Fraser experiments with Flags

BY BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 10:38 11/10/2010
Brooke Fraser
PETER MEECHAM/Stuff

FLAG WAVING: Brooke Fraser's latest album was more of collaborative effort than her previous ones.

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After touring two albums around the world and back again, Brooke Fraser dreamt of the little things; dinner with friends, doing the washing up and paying the bills.

"I was longing for routine and longing to not live out of a suitcase and cook and clean my own toilet," she says.

But this routine was shunned in favour for the unknown during the making of Fraser's third and newest album Flags.

 "I wanted to really stretch myself in every way.  I wanted to come at the songs and the themes at a different angle and try doing different stuff.

"It was really liberating and really exciting trying something and not knowing if it would work."

One of the new things Fraser had a go at was co-writing with musicians including Switchfoot's Jon Foreman  and Matt Hales from UK band Aqualung, who also appears on Fraser's first ever duet Who Are We Fooling.

"Matt and I are both naturally hesitant co-writers, not because we're against it or anything, but because we are both self-sufficient and sometimes co-writing can be super awkward. So to co-write that stuff needs to be the right match, you can't just throw two people in a room and expect it to work."

"We hung out for a while and then to our surprise and delight, this little song came out of it.  And we're thrilled with it," she says.

Along with her usual singer/songwriter duties, the 26-year-old decided to wear the hat of producer for the first time.  Something that, while daunting, she is glad she did.

"It's scary, because there is no one else to blame.  But I talked to some of the people I worked with last time and they all said to me 'it will be a huge challenge and it will be harder than you think, but you can do it'.

"And it was definitely terrifying at times but a lot of fun and a huge challenge, and I kind of feel like I could do anything now."

The road to Flags was not a smooth one for Fraser.  After her last album, 2006's Albertine, she was tired, burnt out and drained; not a winning combination for creativity to flow. 

"The songs on Albertine were really, really personal and the song itself is really heavy.  And then we toured that album for a long time, so I was singing those songs over and over and it really did me in. 

 "I am so proud of that album but I knew, going forward in order for it to be survivable for me, I needed to bring some material that would bring a real balance.  And to write some songs that I didn't have to go back to such a deep and dark personal place every time I sung them."

So some serious adjustments were needed, but Fraser, who got married in 2008 and now lives in Sydney with her musician husband, had trouble making these changes where she was.

"By the end of last year, when I only had three finished songs, I thought 'well this is great, but it's not working musically, I'm not getting anything done.'

"So we decided a change of headspace would be good, so to L.A. we went and six months later we left with an album and here we are."

And despite its American origins, Flags is an album Fraser describes as having a feeling of "British, rowdy, folksy pub-music". 

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But there are moments of Americana scattered throughout the albums 11 tracks.

"With a song like Jack Kerouac, I can imagine driving down the highway in Bodega Bay in California listening to Graceland at full tilt."

Fraser is anxious about touring Flags after her previous experiences, but believes the injection of new songs will make a big difference.

"I know my own limits and at the same time the new material is going to make it so much more fun.  Already, I have had to sing Something in the Water about a thousand times and I'm still enjoying it and it makes me feel happy."

Brooke Fraser's third album, Flags, is released on October 11 via Sony Music.

Tour dates: October 26, Dunedin Town Hall; October 27, James Hay Theatre, Christchurch; October 29, Opera House, Wellington; October 30, Civic Theatre, Auckland; October 31, Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton 

- Stuff

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