Her latest album, a follow-up to 2010 EPs It’s All Up To You and Other Halves, is titled Little Bird, and it may be the best yet from one Ms. Crooks. She said of the effort, “I’d written a lot of the songs within a year of going into the studio…When I wrote the title track ‘Little Bird’, the elections were in full force and I was listening to old Bob Dylan. Ultimately, that song is about banishing oppressions or isms. Freeing one’s mind or circumstance is the underlying theme or drive for many of the songs on the album so it seemed like a good fit.” Crooks continues to work the Alameda, California scene and support creativity everywhere – head to www.deborahcrooks.com to learn more and sample a bit off of Little Bird. There’s still much more to learn, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQs below.
XXQs: Deborah Crooks
PensEyeView.com (PEV): What kind of music were you into growing up?
Deborah Crooks (DC): Pretty much everything. I was just soaking in the songs around me and growing up in California, there were a lot. I remember my grandfather being really into Sinatra and my mom loving things like the soundtrack to Cabaret. My best friend’s mom loved outlaw country – Waylon & Willie – my older sisters were listening to ACDC and The Eagles and I’d be singing Queen songs on my bicycle. There was also a lot of reggae and ska, and we regularly tuned into American Bandstand for what was breaking in the Top-40. One of my teachers was a folk artist. The first time I heard Led Zeppelin I remember stopping in my tracks. And then I was a creative kid that made up little songs that were very in the moment about what I was doing.
PEV: What is the underlining inspiration for your music?
DC: My experience of being human and the world around me. Family history, how personal history adds up, as well as the natural world are common song occupations. I think I’m always looking to ferret out the truth of a matter. Writing songs helps one do that, and then singing them lends another layer of meaning.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?
DC: As busy as I can get and as much as I love hitting the road, quiet time, time in nature and a degree of solitude are essential to me getting anything done.
PEV: What do you do when you hit a brick wall in your writing? What are some methods to get over that?
DC: Just write. Sit down with pen and paper and get the pen moving. Or pick up the guitar and just play. Usually the wall is my resistance to feeling something I want to avoid, or my fear of failing at what I’m trying to do. Getting through the wall means being willing to do it badly until the wall erodes.
PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, Little Bird? What was the writing process like for this album? What is the story behind the name of the album?
DC: I’d written a lot of the songs within a year of going into the studio. I’m pretty much always working on songs and at this point there’s a backlog of ‘maybe’ songs. Songs I wrote but didn’t really finish, or that didn’t get much play but live in a folder I’ll go back to when I’m fresh out of ideas. One song, ‘Committed Lines’, was like that. I wrote the bulk of it several years ago, then came back to it while we were recording and realized what it was really about and finished it. When I wrote the title track ‘Little Bird’, the elections were in full force and I was listening to old Bob Dylan. Ultimately, that song is about banishing oppressions or isms. Freeing one’s mind or circumstance is the underlying theme or drive for many of the songs on the album so it seemed like a good fit.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
DC: I haven’t been to the Southern US much. Likewise, I’d really like to get back to Europe and perform.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?
DC: Everyone’s been supportive. Most of my friends are artists of some kind so there’s a basic respect for how it is to live your life directed by what you are creating.
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
DC: I’d love to write a song or two with Bonnie Raitt because she’s a legend, has such great taste in material, masterful chops and likely has a lot more stories to tell.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
DC: I think a songwriter named Kim Taylor, who is based in Ohio, is great.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what would you do for a career?
DC: I think it would still be writing or music-related. For a time, I was trying to write short fiction and I might get back to that. Likewise, I think it would be fun to be a DJ/host/editor of an arts-related show or magazine.
PEV: So, what is next for Deborah Crooks?
DC: More shows and more songs! The rest of the year, I’m working on a new recording of songs co-written with musician (and my husband), Kwame Copeland, as well as gearing up for a Northwest tour in January to promote Little Bird.