Will Smith and Crepes with Brooke Annibale

Brooke Annibale studied abroad in Paris when she was in college. While her love of songwriting was well established at that point, she gained a new love that summer of 2007: crepes. She may not have seen it coming, but this Saturday at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover she’ll have the opportunity to celebrate both of those loves in the same room.

In advance of the show, I asked Brooke a few questions about her continuing rise as a touring musician. Read below, including a few songs to check out, and come see her for yourself this Saturday night in Hanover.

Local Music Corner: When did you first pick up a guitar? What was the song that made you say, ‘oh, I want to play that?’

Brooke Annibale: I started playing guitar during the summer after my freshman year of high school, when I was 14 going on 15. My grandfather (my mom’s dad) was a guitar player and so is my uncle. That side of my family runs a music shop that sells guitars and other related gear as well as a live sound equipment company here in Pittsburgh. I had started writing lyrics and melodies really young, like in elementary school. When I got a bit older I realized I really wanted to be writing songs. I needed a tool to do that with so the guitar was a natural pick for me, having been around it in some way all my life. I started taking lessons at the family shop that summer and began writing songs a few months later.

LMC: What were the early gigs in Pittsburgh like? What sort of rooms were you playing and what sort of acts were you sharing bills with?

BA: My first live performance was at my high school talent show, which led to my first gig at a local coffee shop. A fellow student had a show booked there and asked me to open. I played that coffee shop frequently and then started playing other coffee shops in surrounding towns. I was mostly sharing the bill with other local acoustic singer-songwriters.

LMC: You graduated with a degree in Music Business. Because of this degree, do you think your approach is more pragmatic than if you were a road warrior during that time?

BA: I’m not sure, because I really think that actual experience within the industry and on the road is just as valuable as studying it. In college, I, fortunately, got a good balance of both of those. I went to Belmont in Nashville and you can really become immersed in the industry while you’re there. I think in some ways the degree gives me a more sensible awareness about the ins & outs of the industry that I might not have gained otherwise. But I also know that I’ve learned just as much from my experiences as I did from my studies.

LMC: How does the production behind this newest release compare to the earlier records? Are there more people involved in the process as you continue to gain a following?

BA: I’ve made my last 2 full-length records and a 6-song EP at the same studio in Nashville. They all have a similar cast of players and people involved because of that, but each are still slightly different. With each release, I’ve gotten more involved in the production process, especially with the dynamics and instrumentation of each song.

LMC: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you start with words or pick out a melody?

BA: The process is always a bit different every time. When I first started writing songs it was definitely the words that came first. Now mostly, it starts with finding something on the guitar that inspires a melody and then sorting out what the song wants to be about from there.

LMC: What are some of your favorite venues you’ve played?

BA: I really like playing house concerts, which if you haven’t heard of, they are exactly what they sound like… concerts in people’s houses. It gives me an opportunity to really connect with people. In Pittsburgh, my favorite place to play is probably the Pittsburgh Winery.

LMC: According to Wikipedia, we were born in the same month (July 87!). Out of curiosity, what were your contemporary influences, musical or otherwise?

BA: Wikipedia is correct on that. Well, the first CD I ever owned was Will Smith, so…

But really, when I first started playing I listened to a lot of John Mayer, and was also pretty into acoustic-based emo music, things that don’t really influence me anymore. I’d say my longest running influence has got to be Elliott Smith and in recent years, songwriters like Glen Hansard (The Swell Season), Lisa Hannigan, and Brandi Carlile have been steady influences in one way or another.

Brooke Annibale: This Saturday at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover – $10 online or at the door.

Lots of good music happening across the Upper Valley this week so be sure to give a listen wherever you are. Which shows are YOU most looking forward to this week?

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