Grammy appearance caps ‘crazy’ year for performer

Photo provided by SKH Music<p> Brooke Waggoner
Photo provided by SKH Music

Brooke Waggoner

While she was studying music at LSU, singer, pianist and songwriter Brooke Waggoner and her band, Blessed Yes, performed at such small Baton Rouge venues as The Caterie, Red Star, Spanish Moon and the North Gate Tavern.

Last month, Waggoner, pianist in rock star Jack White’s all-female band, the Peacocks, performed “Love Interruption” with him at the Grammy Awards. She played a baby blue grand piano. It was her first time at the Grammys.

A year before, Waggoner had interrupted her solo career to join White and the Peacocks on tour. The invitation came after she played piano for White’s 2012 album, Blunderbuss.

The Grammys performance, Waggoner said from Nashville, her city of residence since 2006, “was a cool way to cap off the album cycle and a crazy year.”

Now that the Peacocks have flown, at least for the moment, Waggoner is releasing her third solo album, Originator, this week. On her way to the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference, she’s playing a short run of Southern dates, including a Sunday show at the Spanish Moon.

Eager though Waggoner was to release Originator, the album she had completed early last year, she kept the project waiting in the wings while she worked with the Peacocks.

“I felt like, ‘Let’s see if the songs can withstand that time period,’ ” she said. “It’s important to see if you can write something that feels somehow timeless.”

Waggoner recorded the album at Welcome to 1979, an all-analog studio in Nashville.

“It’s a really special place,” she said. “It’s like a shrine to vintage gear and tape.”

Before moving to Baton Rouge to attend LSU, Texas native Waggoner grew up in various suburbs outside of New Orleans as well as Morgan City and Virginia. She studied composition at LSU’s classically oriented music school and fused classical composition with pop song-structure.

“A natural progression, I think, coming out of that kind of curriculum and that community,” she said.

Although Austin and Los Angeles were Waggoner’s early choices for post-graduation residency, she picked Nashville instead. A spring break visit to the music-rich city during her senior year at LSU impressed her.

“There was more of a laid-back vibe here and it was economical,” she said. “It made a lot of sense for me coming out of school. Plus there’s a music industry here.”

Nashville proved good for Waggoner and her career.

“It’s a great city,” she said. “It’s more inspiring than I anticipated. Full of life and creativity and everybody works really hard. I felt like the bar got raised when I moved here. I’ll be eternally grateful to Nashville.”

During her first year in Nashville, Waggoner released her EP, Fresh Pair of Eyes, played sold-out shows in her new home base, found management and joined a cross-country tour.

“So it all kicked in pretty fast,” she said. “I’ve been building off of that ever since.”

Waggoner followed Fresh Pair of Eyes with two full-length albums, Heal for the Honey and Go Easy Little Doves. White’s recording sessions for Blunderbuss began two years. Waggoner joined the Peacocks without a formal audition, not even a big chat.

“Jack asked me one day after rehearsal, he was like, ‘Hey, do you wanna hit the road? This is what I’m envisioning. We’d love for you to be a part of it.’ That was pretty much it and then we just took off. I liked how seemingly easygoing he was about it. He just kind of let everybody see if they jelled. Jack’s amazing at what he does.”