We catch up with Chicago-born, Nottingham-based musician Brookln Dekker to talk Rue Royale, solo work Slow Reveal and making music with his five-year-old daughter...
Growing up in Chicago and spending a career touring the world with Nottingham as his UK base, Brookln Dekker is a creative soul that doesn’t seem to settle. Even as we chat he’s on the move, strolling through his neighbourhood for a rare moment of silence. Married to fellow Rue Royale bandmate Ruth and raising a five year-old child, his home life seems filled with as much soul-nourishing sound as his many musical projects. “We’re always singing and playing music around the house, it’s just how we are as a family,” he tells me.
Plans are revealed of their ‘no-pressure’ daddy/daughter gig they have together, with Brookln taking her words and turning them into songs for other children to enjoy. “Oh, we’ve been doing this for well over a year,” he responds, when I ask if it was inspired by lockdown. “And it’ll probably be a few more years until it’s ready – I’m working at her speed now.” When learning about Brookln and his musical output, I’d expected to hear tales of his time making indie/folk with Rue Royale, evolving into neo-classical semi-electronica with pianist Lambert as Lambert & Dekker, before settling into his new solo guise. But the more we chat, the less this heart-warming collaboration with his youngster surprises me. Enamoured by the art of the creative process, this was another experiment for Brookln to get his teeth stuck into. Dekker’s new album Slow Reveal, out on Friday 20 November, is the perfect example of this.
Part cathartic release, part a test of personal growth, after spending years touring and making a living with Rue Royale before moving into parenthood, Dekker’s solo move was a way to return to what he knew best. Since August 2019 the Slow Reveal journey began, releasing only one song at a time for over twelve months, leading up to the full finale this November. Truly a work in progress, this point of difference is as much a marketer’s golden nugget as it is a platform for Dekker to develop confidence in his own songwriting abilities, “I’ve been in a duo with my wife, with a classic pianist... in and out of bands for many, many years, so I didn’t actually know what I sounded like.
“At the start of my musical journey I made a solo record that no one will ever hear, ever. Thank God this was before anyone could release anything online. I knew how to write songs-ish, for a young guy, but didn’t know how to explain what I wanted. So I hired some session musicians who played all over it and it sounded nothing like me. With this one, I guess I wanted to see what would actually happen if I did something on my own.” Throughout our interview, though, he also notes an unexpected but integral contribution from drummer and friend Stefan Wittich.
“I thought I’d release it slowly because I’m looking for answers. I didn’t want to write an album about ‘looking for answers’, but I did want to create something where I better know who I am at the end of it, or something like that. That was a genuine pursuit.”
When asking if those answers were found, a bright and conversational Brookln is stumped. “‘Did I get out of it what I wanted to?’ Good question...it’s the right question. Well, I’m calling it Slow Reveal Chapter One because I’m unsatisfied. I wanted to carry on with the project.
“I’ve grown as a writer and was able to get into the heart and soul of it in a more genuine way now than I was at the start. Maybe I’m just getting greedy,” he laughs, “but I want more. This time of year I usually suffer with the long dark season so I thought ‘make it Chapter One, so I have something to look forward to after this.’ I’m ready to start Chapter Two now.”
Already an established musician, Dekker’s solo output is delightfully sophisticated as you’d expect. Sharing the same guitar-based roots and emotive undertones as Rue Royale, Dekker’s Slow Reveal is stripped back and laid bare, mimicking his feelings while making it. Made up of ten tracks, This Here Island stands out. Haunting, addictive and packed with ear-pleasing harmonies, since August last year it’s received over one million Spotify streams, 30,000 views of the accompanying video and a ton of airplay.
We dive deeper into the creative concept, “There’s a romantic idea around it that I wanted to ‘get to know myself’, a cliché for sure. But you’re changing as you go, so it’s an unanswerable question.
“I don’t think that’s the question I’m trying to answer any longer – it seems kinda futile to do that. After a year of making and releasing the album, I’m not sure if I know myself any better. By the time this comes out, it has been a 12/14/15 month process. And the songs weren’t written at the same time, so overall it has a kinda zeitgeist feeling to it.
“Like a sonic memory book?” I ask. “Right, like a photo album.”
I didn’t want to write an album about ‘looking for answers’, but I did want to create something where I better know who I am at the end of it
With the ongoing effects of the global pandemic upturing every aspect of life, Dekker certainly chose an interesting moment to capture the flavour of a moment in time. The May release, Hands Clean, is the most obvious homage to the current news cycle, and another showcase of Dekker’s endearing appeal. Perhaps a nostalgic nod to the days when bands and artists created a full visual world around them, Dekker pays attention to the full creative process; each track on Slow Reveal’s bandcamp features a link to an accompanying music video.
For a majority they feature Dekker, face hidden under an oversized straw hat, dancing awkwardly and from the heart. Unplanned, he chose the hat when filming This Here Island’s video in the relentless Georgia heat, looking to hide the sweat dripping from his “gnarly face”, yet it stuck. “When I saw it, something sparked... it felt like another part of me was freed up. In all the other projects my face is showing. I’m not Brad Pitt but I’m not hiding anything! I feel stronger and more like Dekker with hat on… closer to the source.”
Hands Clean shows him in his social isolation, pictured from his living room window, while the more recent The Love looks like we’re transported somewhere exotic, but was actually filmed near West Bridgford. Dekker’s attention to detail for his project is cear, “It allows people to… escape on the train, or wherever they are listening to a song. Videos convey nuances visually that are hard to do so with words, or guitar tones. I’m a ‘new’ artist as Dekker, so who wants to go to a streaming service and just listen to one or two songs? With Slow Reveal it feels important to actually give people enough to hold onto, to get into it.”
Though Brookln’s presence on the local scene is relatively small compared to his creative ‘CV’, with more time typically spent touring to explore what’s on his doorstep, he looks fondly on his gigs at cultural landmarks here. Citing Jamcafé and Malt Cross, it was a chance meeting during his performance at much-loved Lee Rosey’s that led to him settling in the city over a decade ago, with mutual friends offering a place to stay. At a time where everyone’s immediate home environment means so much more, perhaps Slow Reveal will be Dekker’s step into the city’s supportive underbelly of talent.
Slow Reveal is out on Friday 20 November on all streaming platforms. Be sure to check out Dekker’s YouTube too
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