too much, which is why I never turned the album in. We never turned it in and that’s why it was never released.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Was the hiatus due to what happened with “Physical Education”?
Brooke Valentine: That was the beginning of it. Somebody called me and said, “Everybody that was working on your project just got fired.” I was like, “What do you mean?” They were like “Yes, they totally revamped. Everybody is new. You’re going to get a call from this person and that person.” It was just so much. It’s almost like someone divorcing you and you’re not getting any warnings. You think you’re going on a date and they’re like “No, the divorce is final”, and you’re like “What divorce?!” It was kind of like that. And with me being so young, I was like 19-20, that’s a lot. I was living on my own for the first time. All of that was a lot for me and that would be step one in my break. Step two would be when I was working on “Physical Education”. I was working on the “Dope Girl” record and my cousin was murdered. At that time, it just brought something out of me. I felt like, “I’ve been working and working two years straight and only being home two months in two years.” I just felt very detached from reality and family. I just wanted to stop. I called everyone and was like “I just want to go home. I want to sleep on my brother’s couch, I’m want to eat Cheerios, I’m want my Mom to make a gumbo and I just want to go lay in her bed and let her sing to me.” Everybody looked me crazy like, “You’re at the height of your career. Everything is moving. Everybody knows your name. What do you mean you want to take a break?” I just felt in my heart personally, that was the right thing to do and I don’t regret one second of it. Within that break, I was blessed with a son. I felt like if I hadn’t taken that break, it would have never happened. I was such a workaholic. I needed that break in order to let real life happen. I called it a life break. I always tell people when they ask me about it, I say “Regular 9-5ers take a vacation. Just look at it like it I took a vacation. It was a little long, but now I’m back at work.” *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know you do your own writing. Talk to me about your writing process.
Brooke Valentine: Rarely it’s to a track. Rarely a producer gives me music and I write to it. I think that’s too easy. Most of the time for me, it’s on an elevator or in my car listening to absolutely nothing. I’ll just be driving and then the lyrics birth. With lyrics, I have to pull over and type out the lyrics. As I start driving again, a melody comes and then I go to producers and I say “What can you do with this?” That’s when we get together as far as the music. Two of the songs on my new album were elevator records. That’s what I call them. I’m just singing on the elevator like “Oh I like this. This has a ring to it!” I just go into the studio and I put it down. I’ll invite a guitar player over and I’ll be like “How can you complement this?” That’s how it happens. With this album in particular, we didn’t go into it saying we were going to make an album. It just became an album.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Why do you feel like this is the right time for you?
Brooke Valentine: It’s meant to be. I always say, “When you know it’s right, everything will fall into place.” With this project in particular, everything has fallen into place. Even when I’m trying to fight it being right, even when that part of me that loves to stay home and be a create of habit, even when that part of me takes over, it just naturally falls into place where I get a break and I get to work. Everything is just so organic right now. I’m not forcing it at all. My team, Team Forever, is amazing. The people I’m working with, they’re amazing people. I genuinely love them. That’s what makes everything different this time around.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I noticed you changed your stage name from Brook Valentine to B. Valentine. Can you talk about that?
Brooke Valentine: It’s not a name change. It’s more of a nickname. It’s something friends and co-workers in the studio call me. It’s not a name change where I would like to be referred to as B. Valentine. You can definitely call me Brooke Valentine. That’s my name. That’s what my Mother calls me. It’s just an abbreviation or a little nickname. It’s nothing serious, I still go by Brook Valentine.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your single “Forever” and how it’s been received so far.
Brooke Valentine: Amazing stuff. Every time I get a tweet, e-mail, message with someone sending me a picture of them and their family, that’s when I know I’m doing the right thing. It’s like I never left. Once that song hit, everyone was like “Brooke, we love this. This is new and fresh. It makes me want to dance and makes me want to go home, pick my kid up from school and hug them.” That’s what I’m all about. That’s what I do. During my break, I did a lot of work with developmentally delayed children. I had a parent support group that I’m a part of. I mentor a lot of teenagers. I’m all about uplifting someone. If it’s a group of 500 girls that I talk to and one smiles back at me, I feel accomplished. Luckily, I’ve been able to get more smiles than that, but I really wanted my music to reflect my personal life and what I set out to do every day. I wanted my music to reflect that. I’m proud to say that “Forever” is a great reflection of who I am and what I really want to do. That’s just to make people smile and feel good.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk to me about your upcoming album and the overall sound of it.
Brooke Valentine: It’s definitely different. I would say that my album is 98% completed. I’m excited about it. I call it “Ride or Cry” music. That’s from the experiences I’ve had playing it for my girlfriends and my home boys. They’re either riding to it or they’re just crying. It’s not a negative cry. It’s more like, “You said it exactly how I would have said it.” My friend was listening to one of my songs and she was just crying. I felt bad like “Oh my god! I’m making her cry” and she was like, “No! These are happy tears. You’re reading my mind. These are my thoughts. I feel so much better. It’s almost like you said it for me.” That was everything for me. It’s just real music. It’s so real that when my Mom and close friends heard it, they were like “Are you serious? You’re just going to tell everybody your business?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s what they want. They want to hear real emotions.” With each song, I relive that emotion in the song and in the booth. I recorded myself on this album. I pulled the microphone out of the booth, sat there and recorded myself. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want it to be a production. I just wanted it to be me. I feel like I owe the fans that. They’ve waited this long and they’ve been there for me. They’re there for me and this is what I owe them. I owe them real emotions.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Do you have a tentative release date for the album yet?
Brooke Valentine: I don’t have one for you right now. I kind of take myself on the outside of that part. I try to just stay in the creative lane and not get so involved with dates. That kind of pulls that homebody Brooke that just wants to crawl up on the couch with a blanket. I’m like, “No, I don’t want to hear about the dates. Don’t tell me that I’m going to be on the road for six months straight!” *Laughs* I know it’ll be soon. Probably during the Summer. I’m just excited about it!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Brooke Valentine: Thank you for your support. Also let the fans know that I love them. They’re the reason why I’m doing this and I’m excited for what’s to come.