It’s a bitterly cold afternoon in February of 2021, and Nashville is snowed in after one of the city’s biggest winter storms in recent memory. While Brooke Eden is a Florida native, she’s in Nashville these days, and like the rest of the city, she’s stuck indoors waiting out the storm.
“It’s Snowpocalypse,” Eden says matter-of-factly, on the phone with Country Now. “What is happening?! When I moved to Nashville, I heard the winters here weren’t that bad.”
To add to the dreariness of the winter weather, the world is closing in on the one-year mark of the shutdowns. In a lot of ways, it’s a distinctly gray world outside, and has been for a long time. But out of the global tumult of the past year and a period of personal tumult that preceded it, Eden has created a new musical chapter fueled by hope and optimism. In 2021, she’s returning with a trilogy of songs centered around two rare commodities: Warmth and joy.
“It’s the most freeing feeling,” Eden says. “Especially after the year of 2020, having a song out that signifies hope and a light at the end of the tunnel, it really means a lot to me.”
That song, “No Shade,” is the first of an upbeat three-song set that also includes her brand-new “Sunroof” and the forthcoming “Got No Choice.” It also marks the first song she’s put out in four years, nearly to the day, following 2017’s “Act Like You Don’t.”
Together, the three songs tell the story of leaving a toxic situation and ultimately finding renewed joy, confidence and love. That’s a story that Eden has lived.
Back in 2015, when she was a newcomer to the music industry and embarking on her first-ever radio tour, she started dating Hilary Hoover, a promotions director that she met through her record label. At the time, Eden was told to keep the relationship quiet. Openly gay performers were — and remain — rare within the genre, and members of her team told the young singer that being honest about her relationship with fans could cost her her career.
So, for three and a half years, Eden and Hoover kept their relationship a secret. However, the decision to hide it never sat well with Eden, not only because she felt that she was being dishonest with her fans, but also because she felt the decision to keep that part of her life secret was negatively impacting her music.
“It became no question to me as to why my music didn’t work the first time around, because I wasn’t able to fully be me,” she pointed out in a recent interview with The Washington Post. “Hilary is such a huge part of my happiness, that there’s no way I can’t talk about her now. I wouldn’t be able to put out this music if I didn’t talk about our love.”
In fact, Hoover co-stars in the music video for “Sunroof,” the second of Eden’s three new songs, which arrived in early March. Eden points to this video as a tangible example of something she couldn’t have made without Hoover’s influence. “Her presence in my life has brought me so much sunshine and happiness, and she inspired the song. I couldn’t do justice to this story on screen without her!” Eden explained when she released the song and its video.
Both “Sunroof” and the forthcoming “Got No Choice” are love songs, which Eden admits is a fresh artistic direction for her.
“What’s really wild is I had never written a love song until these songs,” she reveals. “I had never been in love before! So that made it a little easier, being in love for the first time, to write love songs.
“That’s always how I feel like I get my most honest work, you know,” she adds after a pause. “Figuring out where I am that day, in that moment in my life, and writing about that experience.”
Over the past year, country music has seen success stories rise out of exactly that: Lesser-known artists have ascended into the mainstream after finding a new level of authenticity in their music, even if the subject matter of their songs might previously have been deemed too touchy for a country audience.
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For example, in 2020, Mickey Guyton rose from being a Nashville mainstay with a handful of modest charting songs to one of the genre’s most important change-makers after she released “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and “Black Like Me,” two viral songs about her experience as a Black woman in country music and the world.
Known as the genre of three chords and the truth, good country music has always depended on honest storytelling, but that honest storytelling has not always been acceptable from artists who fall outside the identity narrative of the traditional white, straight country star. There have always been country artists who did not fit that description, but in 2020, more than ever, it seemed like the genre opened its eyes to a new, more inclusive outlook.
“I think the world feels like a different world. And within that, country music definitely feels like a different genre,” Eden responds, when asked how the industry has changed in the four years since she last released music.
“…This is where country has needed to go for a long, long, long time,” she continues. “We have so many fans of different cultures, of different sexualities, of different ethnic backgrounds. And we have just acted like they weren’t there for so long. The pandemic has allowed us to have this time where we all look within ourselves, we look at the history of America, we look at the history of country music, and we realize we have to do better.
“It’s a really cool time to be in country music right now,” the singer adds. “We’re watching this evolution happen so quickly in front of our eyes that it’s crazy.”
Even as she celebrates her current trilogy of songs, Eden is looking ahead at her future in country music, too. With her sunny, joy-filled direction firmly established, the singer says that there’s much more to come: In the four years between her last release and “No Shade,” she never stopped writing.
“Part of getting off the road was having that time to really fine-tune my sound and figure out exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. The only way to do that is writing” she explains. “And now I have so many songs that I wanna share. This is just the beginning.”