Brad Brooks uses words to describe the world.
During the pandemic, the songwriter kept pushing himself to remain creative.
“I’m trying to do it in a way this is honest and unique,” he says. “It’s been tricky to describe the world we’re in.”
Brooks, based in California, recently released the video for his single “God Save the City,” the title track of his latest album, which was released in October.
Brooks keeps fighting to keep his career going as an independent artist.
It’s the latest struggle for the musician.
Songs for “God Save the City” began to take shape five years ago.
Brooks was headed to the dentist for a routine cleaning.
The dentist noticed a lump in Brooks’ throat, sent him to another doctor, and Brooks discovered that he had throat cancer; treatment meant a surgery that might rob him of his voice.
Brooks made a full recovery and mined the scariest moment in his life for the most honest and fiery record of his career.
“It was pretty rough,” he says .”I think that for me, it was kind of putting blinders on to any negativity about it and powering through what I went through.”
Brooks says he questioned whether he’d ever be able to sing again.
“Through the surgery and the radiation portions, my family was a big help,” he says. “My wife was the rock. I was just the sand.”
The pandemic brought Brooks’ job to a halt in March.
He doesn’t often tour outside the Bay Area, and all his performances went away.
In the meantime, he’s been writing and pushing his creative process.
“We’re trying to see when we can go back to performing live,” he says. “People are still processing what we’re going through, and it’s going to take a while. The cancer, it took me a while to mentally process how I was feeling and how I was mentally dealing with it. I was very grumpy. I wanted to channel that through my music and art.”
Brooks says he did a lot of the work on the video for “God Save the City.”
“We shot the footage two years ago,” he says. “The other 80% of it was filmed this year. One morning, we woke up and it was orange outside. The fires were burning, and the smoke got above the fog layer. It was the weirdest day in my life.”
Brooks’ journey and the country’s wild descent into partisan rancor over the past five years show up all over “God Save the City.”
Brooks tackles wealth displacement in the title track and his own mortality in “Sacred Was I,” and he recalls a hilarious encounter in “Lee Marvin’s Uzi.”
On “Strange Fruit Numb,” he says, a band jam evolved into a civil rights anthem for the 21st century in the grand tradition of other Bay Area politically musical visionaries such as Sly Stone and Boots Riley.
“It’s always about moving forward and having something to say,” he says.