The contagious, bright eyed smile on the cover of Meredith Brooks' long anticipated Kissing Booth Music/SLG Records debut Shine beautifully reflects the triumphant spirit of the singer/songwriter's life, both personally and professionally, in 2004.
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The artist who electrified the world-and established herself as an undeniable creative force in a new generation of female rockers--with her multi-platinum disc Blurring the Edges and its worldwide hit single "Bitch" became a mother to baby Troy in July. She continues to thrive as a producer (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Hilary Duff), and recently signed up and coming teen rock singer Bec Hollcraft to her production company/label Kissing Booth Music.
Best of all to her eager fans, Brooks' solo career gets back in full swing in late September, with the release of Shine and its inspirational title track, chosen by none other than popular TV therapist Dr. Phil for a series of on air TV spots and the anthem for the new season of his show.
Chosen by Dr. McGraw from among hundreds of submissions because it fit the forward thinking, triumph over adversity philosophy of the show, the song's message also reflects Brooks' attitude towards her own survival in the music industry. Earlier label trouble prevented the twelve track collection from reaching its rightful audience for the last couple of years, but Brooks never gave up on her belief that a good song will always get its due. This is truly her chance to "Shine."
"In the song, I say, 'When there's nothing but no, and there's nowhere to go, you find a way'...and I did," she says. "Thanks to this extraordinary opportunity with Dr. Phil, both 'Shine' and the other songs are being given a chance in a new format which perfectly fits where my life is at these days," she says. "My hope is that they will touch people of all ages and life experiences across the board. My life is in a good place now, and the songs have an even deeper meaning to me than when I first wrote them. I was in a slightly different emotional space then, but I had the knowledge that whatever struggles I was going through, I would ultimately come through them and thrive. Life is always about change, good and bad, and my songs are very self-reflective. I knew I'd be rising up to those challenges, and now I have. Now I want to keep having fun and moving forward."
Shine opens with the sizzling, anthemic title track before moving into the crisp rock edges of "Crazy," a colorful statement about asserting one's independence. The blistering, hard grooving "Lucky Day" has a catchy singalong feeling and will no doubt inspire listeners to stand up to a controlling lover. The wistful and optimistic "Where Lovers Meet" offers rich rays of romantic hope, while "Bad Bad One" is a dark, moody exercise in deep self-analysis. "You DonŐt Know Me," which ruminates over the fallout from a hard breakup, begins with a mystical intro featuring filtered vocal and sonic effects. Touches of bluesy twang and funky hip-hop cool fuel the playful upbeat rapture of "Pleasure," which is balanced perfectly by (what else?) "Pain," about the harsh consequences of holding on to a love that still hurts. "Walk Away's" sharp hip-hop scratches echo Brooks' declaration that she's leaving a relationship gone sour, while "Your Name" is a good old fashioned brooding rocker that lets the listener's imagination take control of the plot. Concluding the set are folk meets alt rock tinged "High" and "Stand," a spiritual, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"-type expression of steadfast loyalty that could follow in Shine's footsteps as an inspirational anthem. Shine also includes a Dr. Phil remix of the title track.
The delay between the recording and release of 'Shine'-follow up to her 1999 release Deconstruction--gave the Corvallis, Oregon native a chance to step out as a first call record producer and develop her own production company, Kissing Booth Music, and a growing indie label with that name. In an era where hit albums are made by committee and multiple production teams are the norm, Brooks harkened back to the old days by producing every track of singer/actress Jennifer Love Hewitt's breakthrough project Barenaked, whose Top 30 title song was one 2002's most memorable hits.
She also co-wrote and produced "Party Up," from teen sensation Hillary Duff's 2003 album Metamorphosis, and did tracks with the up and coming Texas based Barefoot, which Brooks describes as "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young by way of Matchbox 20." The first artist signed exclusively to Kissing Booth is 15 year old Bec Hollcraft, and the two are currently in the midst of recording her debut album.
"For me to want to produce an artist, I have to feel a natural connection and have easy access into their musical soul," she says. "I have to discover their core, what makes them tick, and understand what kind of music they were raised on. I can't just be a gun for hire, I have to be able to go deeper with them. A lot of young artists today just think it's all about glamour and not having to work too hard to get to the top, but I tell them about the value of real life experience, of pursuing the kinds of desires and dreams I went after when I moved to L.A. in my 20's. All of the tough experiences I went through both growing up in a small town in Oregon and in the music business have been important in my personal and artistic development. So much of the process involves a real sense of soul searching."
Brooks has a great deal of experience to impart to her artists, from playing guitar every day from the time she first picked it up at age 11 (playing along to records by Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Heart and Fleetwood Mac) and playing the Los Angeles club scene to being part of Lilith Fair with Jewel, , Sarah McLachlan and Queen Latifah. Along the way, she became a member of the female group The Graces (which included former Go-Go Charlotte Caffey and released the album Perfect View on A&M), studied yoga and psychology and counseled runaway teens.
Once "Bitch" and her subsequent Top Ten single "What Would Happen" established Brooks as a superstar in an era of female rockers, she found a unique way to "give back," creating Anybody's Mentoring Program (AMP). On various tour stops from 1997 through 2002 (approximately 70 cities in all), Brooks would arrange to speak with crowds of high school students about making it in both the music industry and in life. She sang and played her guitar, but the focus was more on relating her experiences and inspiring others to work hard to achieve their goals. "It was great committing to this kind of community service," she says. "There was something magical about taking the focus off myself and sharing with young people the realities of the business and what it takes to succeed."
No doubt the students whose lives Brooks has touched will be further inspired by the song and album "Shine," of which SLG Records President Steve Vining says, "Meredith's full display of talents are in evidence - inspired songwriting, deft guitar work, soaring vocals and a sensibility born out of struggle and ultimately accomplishment of a goal doggedly pursued. Our hope is that the association with Dr. Phil brings this artist's work the broad recognition it so richly deserves to a whole new audience."
"I've had a great year," says Brooks, "and I'm enjoying my life on every level. Being this fulfilled has also made me feel more creative, and I do my best writing when I'm feeling happy. I'm not afraid any more to step into a new area of risk and challenge the comfort levels. We all need to move beyond those when the opportunity presents itself."
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