Local performer doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight

Brooke Palsson played the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival June 16 at Rachel Browne Theatre.
Brooke Palsson played the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival June 16 at Rachel Browne Theatre.

Whether she means to be or not, Brooke Palsson is almost always the centre of attention. She’s been acting since her age was in single digits, and starred in HBO Canada’s “Less Than Kind” throughout her high school years.
So it’s no surprise that people around her are questioning her foray into singing backup this summer.
“You still get to be part of an amazing project, doing what you love,” explains Palsson.
Although, she need not explain. The project is singing backup for Canadian prodigy Francesco Yates, the 17-year-old responsible for the guitar sounds on Pharrell Williams’ favourite track on his hit album Girl. Yates’ innovative covers of popular songs by Miguel and hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar gained him the attention of top producers and writers (who have worked with the likes of Nelly Furtado, Fefe Dobson and Josh Groban). Yates will put out his debut album this fall.
Palsson compares Yates to a modern-day Prince, with a dash of Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and the smooth, buttery vocal runs of reigning pop king Justin Timberlake.
“I think if at any point I was hesitant, I wouldn’t have gone through with it,” says Palsson, of her decision to tour with the artist this summer. “There’s nothing like a three-part harmony.”
The reasons she’d have to concentrate on her own career are vast.
She’s just coming off her intensive acting training at the Canadian Film Centre Actors Conservatory, a prestigious program that only accepts eight promising actors per year.
She also released her debut EP at the Park Theatre this spring, which was the culmination of years of songwriting and composing, plus collaborating with local talents like Keith Macpherson of Keith and Renee who produced the album, and musicians Ariel Posen and Ryan Voth.
“It was so amazing how many people were just willing to jump on… how happy everyone was to play with each other,” says Palsson.
Backed by a band, Palsson’s rich voice and ukulele strums sound full and lively to match the singer’s vivacity. At the EP release, her acting background came in handy between songs when she easily riffed with the audience and discussed the inspiration behind her lyrics.
“I feel probably most comfortable onstage,” explains the singer. “I feel like, for me, I can’t get a big enough crowd.” Palsson says her first talent show where she opted to sing felt serendipitous.
The 21-year-old first put some of her penned words to music while picking up the ukulele during filming of her first starring role in a feature film, Euphoria.
She’s been writing as a form of therapy since she’s had a heart to break. The songs on her EP are almost all inspired by a former relationship; “I’m turning into Taylor Swift,” jokes Palsson.
Six of the eight songs on her EP, The Willow, are her originals; the other two are a cover and a co-write with Chris Burke-Gaffney and Macpherson.
Palsson’s comfort onstage led her to test all sorts of sounds at her EP release including mimicking a saxophone solo with vocals, singing reggae, scatting, and singing a song almost beneath her vocal range. The songstress has no problem experimenting with her music and the crowd was receptive. She hopes to weave more diverse influences in her next musical endeavour.
“I don’t want to be stuck in a blues genre or a folk genre,” says Palsson.
Though she was aiming for a folk/soul or folk/blues sound with her first effort, she would like to even revisit songs with anthemic potential like the title track, “The Willow,” to add sort of a bounding leadup as heard on Florence and the Machine songs.
Her experimental nature is making every show exciting for her to play, and equally fun to watch. Of her last show in Winnipeg, Palsson says: “It was less like a family reunion this time. That was really nice to see.”

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