On the wall behind Brooke Eden is a photo of her performing onstage in front of 70,000 people while opening for Garth Brooks at Autzen Stadium in Oregon in 2019. Dressed in a mint green jumpsuit adorned with rhinestones and tassels with her hair blowing in the wind, she looks like a true rockstar. But it’s not so much the outfit or stadium full of people that gives her that rockstar attitude, but the beaming smile on her face as she soars across the stage. The photo is symbolic of a woman who’s free, a feeling Eden is now wholly living in as she prepares to marry the love of her life, promotional director Hilary Hoover, and releasing music that speaks to who she truly is.
In this edition of Female Friday, Eden shares insight into her experience of coming out, how living her truth has impacted her music, what it was like performing with Trisha Yearwood at the Grand Ole Opry and much more.
When did you first feel a connection with music and know this was your life’s purpose?
I was four years old when I first started singing songs. My dad is in a local country band in my hometown, so I was singing everything Shania Twain and Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood, and he was like, ‘okay, the kid can stay on key.’ I would always practice in my room and in the living room and he was like, ‘do you want to come sing with my band on the weekends?’ I started singing with my dad’s band in the honky-tonks when I was five-years-old and I became my local country up-and-comer in my hometown, so anytime that someone would come in, if Brooks & Dunn or Alan Jackson would come through my hometown in West Palm beach, Fla., they would be like, ‘we need an opener’ and I would get the call. I think that I was probably 12 when I got paid for my first gig and I was like, ‘you can make money doing this? I could do this instead of having a nine to five job? That’s cool.’ I always knew that this is what I wanted to do. It was never an ‘if’ for me, it was always a ‘how am I going to get to Nashville?’ I knew my parents didn’t have the means to move me or us up here, so I graduated from high school, got a scholarship to go to college at University of Florida. My dad was like, ‘you have to do that for me. If there’s one thing that you do for me, you have to go to college. I have been playing country music since I was 15-years-old and there was one point in my life when I thought I was going to make it too, so I want you to always have that under your belt.’ I went to college and as soon as I graduated from college, I was like, ‘I need to move to Nashville.’ I started singing around my hometown again one or two nights a week, and within three weeks, I had five gigs a week that I was singing four hours a night, and I did that for nine months. That’s how I saved up enough money to move to Nashville and continued to do two weeks in Nashville writing and networking and figuring out my place in the town and then flying back home to Florida doing shows five nights a week for two weeks out of the month. That’s how I didn’t have to have a nine to five here in Nashville.
Everything always led me back back to music. I remember trying to get internships in college and I had a really good GPA, I was doing really well. I was in business school and I was doing really well in that, but nothing was working out with me being in corporate America at all. Anytime I did anything toward music, it felt like the world opened up. It felt like, ‘okay, let’s follow the path of least resistance.’ It’s always what I loved, but I always felt like if I’m in college studying business, maybe I should have an internship in business. It never really worked out that way. I do feel like it was divine. My life always led me back to music.
Talk to me about your journey in Nashville and some of the biggest challenges and successes that you you’ve experienced so far.
When I first got here, I didn’t really know anybody. I did end up getting an internship here in Nashville for Great American Country. I finagled my way into getting an internship there for the summer and girl that I interned with was from Nashville and she was living with her parents and she was like, ‘would you want to be roomies?’ So it was really great to have a friend, someone that I knew here in Nashville to have that base of ‘I know this person has my back.’ The first night that I got here, I went downtown with my dad and after a few drinks ended up on stage at Tootsies and they offered me a job. I went to my first day on the job at Tootsies and the band leader, Greg Humphrey, he was like, ‘honey, Tootsies is honky-tonk school, and I have a feeling you’ve already been through honky-tonk school. What else do you want to do in Nashville?’ I was like, ‘I really want to learn how to write a country song the way that Nashville songwriters write a country song.’ And he’s like, ‘let’s write a song on Tuesday.’ So I would go write with him two or three times a week and then I started meeting the writing community here. It was probably a month into me living here that the Key West Songwriters Festival was going on and I had a bunch of co-writers be like, ‘why don’t you come down to this festival?’ It was really cool getting to jump into this community that is Nashville. There’s already such a family feel here and getting to jump into that and feel like I had found people that were like me, that understood where I was coming from, so heart warming that they would take me under their wing and show me the way.
I started jumping into anything that I could, going to every writer’s round I could, always saying yes to everything. About two years after I moved here, I signed my publishing deal. When I got my record deal, I was one of I think four girls signed at the time, not including Miranda [Lambert] and Carrie [Underwood] and Taylor [Swift], but for up-and-coming girls that were signed to record labels and everyone was so careful about what they were putting out for female songs because the “Tomato-gate” thing was happening. No girls were getting played on radio, and that still to this day is the biggest hurdle. But then at the same time, the doors were still opening in all the right places. It really has been such a wild journey through it all, and then as I’m putting out music and finally getting to go on radio tour and do all the things that I’ve been waiting to do, I meet the love of my [life], who is a woman and I’m like, ‘this is a whole other journey that I have to go on, it’s another thing I have to navigate,’ and here I am. It was a long journey to get here.
Talk to me me about where you are now, what head space you’re in with this re-introduction with “No Shade,” “Sunroof “ and “Got No Choice.” It seems like you’re putting a strong foot forward with these songs and it’s opening up all these doors for you.
About three years ago, I was touring like crazy. I was nonstop and almost passing out before I went on stage and then after it was really nerve wracking and scary. I ended up finding out that I had ulcers in my small intestine and the only way to heal those my doctor was like, ‘you have to get off the road, no alcohol, a really strict diet, and whatever mental thing you’re going through, you need to figure that out.’ So I got off the road, which at the time I was like ‘this could be the end of everything I’ve ever worked for in my life, getting to Nashville and getting the record deal I’ve always wanted and putting out the music and all the things, people are going to forget about me.’ All these things go through your head.
Honestly, it was such a blessing in disguise. Getting off the road allowed me to step back from my own life and reevaluate what was important, what was I doing all this for? I realized that I was writing music that was a compromise. It wasn’t really what I wanted, it wasn’t really what the label wanted, it was something in between. At the same time, my record label was bought out by BMG and they were like, ‘we want you to go and write whatever music you want to write. There’s no boundaries here anymore and there’s also no boundaries on who you are. You’re allowed to be whoever you want to be.’ That was the first time anyone had said that to me. Over the last few years, I’ve been getting into writing what it is that I want to say, what the sound is that I want to make and getting to put this sound together with my producer, Jesse Frasure, who I have been a long time friend and co-writer and now producer for me and building the sound and building this brand and also learning my own self-love and self-acceptance in getting there.
I don’t know how I could have done all of those things while I was still grinding it out on the road like I was during those years before. My mindset was ‘I’ve been given the gift of time. I’ve been given this gift of re-invention’ and I don’t really think a lot of people get that. So I was really grateful for it and I wanted to put my best foot forward. These songs that I just put out are so me. They’re me in every way. Especially “No Shade” is about coming out of a dark place, out of a place of being unsure about things and rising like a Phoenix out of the ashes and into a better person, a happier person, a sun-shinier world. “Sunroof” is happy, sunshine vibes just melting all over you, and then “Got No Choice” is the end result of me allowing myself to be myself and getting to put out this music that’s so me and everything that I want to say and sound, this retro sound. I’m really grateful to be able to have gotten a second chance to do that, especially after knowing what it’s like to not be able to be authentic, to come from that and know how dreadful that is and then to be in a place where it’s the complete opposite.
You’ve described “No Shade” as a song about “coming out of a dark place” and becoming “the best version of yourself” without throwing shade to the past. I think that’s a really interesting perspective. Where does that come from?
I think that I held onto a lot of things for a lot of years, and I think that a lot of us do. Especially when I first was coming out and telling people about Hilary, I had a lot of backlash from people who I trusted, and that was really hard on me because it was people that I loved and people who I thought unconditionally loved me back that were basically telling me, ‘forget about your feelings, you have to be this.’ I lived with resentment toward that for awhile until I realized this was the path that I needed to go on. It was the path that at the time was so infuriating to have to go on and mostly scary and vulnerable. I love being vulnerable now. It’s something that happens very naturally. But before this, vulnerability was the most uncomfortable thing to me and I for so many years had never fallen in love. I had so many friends going through teenage years, your early twenties, friends who are getting broken up with or going through a really bad breakup and I had no empathy toward it at all. I was like, ‘put your sh** together and get back to life, find somebody else.’ I just didn’t understand it. Falling in love with Hilary made me understand all of that and made me understand heart so much more and relationships so much more.
I’m a minority group of an LGBTQ community and being told that I’m supposed to be something that I’m not and told to be kept in the closet, I feel like I also have empathy toward any minority group, anyone who’s had a hard time with all of this change and this entire journey that I’ve been on, it makes you grow and see the world from a different perspective. When I look back at the naysayers and the people who told me that I couldn’t be who I was, I realize that the people that said those things to me had never really been in love like I am in love. When you fall in love the way that I did, there’s no going back, so I was no longer mad at them. I felt bad that they hadn’t had that experience that I had. It also shaped me into becoming the person that I am now. I would never be as strong of a person as I am now if I hadn’t gone through that, so I’m not mad at them anymore. I’m not mad at the people who wronged me because I am who I am because of them. Looking back and going anyone who’s ever, whether that’d be in a relationship, whether that be in your life, people who don’t know you, whoever it is, realizing that they haven’t had the same experiences that you’ve had and that’s not necessarily their fault. But I don’t hate them for not having that experience, [it’s] all love. I’m going to keep going with my life and they can keep going with theirs.
Your performance of “She’s in Love With the Boy” with Trisha Yearwood at the Grand Ole Opry was so exciting. How did that come about?
Trisha and I know each other through Hilary. Hilary works with Garth [Brooks] and Trisha. They’ve always been very loving toward us and very inclusive with us from the very beginning of our relationship. At the same time, it wasn’t a verbal, ‘we are allies of yours.’ It’s this unspoken ‘we love, y’all’ kind of a thing. About three weeks before we did the Opry performance, Trisha called, asked if I had any Opry performances coming up and then was like, ‘I have this idea. It’s Pride Month, you and Hil just got engaged. Forever people have come up to me and said ‘don’t tell anyone, but I changed ‘she’s in love with the boy’ to ‘she’s in love with the girl’ or ‘he’s in love with the boy.’ And she’s like, ‘I get to get up on stage every night and sing about my love and I think it would be so cool to change the words around to ‘she’s in love with the girl’ and let you get to sing about your love.’ My first reaction was ‘are you sure? Should we do this at the Opry? There’s a lot of different backgrounds at the Opry, a lot of people come from small towns. Is this where we want to do it?’ And her response was ‘girl, country music is authenticity. This is real life. I think that the majority of the reaction will be very positive.’ We were both very nervous before we went on stage, we didn’t tell each other until afterwards. I didn’t know that she was going to change Katie and Tommy to Brooke and Hilary either, that was a little surprise in the middle of it. She was like ‘it’s Pride Month and we’re celebrating Brooke and Hilary’s engagement,’ and the response from the Opry audience was so loving and accepting and everyone was cheering on love. You felt all warm and happy inside. By the end of that performance, I’m literally jumping down like a child who just got to go to the candy store. It was the coolest thing to have an icon like Trisha, such an actionable move to stand behind love is love. It was all her idea, so it was the coolest moment. The first thing I said to Trisha after we walked off stage was ‘no one threw tomatoes at us.’ It was so cool.
Thinking about your journey and where you’re going, what do you think your purpose is as an artist and a person and how do you feel like you’re living that?
I think that my purpose is to show hope in any place. If I would have told myself three years ago that I was going to not only stay in my healthy relationship, but it would blossom even more and that I would get to put out music that I love and be who I am, I don’t think I would have believed myself. I think that my purpose is hopefully other people realizing that you can be your authentic self, whoever that may be. No matter what your career is, no matter what you do in this world, you can be yourself. No matter how dark it may seem, everything is always going to get better. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
For you, what is that light at the end of the tunnel?
I feel like I’m already here. I’m living my life the way that I’ve always dreamt. I think that it’s better than how I dreamt it. I’m getting to release music that I love and getting to record more music. It’s building upon this concept of your life can be whatever you want it to be and whatever you make of it, and the braver you are, the luckier you’re going to get, the happier your life is going to be.