Brook by Chris Woolfrey

‘Brook’ is a song I’ve tried to record 5,000 times since 2007

And now you can listen to another version of it!

Wait what the fuck is this?

Once upon a time, I thought I’d solve my problems by becoming a rock star.

(I still think that.)

But as the years have passed by and I’ve settled my sights on more achievable straw men (corporate management responsibilities, writing a novel, going on holiday), I’ve let music slip away a little.

In February, though, a good friend of mine set up Demo Club, in which a small group of us are “nudged over cliffs of their own making.”

From the friend:

I spend my life farting around on a guitar and write a lot of semi-songs that only live in my head. It would be good if someone hassled me to push myself further, and I have a hunch that others might feel the same.

Well, I write semi-songs too. Many of them, in fact, going back to about 2003. Over and over and over.

‘Brook’ is one such song. Lyrically it has a weird history and, 13 years on, I am still proud of the words. It’s a song about a sort of national park I found with a friend, the night after somebody I was very close with had suffered the death of their father.

I hadn’t slept and reluctantly sent her off to drive the 3-hour drive back to her family home. She, of course, had slept even less.

When my friend and I – not the one who had lost someone, but the one who took me driving that day – found that scenery, it felt enchanted. In my memory, it still does: silent, and with imposing and beautiful trees. I don’t remember seeing anybody else there at all. And to this day, neither of are quite sure where we drove. Nor can we find the spot on the map, since we just drove ‘somewhere’. Which was the point.

And the recording?

Since then I’ve recorded ‘Brook’ many times (the name is a silly reference to the phrase “brook no argument”, and also a reference to the babbling brooks I remember seeing at the park), but three distinct recordings stand out. One is similar to this demo but with a friend of mine playing the chords on piano, another adding drums. Possibly, in fact, the skeleton of the song came via the piano and were my friend’s.

A later version uses looped guitars, and no piano. A final demo, which I submitted to the first Demo Club, mixes the three approaches.

As for the version here: I recorded it in one take and didn’t do much beyond adding reverb and panning.

Such as it is, it’s a tiny exercise in letting go. I do not like my voice, and I struggle with perfectionism. My voice also needs to get better; giving it exposure may motivate me to improve.

As for perfectionism? Well, in a small way, putting out something unfinished should remind me that nobody in the world cares as much as I do about whether this is good.

So there we are. Here you are, maybe. Here I am, certainly.