By Brian Ives
“If I’m gonna be your Saturday night, I’m gonna be your Sunday mornin’,” Brooke Eden sings in “Sunday Mornin’,” one of the songs on her new EP, Welcome to the Weekend.
“It’s a respect thing,” she tells Radio.com. “‘Sunday Mornin” was inspired by a friend who spent the night with this guy on a Saturday night, and Sunday morning she woke up and he was not there. At his own house!” She shakes her head, adding, “That was very sweet of him.”
“I just thought, ‘How crazy is that? That we live in this generation of dating, where it’s almost not that crazy that that happens.’ Either the guy or the girl wakes up, and one of them is gone. There’s something in me that yearns for chivalry. And I think that there are still people out there who treat people well. It’s just finding them, and giving yourself enough respect to make them respect you.”
Eden addresses a somewhat longer relationship on an earlier song, “I Took Your Picture Down Today.” “It was one of the first songs I wrote when I got to Nashville. I wrote that song with Liz Sharpe and Will Rambeaux,” she notes, quick to credit her co-writers. “I think as women, we hold on to relationships, we don’t want to let it go, and you hold on to the pictures and the memories. And at some point, you realize that there’s nothing to hold onto anymore. That picture isn’t worth holding on to anymore. You’re worth more than that. So it was written about letting go of that relationship and physically taking those photos down.”
Respect and self-worth are themes that come up in her lyrics and in conversation. “My mom is a strong southern woman,” she explains. “And my dad says he’s the manliest feminist he’s ever known. He’s always told me I could be whatever I want to be. I never felt any sexism. I think that it’s about how you’re raised. My mom always told me if you respect yourself, you’ll be respected by other people.”
Eden, of course, doesn’t deny the existence of sexism, even though she grew up in a home where she didn’t experience it. “Let’s talk about country radio,” she says. “For a very long time it was very male-dominated. Up until recently, it was very male-dominated! I don’t know if you would call that ‘sexism,’ or maybe the girls just weren’t putting out music that was as good as the guys, I don’t really know what to attribute it to. I didn’t really notice it until I was in country music.”
She agrees that a turning point was an incident last year when an industry insider suggested that females could only be played sparingly on the radio.
“They called it ‘Tomato-gate,'” she laughs. “Like: men were the lettuce and women were tomatoes. It was really funny to be compared to a salad. But Maddie and Tae came out with ‘Girl in a Country Song,’ which really highlighted [the issue of how women were portrayed in songs]. Like, ‘Whoa, there really aren’t a lot of girls singing country songs. There’s a lot of girls in country songs.’ But that, along with the ‘Tomatoegate’ thing, it created this awareness of, ‘Oh wait, where did the girls in country radio go? Where’s our Shania Twain and our Faith Hill and our Martina McBride and our Dixie Chicks?'”
“But it’s turning around: the more great music that girls put out, the more they’ll be played on the radio.”
Eden’s own road to radio play started a few years ago; she was a contestant on American Idol during the show’s heyday.
“American Idol was right after I graduated from high school. I was totally not ready for that yet. I felt like I still had a lot more to learn about myself, as an artist, before I was ready to showcase it to the world. But American Idol did teach me one really important thing, and if I hadn’t gone through that experience it would have taken me longer to realize. I was up until three in the morning every night and up at six the next morning, and it was really grueling hours, tough competition, but I was obsessed with it. I loved it. I loved the musician life, and being around other musical people. To me, it was about realizing that I have the stamina to be a musician. You know, everyone’s always like, ‘This is a really hard life, you have to have tough skin, you have to be able to deal with a lot of criticism, and getting told ‘no’ a lot.’ For me, it was like, ‘OK, I can do that. It’s worth it; I want this.’ It was a really pivotal point in my career.”
She was on the show when it still had its original judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. “Simon was like, ‘I really like your voice.’ But I was 18 at the time, and obviously very excited to meet Randy, Paula and Simon and I kind of jumped around a little bit and of course [the show edited it] to be more crazy than it actually was. Simon was like, ‘She’s the most annoying person I’ve ever met. I didn’t want her to sing well.’ It was like a backhanded compliment, because he really didn’t want to like me, but he did. So I was like, ‘OK, that was rude, but also: thanks.'”
After that, she went to college for business, and also worked as a bartender. Both of those experiences fed into her skills as an artist: “[Learning about] Marketing really helped me realize that being an artist is like having a brand, and knowing what your brand is, and differentiating your brand so you aren’t like everybody else and you have something different to give. I think one of the most important things that I learned was that differentiation. In Nashville, there are all these incredible musicians, and everyone’s so talented. You’re kind of not competing against everybody else, you’re competing against yourself. What can you give to country music listeners that’s not out there right now? That was really helpful.”
She continues: “Lots of stories came from bartending. But also, learning how to talk to people and to love people and getting to know people really quickly, has been really helpful, because a lot of times you only get to meet people for thirty seconds. I feel like I’m that person that people always tell their baggage to and I’m like, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ I think if I wasn’t artist, I’d be a therapist.”
Having that ear for people’s stories has helped her in writing songs like “Sunday Mornin'” and “I Took Your Picture Down Today.”
“People say, ‘You got in my brain, you wrote a song about what I’m going through.’ And that’s the biggest compliment to me, that’s what you’re trying to do as an artist: you find what connects people and you realize that you’re not alone. Music, for me, was always about realizing that I wasn’t the only one going through that. So when other people tell me that I’m singing [about] their life, that means so much to me; I’m making somebody else feel like they’re not alone.”