Katey Brooks is a clear-eyed rebel in an industry that demands consistency. Growing up inside a cult, as a child Brooks found refuge in song.
“It was a very chaotic upbringing, full of some pretty colorful and sometimes unsavory, characters. But when I sang, I felt free and connected. For as long as I can remember, it’s been my way of getting what I need to say out”, she reveals.
All of these hardships seem to have driven, rather than dragged Brooks under.
“Pain just reminds me why I sing,” she says. “And not just for me; for everybody. They say in a funny sort of way musicians are like therapists,” she muses. “Because music is a universal language. Everybody has experienced some kind of heartache, especially in relationships, and music allows us to purge these feelings.”
What made you decide to leave the cult you were raised in?
It was my mum’s decision as I was 10 years old. It was the only thing I knew up until that point so it was quite hard to adjust to the ‘normal world’ for a while (I still feel like an outsider in many ways!)
Your music reflects coming to terms with your sexuality. In what way has your music helped with this?
I think because to me my music/writing is the one thing that’s mine. It’s been my safe space. Yes of course when I share it with others, it becomes theirs too, but when I’m writing, I can say and feel whatever I like. That’s been very therapeutic. Having become increasingly open with my lyrics of late, and seeing that people either don’t react at all, or react from a place of love, I’ve accepted that it’s a beautiful thing, and most definitely not something to be afraid or ashamed of within myself.
Your songwriting talent has been compared to Jeff Buckley (Supajam) ever consider doing a duet with him? Who else would be your dream duet?
Definitely, if he were alive today, I’d be champing at the bit! Good question… perhaps Bon Iver (that stripped back cover of ‘I can’t make you love me’ he did was heaven) Matt Corby would be amazing to duet with, or I’d love to sing with a band like Fleetwood Mac.
You’ve told your past in the form of music, but have you ever consider putting it in a book? What is it about singing that makes your past more therapeutic for you?
Actually yes. My middle sister is a novelist/journalist and she, my oldest sister and I have often joked that we should make a book about it, with Bonny doing the actual writing part. There’s definitely some seriousness underneath the joking, but we’ve not put our heads together as of yet.
Singing is the way I feel. It’s how I connect with my heart – it always has been. Perhaps it’s the vibrations I don’t know, but there’s something about those feelings in my chest that wake up and come out when I sing.
Brooks has found success recording with the likes of Brian May (Queen), Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones) and Paloma Faith at Abbey Road, for BBC Radio 2’s Children in Need single.
She has played some of the world’s biggest festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, the 2012 Paralympics, and Australia’s National Folk Festival. The beautiful finger-picked, harmony-inflected sound of her 2016 I Fought Lovers EP received an enthusiastic reception from radio stations around the UK and internationally, including BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and CBC Canada.