Tacoma's Seaan Brooks talks creative process, 'When All Else Fails,' & the tracks you'll never hear.
It was a rainy Fall night and I had just settled into a comfortable couch in a clean & cozy studio. I was in Tacoma, visiting Seaan Brooks to talk about his latest album, When All Else Fails.
"This is where it all happens," he said with a slight grin.
He sat in front of a Mac desktop, the brain of the whole operation, which I would soon learn held a plethora of priceless creations. Leaning back slightly in his chair, it was evident that Brooks was comfortable here. This studio was his second home and it went beyond just being there everyday. Our conversation on his craft commenced so effortlessly, I nearly forgot that it was an interview.
We began speaking about Let It Go, my favorite track from the album. The sample that kicks off the track can be seen as comedic, a New Yorker ranting about ISIS, but it also reflects the frustration of living in the US in this day and age. The song takes on a dismal tone and you can't help but wonder if it is a reflection of Seaan's own personal frustrations.
AA: That song, I would say is pretty personal, right?
SB: The whole project is [me] being a little frustrated. There was some frustration in the song, but I wasn't really angry or that mad or anything. *Chuckles* But it was personal.
It is pretty standard for musicians, namely rappers, to draw not only from personal experiences, but viewed or secondhand experiences also. They are skilled at expressing themselves uniquely while still resonating with many others.
AA: So how do you go about choosing your singles vs. album tracks?
SB: The mood of the song for one, the space that I'm in, and just the feel of what's going on. Sometimes I'm just having fun with shit and I'll just put it out. But tracks that are more energetic, more hype, those are usually the singles.
AA: What is your creative process like?
SB: I write verses out. Pretty much all the stuff that I write is like a blueprint of stuff I want to say. Sometimes I rap it out on the phone, sometimes I just go line for line. I'll just feel it. If I feel like making a song, I'll just make a song. There's a lot of stuff I'll just try and it comes out dope. *Chuckles* I learned that from watching people. I watch a lot of documentaries... Sometimes I'll just mumble stuff, go home and put words to it.
Though When All Else Fails seems to highlight some hardships and darker times, a comedic relief point is found at the end of track 7, 40 featuring Perry Porter. The interlude's leading man is a too-eager acquaintance all but begging Seaan for an invite to the studio. I asked about the making of the skit.
SB: That was random, Digz and I were just sitting here one day... I found all these grocery store sounds, people talking in the background and just mixed it in. And I made it seem like my song was playing in the store.
My mind was blown. I had listened to this more than a few times but had naturally dismissed the background music as just that- background music. But sure enough, as Seaan played it back, I heard it, clear as day. It was Ro Sham Bo, a calm yet catchy track produced by Quincy James, which Brooks had dropped in late 2016.
SB: At first, I was going to have him do a speech, but we decided to do something else... You gotta be creative so you don't get bored.
And I also learned that you have to listen closely or you might miss a clever hidden effect such as that one.
AA: Some of the production you've used is a bit slower, some throwback sounding beats... You Got It [featuring Will Jordan] is one. Last isn't as sweet, but the beat is laid back...I think you sound great on those.
SB: That stuff is a lot of fun... Listening to albums, my favorite stuff is the slower stuff, but performing it, It's not going to be as dope. But also people want the other side too, so I try to give them both.
He went on to search for a similar track and as I watched the screen, what I saw surprised me. There were so many folders, hundreds of them. Some contained beats, some full tracks, project ideas, various versions and mixes, and more. I couldn't relate. As a writer, I don't have very many unpublished works. If I write it, I release it. So naturally, I was shocked.
AA: So would you say that the majority of the songs and the music you make never gets heard?
SB: It's just... That's just how we operate... There will be versions of songs that don't work out, so I'll just rewrite other stuff. Like I said, we record almost everyday.
I believed him. And it all made sense. Seaan was in that very same studio day after day, making music. Whether for himself, us, or both, his work ethic is admirable. When asked about the significance of the album name he explained:
"When it seemed like I had nothing else to live for, I always had this music..."
Whether he's letting off some steam in Let It Go, questioning intentions on Are You Down, giving a fair warning in Round Here, or hoping for better times in Blessing, Seaan Brooks is giving us a look through his eyes in When All Else Fails. He is also doing what he loves- making music.
What's next for the Tacoma native?
SB: We're going to put out a lot of videos. Not just music videos, but just a lot more content.
So if you haven't yet, (and even if you have), push play on When All Else Fails above and be on the lookout for more music, more content, and more life from Seaan Brooks.