The first time I met Jill Brooks I noticed two things about her. For starters, she typified the southern girl archetype to a T; she was pretty, sweet, and as friendly as could be. The other thing I noticed, more importantly, was that she was holding two bottles of Gentleman Jack, one for myself and one for Roger Dorn. In fact, that was how she greeted us, with arms extended not for a hug, but to hand us the two bottles of premium whiskey. I mentioned she was friendly, didn’t I? Clearly she knew the Total Frat Move writers all too well, though I suppose arms extended with whiskey is what qualifies as a welcoming hug in Tennessee, where Brooks hails from.
The Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee native who calls Nashville home these days has been performing her whole life, as is often the cliché backstory a performer will give. The difference with Jill Brooks, however, is that after a while her performances started becoming legit, REAL legit. There were of course the requisite church choir recitals and the like, typical venues that come with being a talented singer growing up in the south. There were also impromptu performances for various sorority requirements and events while she was an ADPi at Middle Tennessee State University.
Even so, it didn’t take long for Brooks to hit the big stages, one of the biggest being the Miss Tennessee pageant. Not only did Brooks compete in the pageant in 2010 and 2011, she netted top ten finishes both years. In 2010 Brooks took home first place in talent, belting her way to the top of the field, and in 2011 she took home top prize in talent AND the swimsuit competition. After taking a year off in 2012, Brooks is giving the Miss Tennessee pageant, and a shot at Miss America, one last go in 2013. Clearly this is no Appalachian Adele we’re dealing with here, there’s a quality talent/looks combo.
While competing for Miss Tennessee was a thrill for Brooks, and she is more than excited to compete for the title again this year, the release of her first album, which she recorded at Sony Studios in Nashville and (impressively) produced herself, is perhaps the biggest thrill of her life so far. The album, titled Shame On Me, releases today, with seven original tracks all written by Brooks. That is all save for one, which happens to be Brooks’ favorite track on the record. The song, called The Crash, is a duet Brooks wrote and recorded with Curtis Grimes, a Texas red dirt country music star who appeared on season one of the hit NBC show The Voice. According to Brooks, “We had a common friend, and he had to come up here [to Nashville] and we decided to see if we could meet up and connect writing wise.”
The writing session between Brooks and Grimes ended up lasting “said and done twenty-four hours,” said Brooks, who made the exhaustive exercise sound routine. Considering she has been writing the album for two years, all while balancing Miss Tennessee pageants, school, and work, the exhaustive probably is routine for her. If Brooks’ life were a movie it might well be titled “I Don’t Know How She Does It.” Unfortunately that’s already the title to a real movie, and that movie sucks, so I won’t do Jill that disservice.
It is something of a wonder how Brooks managed to juggle everything over these last few years. If
watching Toddlers and Tiaras as I fall asleep every night has taught me anything what I’ve heard is true, pageants consume lives. I also know that working full time is something of a commitment. That she could write and record an album in that same time is impressive, that she produced it as well is nothing short of incredible. It makes sense then that Shame On Me’s sound is as eclectic as Brooks’ life has been. While a country album through and through, the songs touch upon a range of musical genres, ranging from blues to rock and more. The album’s sound has as much range as Brooks’ impressive voice, which a quick sampling of her YouTube videos, like the one below, will tell you is not the product of studio correction and overproduction.
Though the album releases today, Brooks’ future is somewhat uncertain. “I want to be able to make a living singing,” Brooks admitted, but she can’t move forward with her musical career just yet, as she sits idled at an interesting fork in the road. On the one hand she has the Miss Tennessee pageant, which she says if she is lucky enough to win will mean she gets to continue pursuing her dream of competing for Miss America. If Miss Tennessee does end up being Brooks’ last pageant, then touring and performing is in her more immediate future. Thankfully for Brooks, this “problem” is what is commonly referred to as a “good problem.”
Regardless of what happens, Brooks’ passion lies in performing, and she can’t wait to hit the road again, whenever that may be. “I miss playing live,” she said. “Because that’s the fun part, where I get to hang out with people.” If you do see Brooks play live in the future (which I highly recommend, she plans on touring in Tennessee and Texas ASAP) she does have one request: Don’t buy her a drink while she’s onstage, a habit more than a few audience members, specifically ones of the old and creepy variety, have gotten accustomed to doing. Brooks swears it’s not that she isn’t grateful, but rather that she prefers to perform sober.
Whether or not the TFM crew gets to watch Brooks perform her music on the stage in the near future or on TV as a Miss America contestant remains to be seen, though we eagerly look forward to either possibility. In the meantime, we all recommend checking out Jill Brooks’ album, Shame On Me, which you can buy now on iTunes. Also be sure to like her Facebook page for updates about both her music career and more.
Best of luck Jill, and thanks for the whiskey.