Super human Mehcad Brooks has established himself as a big presence on the small screen with starring rolls on True Blood, Necessary Roughness and currently as James Olsen on Supergirl.
Brooks’ latest roll finds the star going from a film set to a recording studio. The actor is making his first official foray into music with the release of his roaring debut single, “Tears Away” out now.
“Tears Away” showcases a soulful mix of blues, R&B and southern rock accented with electronic inflections. Brooks’ smoky, impassioned vocals magnify each note as he sings of “recovering” from heartbreak. “What went wrong?” asks the singer before conceding, “The juice we got from the squeeze wasn’t worth it.”
Brooks describes his sound as “retro yet contemporary, futuristic yet familiar” and this is only the first taste of what the multifaceted talent has in-store.
Culture Collide spoke to Mehcad Brooks about his creative journey, the healing force of music, and the power of loving yourself. Read more below and listen to “Tears Away” now.
Culture Collide: You create and record songs in real time, what’s that creative process like in the studio?
Mehcad Brooks: I try to stay in a vibe of openness. I have these co-producers that I work with and we come up with ideas together. Then we sit there and I start thinking of a melody, start putting down some words, and a couple hours later we have it turned out.
The way my favorite artists would write, which is a Bob Marley or Bill Withers, is they would bring their entire life experience to that moment. Yes, it’s about the vibe that you’re in and the vibe that the song is in, but it’s also about: what is the vibe of your life? Are you bringing all your life experiences to this moment?
I’m just sort of offering myself to the creative vessels for art to conquer. Things that I’ve experienced, and bringing my entire life force to this moment. Sometimes it’s a vibe that I really can’t claim as my own. Does that make sense?
CC: How did “Tears Away” come together?
MB: It was the last day of recording before I had to go back to Supergirl. We had this guitar riff (sings) and I was feeling the blues mood. We had this melody for the hook, but we didn’t know what it was. Basically you come into the studio and you’re just making noises, just to figure out the structure of a melody. But the whole song came together in about three hours. The guitar riff, to what you hear today, all the elements were there in three hours.
CC: Has music always been a part of your life?
MB: It has always been a very, very big part of my life. I have had some really bad experiences in my life, things that caused PTSD, things that were really hard for me to get over, and music was this release. It was this therapy. Eventually I got the message that I’m supposed to being doing this too, and that’s why I was unhappy, that’s why I would get depression and be self-destructive, because I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I was nervous, I was scared, I was afraid to jump off this plateau that I’d gotten stuck on creatively and I was playing it safe. For me, music is about loving myself more and listening to myself. And this is it.
CC: How did you initially get involved with music, how did it begin?
MB: The funny thing is everybody can sing, everybody has a voice. Those who haven’t done it, just don’t know how. I started with a guitar on my futon. I was 24 or 25 and I got Garage Band and turned the living room in the house I was renting into a studio. My roommates hated me.
There’s nothing different about my story than anybody who started playing on their couch. What makes my story unique is here I’m supposed to be in this business where I’m going to these glamorous premieres and doing this and that, and here I am hanging out in basements with broke college kids trying to figure shit out myself.
It was a tough and humbling road to go from making good money and being successful in one thing, and then going to a music studio where you’re paying people to produce tracks for you and they’re all laughing at you. That was tough. But if you love something and you love yourself, you’re going to keep going.
CC: Who have been some of your favorite artists and biggest influences?
MB: I say Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Lenny Kravitz, Jimmy Hendrix, but then Tupac and Kanye. I kind of listen to everything. As a kid, I listened to The Eagles, George Strait, Britney Spears, Usher, Curtis Mayfield. I had a very diverse musical interest. It was funny because my house wasn’t very musical at all, but I was.
CC: Was it at all a creative household or not so much?
MB: My parents are academics; they are creative in their own rights. My mom is a journalist and she’s been nominated for three Pulitzers and she’s just a hero. She’s amazing. Honestly. She’s a writer so she’s very creative, and has a very creative imagination. She was also creative in how she raised us, if that makes sense. My dad is an attorney and he’s an artist in the courtroom for sure. He knows how to use the law and turn it into a musical.
CC: Do you think your dad’s skill for presenting arguments and your mom’s writing has helped you develop lyrics and a musical voice?
MB: [Laughs] I’ve never thought about how it affected me musically, I thought about how it affected me personally – I’m still recovering (laughs). But now when you say that, yeah, a lot of my thoughts are about doing your due diligence in knowing who you are, researching who you are and how you feel about the world, and then arguing for that. I think that’s the perfect way of putting that – wow thank you.
That’s why I feel I’m happy doing music now. I’ve lived a pretty interesting life and I have a story to tell. Not just what people think they know me as, but also the stuff that I’ve been through that I have not been comfortable enough to talk about. With music you have to show who you are, especially with the kind of music I want to do.
CC: What can listeners expect to hear on the rest of your music?
MB: They can expect to hear someone who no longer believes in genres. The same way Mayer Hawthorne is doing it, the same way Anderson .Paak is doing it, the same way Chance The Rapper is blending genres.
Music changes through different time periods and I think we’re in a time period now where if it’s a good song, it’s a good song. So you’re going to hear songs that sound like pop songs, hip-hop songs, songs that sound like blue-afro-jazz-acid-punk-rock. You’re going to be like “what the fuck is that?” but you’re going to dig it. I want to put out stuff that people haven’t heard.
CC: Name a song that’s on repeat right now.
MB: You know what I would pick right now? I would pick, “Valley Girls” by Blackbear.
CC: You’re really into VR.
MB: I think VR’s the future of gaming, education and spiritual wellness. I really do believe that. I’m excited where VR technology can go. I have a friend who works at Samsung and we nerd out and have a conversation every week about what’s going on.
CC: What’s your favorite type of show to see live?
MB: I’ve turned up with the best of them for sure. The most fun I’ve ever had in my life has been at festivals. At Burning Man and the Coachella’s of the world. I’m looking forward to playing them, it’s going to be fun to see it from that side.
CC: So you’ll be touring next year?
MB: That’s the plan.