Interview: Terron Brooks Talks New Album- 'The Soul Of Broadway'

The Soul Of Broadway (Deluxe Album) will be released on April 29th!

By: Apr. 21, 2022
Interview: Terron Brooks Talks New Album- 'The Soul Of Broadway'
Photo credit: Randy Gist

Terron Brooks is a powerhouse vocalist and best known for his critically acclaimed role as the great Eddie Kendricks in the Emmy Award-winning NBC mini-series The Temptations. He is no stranger to the Broadway stage; performing in The Lion King and Hairspray. He was featured in the World Premieres of Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical and First Wives Club: The Musical. For his role as Daddy Brubeck in Sweet Charity, Terron earned an Ovation Award nomination.

We sat down with two-time NAACP Award nominee to talk about his new album, The Soul of Broadway (Deluxe Album).

Before we get started with the interview, how are you holding up during this pandemic?

I've been busy. It's hard because so many people have lost so much. I've lost work, but I really tried to use the opportunity personally to grow. To try some things that I have not tried before and to reassess. When things slow down, you have a moment to say, hey, is what I'm doing working? Am I happy with what I'm doing? I found some good and peace around just being in a situation where I don't have control because I'm a control freak. So knowing that everybody was in the same boat as me, it kind of did the opposite.

And I was able to try new things, and then shed some things that I just don't want to be involved with anymore. I have two kids and a family, and their understanding of what's going on I think was the hardest for me. As a father just going, Oh, I can't really explain it to them. They don't really understand. I just found a lot of gold in pivoting and changing and reassessing and re-establishing myself, and I think sometimes we're all tested to see what's inside of us. Do we have the courage? Do we have the strength that we've been saying? I'm not saying that it was a perfect situation, but I was able to adjust and really spend some quality time with my family and people that I care about. Just to be able to listen and be there for them and just have a reset.

So now that things are seemingly opening up again, I feel recharged and excited. And of course, we're all just more grateful. We're all just more grateful for being able to do what I get to do. I always was grateful. But then when it's taken away from you, you just go, wow, this is really a special thing that I get to do.

So you mentioned you have a family, how do you balance being a full-time artist and a family man?

I think it's a priority. My family's always been my priority. I wanted a family before I wanted a career so I just make sure that I am present with my family when I am there. So when I'm not there, I don't feel the guilt of being away. I take my kids to school and pick them up from school. I'm kind of Mr. Mom when my wife works as a teacher. So when I have to leave them I don't have to carry the burden. I want my kids to see me love my job. I want to encourage them and show them you can do what you want to do and you can be happy. Many parents are sacrificing so much of their happiness, which we all do, but their kids watch it and then they recycle that same mentality. So me showing my kids that the arts aren't just fun, but I love what I do, and I love them.

I try to balance it out with honesty, transparency, and putting family first even with decisions on jobs that I take. My wife and I have been married almost 19 years, but she knows, if I bring up a job to her, it's already thought out in my mind that I must take this job, and a lot of the things I just don't even mention to her I already turned down. I know I can't do that job because it's too long or not beneficial for the whole family. So it's not an easy balance. My job is not me if that makes sense. What makes me is my family and the people that I love.

Interview: Terron Brooks Talks New Album- 'The Soul Of Broadway'
Photo credit: Randy Gist/Danielle Shipp

That's very nice and refreshing to hear, especially in this industry. It's great to hear someone really talk about the balance of having a family and being an artist, especially from a male perspective.

...Yeah, it's difficult, I think there are so many things that say the man should do this and a woman should do that. There are so many expectations, and I can't lie and say I haven't felt those expectations of providing, but my wife and I are a team. So there are times when she gets the money, and there are times when I get the money. The money's going to the same place anyway. I really have to work through the significance of what that means because I look at some of my peers. A lot of my guy friends have nine to five jobs. They don't do what I do, you know? So it's just a different world, and you have to separate yourself from other people and the comparison thing and ask, what do I want? What do I have? Lastly, be happy for other people and whatever they choose to do.

Can you tell us a little about the beginning? I know that's a big question. What inspired you to be an artist?

I've been singing since I was six years old. I've been singing at church, and it was something that I did, and I'll be honest, I don't think I loved it back then. I just think I did it. I actually was scared of people. My mom and my dad said I was terribly shy. So I would maybe sing at church and then sit down. So it took a long time to decide that I'm going to pursue being an artist. I went to a performing arts high school. Once I started to understand the effects of my gifts on other people, I could never shake it. Even though I'll be honest, I probably tried to quit the business 10 times, but everybody has a special gift, right? Everybody has talent; everybody is here to do something special. I really had to figure out what I do; this really seems to bring people together and connect people. Once I got that, it just seemed like it's more of a meant to do than I have to do.

When I mentor young people, I just really tell them that. You just have to discover if you are meant to do this. I was just a singer until I went to the performing arts high school. Then I had to dance, act, and find out all these things which really helped me to communicate with the gift that I had primarily which was singing. You can't just stand there and sing a song without really knowing what it means or having an intention. All those things in the arts helped me foster all that, and now I love all aspects. I've really been blessed to do all aspects of the entertainment industry. But for me, the bottom line is just inspiration. It doesn't matter what I do, I just want to inspire people to believe that they can do it, because it took more than my parents, to instill in me the belief that I do it. I really value the extra people in my life. That's not a diss to my parents, they did their job as parents, but it takes teachers and principals and coaches. I try to be that for other people. Just like a cheerleader and say if I can do it, you can do it. And so that's kind of the engine, to kind of getting me to do it. Like I said earlier, I was really struggling to think that I could make a living. It's one thing to want to be an artist, it's one thing to find your passion, but then the reality is, can I pay my bills? So that took a long time for me to trust. You find the right person who believes in you and then you just go for it. You only have one life to live anyway, you'd hate to go through life hoping and wishing you would have done something that you wanted to do.

Absolutely. So you do life coaching, what's the overall goal with that?

I think that the overall goal for me is not to tell somebody what they need to do, but to shed more light on what they really already believe, or what they already defined. I talked to people all the time, and I say, what's happiness to you? Then they'll say it, and then I'm like, well isn't that your life? But in competition and to other people in their industry, it becomes they're not doing anything and they're not measuring up. But if I say just think about yourself, and just think about how you define happiness in your goals. Nine out of ten people are doing what they love to do, it's just getting a coach or someone else to help shed light on that.

I think life coaching for me is cheerleading another person to go alongside you and remind you of what you already are saying. Me telling you what to do and what's acceptable, that's not really the goal. And taking small steps. I'm weird because I see the ending before the beginning. I'll go okay, what's the end? What's the end goal? I kind of work backward sometimes. It's just one step in front of the other when sometimes you don't even want to take that one step because you think if this is going to be 100 steps, I don't think I'll ever be able to do it. Well, if you take one step that's 99. If you take another one, that's 98. So it's about what can you do today? What I have seen and experienced I want to share with others. It's never coming from a place where I arrived. I'm still trying to figure it out and I'm not afraid to share it. I'm never afraid to say, you know what, I made a mistake. I did this thing. And maybe that'll help someone else so they won't make the same mistake, you know?

Interview: Terron Brooks Talks New Album- 'The Soul Of Broadway'
Photo credit: Randy Gist/Danielle Shipp

So you've worked with some pretty big names in the industry, who was the most exhilarating to work with?

Oh my God, I don't think I can pick one! If I have to pick just one, then it would be Stevie Wonder. That was one where when I was singing with him, I couldn't really do my job. I was looking at everyone else singing and I was like this is Stevie Wonder! I was still kind of out of body. I was as professional as I could have been, let's say that. But I was still in awe thinking, wow, what is happening? You know, he's right there...

...okay, I'll do your top three! three, perfect, perfect! I would say, Phil Collins. When I went on tour with Phil Collins, it was amazing. Because Phil is so humble and generous. It's not that you don't expect that, but you don't know how celebrities going to be. I was so amazed by his humility, and his generosity throughout the whole tour with him. So Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, and then Smokey Robinson is probably my third. I got to sing on his record a couple of songs. And then I did the movie, The Temptations. He was in the movie; and this was back in 1998. He came up to me and he was friends with Eddie Kendricks, my character, who was one of the temptations, and he said to me, "you are like a ghost of my friend." I'll never forget that endorsement from someone who was friends with this person that I'm playing, and then many years later to be able to work with him in the studio, it was just like a full-circle moment. So those are the top three experiences that I pinched myself that I had.

Three amazing experiences! So you have a podcast. Can you tell me more about it and who are you trying to reach?

The podcast is called, Honest Answers with Terron Brooks, and I did the first season last year during the pandemic. I wanted to do it for so long. So I started it and it wasn't aimed to get like celebrities in theater or in the entertainment business. But actually, my first season had a lot of great, famous people. It's called honest answers. I don't ask about what they do. I don't talk about Hamilton. I don't talk about Tony's. I really wanted to ask them questions, like what is love or what's your greatest fear? Because I feel like in our lives today, it's really good to level the playing field between people we admire, people we put on pedestals, and really say, hey, we're all in this human experience together. I think that is, I don't want to say shocking, but that kind of makes people not feel alone. When people listen to the podcast, they go, wow, I left feeling like I know this person more than a big rundown of resumes.

I really think, from the feedback that I've gotten, it feels like a phone conversation the way that I set it up. A lot of the guests have jokingly said, "I've never said that before" or "you tricked me." I'm trying to give them a place to be honest. A lot of them were friends; Shoshana Bean, Eden Espinosa, and Stephanie J. Block. Renée Elise Goldsberry, I did a film with so I could just call some people that I knew would be interesting and really get to some kind of honest real place, a universal place. That's what I do with my own personal music as well, just talk to the audience. To be able to say you're just like me, I'm still trying to figure out my dreams, as you are too. I like to flip it back on people and say, hey, what do you want to do? So that's really kind of what the podcast is geared for.

Speaking of your personal music, can you tell me a little bit about the new album?

Well, the album is called The Soul of Broadway. It started maybe six years ago in my mind because I do so many things and I hear a lot of things. A lot of feedback as a Broadway performer is that a lot of people don't like Broadway. When it comes up some people say it's cheesy or that doesn't interest them. In a certain kind of way, I can understand that. Because my whole goal in life wasn't to be on Broadway.

It was almost like an accidental surprise until I really started to study and do musical theater and say, oh, this is maybe something I could do. But really, when I was a kid, I just wanted to win a Grammy and get a record deal. That was it. So I really understand. What I wanted to do with music is to create something as an artist. I love to cover songs anyway and to make them my own. So I said, what if I rearranged some Broadway classics in a way that I would almost make a record for myself? If you hear the record, we really took some risks on some popular songs, knowing that people could hate them. I thought if I could put my artistry on these songs in a way that presents it to people who love the songs already and maybe to those who have never even heard the lyrics, I thought that could be really interesting. As an artist, every night that I have to sing this music, I get to feel like a little piece of Broadway and a little piece of my own artistry.

With the pandemic, we actually started our show in November of 2019. And then in 2020, everything shut down. So we shut down everything and we're just now launching the record and the performing arts centers and the touring and stuff like that. So it's really, really exciting. I'm excited for people to hear something fresh, and I know that everyone might not like it. I just think as an artist, you got to be true to yourself. It's not just about pleasing everybody, but you do want to find the people that really latch on to what you're doing. Again, with my show and the songs I've selected, there's a story and I can share my story in the show and use the songs just as Broadway does. If I talk about my family and I sing Circle of Life, if I talk about love and I sing from The Color Purple, and if I talk about dreams, I sing The Impossible Dream.

Let me say, sidebar, which I might be in trouble for saying but there are a couple of the songs I didn't like and those were the most challenging and fun. To kind of say how could I not make it better but perform in a way where I would prefer it or like it differently. I had to personalize it, especially as an actor, you're playing a part. You're playing a role. Their journey that you're portraying. Not necessarily your own. So that's basically The Soul of Broadway. Then we got signed to a distribution company, which is Mercia Records. So it's exciting to have the world you know, hear this music, and one of the standouts is Keala Settle. She's singing a duet with me, and I did Hairspray on the first national tour with her and she's a friend of mine - So having her on the record is beautiful. She did an amazing job when she came in to sing, so I think people will enjoy it. I think I like to create things that are timeless. And I think that we did that with this record.

Interview: Terron Brooks Talks New Album- 'The Soul Of Broadway'
Photo credit: Randy Gist

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

I wouldn't say my career. I would say, my family, my kids, and my marriage. I think that's my greatest joy, to be able to put the time in and reap the growth. I think as an artist I grow off-stage. Then when I come on stage, I get to share who I've become. That infuses my work, which I love so much. My greatest accomplishment is to say, hey, all these years later, for rich or for poor, we're still surviving and standing. Still loving each other and learning and I think that's the biggest thing that I'm proud of. It's not easy and I'm not perfect. I always say like this, if you have a pie, and you have like whipped cream and strawberries on top, that's extra. If you make a good pie like my mom does, you don't need the extras, it's a good pie. My wife and my family, they're my pie. Broadway, records, and tours, and that's strawberries and stuff on top of the pie. I'm not saying that flippantly. I'm just saying I don't need those things to have a happy life and to feel accomplished.

Interview: Terron Brooks Talks New Album- 'The Soul Of Broadway'
[Photo credit: Randy Gist]

Can you tell us a little about your books?

The first book is called Something Good on the Table that's on Amazon. It's quotes, it's like a quote book. I've done a bunch of quotes. So I put them in a book and a bunch of lyrics from my records are in that book. So you can just kind of wake up every day and read an inspirational quote.

My new book is going to be called Open. It's just basically my reckoning with in the last few years, opening up myself to criticism, opening up myself to honoring myself, opening up to my past, and living a more transparent life. Going through those deeper emotions that we have in our lives. I didn't realize I was doing that until I really went to therapy and start talking about some things. I was like, wow, I have some things to really open myself up. one thing came in the form of criticism. If I was ever criticized by someone, I would always be defensive. Now I'm more mature and open to taking someone's advice or listening to someone to extract what's good and the things that are not good. I just wasn't as mature in the past to do that. So I couldn't grow and I couldn't learn. I'm telling you this concept of openness, which my book kind of highlights, it's going to be a record called Open as well. Every song title is a chapter title. So it's going to be kind of immersive, having the record and the book together. It's me encouraging people to say, open yourself up and be flexible to life. That's where you grow and that's where the journey really begins. And it is scary. But as much as we close ourselves off, or as much as we pretend, it really just hurts us in the end. I'm living in a kind of different experience these days with this concept.

Click here to pre-save The Soul of Broadway (Deluxe Album).

Click here to listen to Honest Answers with Terron Brooks.

Click here to purchase Something Good On The Table: Practical Proverbs For The Soul.

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