Growing up in a house filled with music doesn’t always lead to a Grammy Award-winning songwriting career, but for Marblehead native David Brook that’s exactly what happened.
Brook’s career has taken him to New York City and his current home of Los Angeles where he has written songs for Eminem, One Republic, Charlie Puth, Keith Urban and more, some of which earned Grammy and platinum-selling status.
“My mom played music for me at a really young age,” he recalled, adding his mom and father, Bob, still live in his childhood home in town.
Billy Joel was his biggest influence, along with Ray Charles and Elton John, musicians his mom loved and played throughout the house regularly. He also loved Matchbox Twenty then and now and worked with the band’s lead singer Rob Thomas during the pandemic.
A 2011 Northeastern University graduate who majored in music business, Brook knew he wanted to work in the music industry as a pre-teen, but it wasn’t until middle or high school that he realized you could write music for a living.
He then began studying Max Martin, a Swedish record producer and songwriter. Brook has always loved pop music and learned through his studies that Martin was the writer of some of his favorite songs including many 1990s hits by the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and NSYNC, to name a few.
“I realized I loved the crafting of the songs. It was something I wanted to chase,” the 2006 Marblehead High School graduate said.
His attention to the craft of songwriting steered him towards a desire to write melodies, lyrics and chords. His talent in the craft earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2014 with his writing of “Legacy” on Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” and a platinum certificate signifying 1,000,000 copies sold and streamed on Charlie Puth’s “Nine Track Mind” album.
Being a songwriter means being your own boss, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
“You’re your own boss, which is wonderful and can be scary sometimes,” Brook explained. “A manager is an integral part of the career, with you and the manager pitching records to artists, but no one is going to want it more than you do, so you have to keep pushing.”
In fact, persistence is one trait needed for the business. “And thick skin and patience.”
All three are key, as it can take years for a song to be accepted by an artist.
“It just takes the right pair of ears to believe in it. Timing is probably 95% of the battle; it depends on when you hear it,” he told The Current.
For example, an artist can be in a relationship and not feel the lyrics work for them when the song is pitched, then six months later be heartbroken and those same words resonate, he said. His work with One Republic and DJ Galantis took over four years to be released by the artists.
Brook doesn’t always meet with the artists he sells songs to but does work directly with some musicians. He might write a song he and his manager pitch to a musician, or artists come to him looking for a song with a certain vibe.
The songwriting usually happens with him, another writer and a producer in the room.
“It’s all very collaborative,” he said.
While many may picture songwriting in Los Angeles happening in large studios with big speakers and expensive equipment, Brook notes, “It’s insane today what you can do with a laptop. In the ’90s, you needed more.”
Today, songwriters can be just as successful in their home studios. Inspiration can strike at any time, but Brook usually does his best work in a “chill” environment, in his own studio, hanging out and having fun. “No pressure.”
Brook left his home studio to work with Charlie Puth in the singer’s New Jersey home writing for the album “Nine Track Mind,” which would earn platinum status. Puth was in the process of being signed by APG (Artists Publishing Group), and APG sent a demo of Puth singing “Broke” to singer Jason Derulo.
What happens next “still blows my mind,” Brook recalled, smiling.
“Jason was at a White House dinner, and the demo was on his phone. He said, ‘I have to have this song.’ Jason saw Stevie Wonder at the dinner and said, ‘I need you to get on this.’ A week later, Derulo was in the studio with Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Stevie added a lot of ad libs at the end.”
Keith Urban became attached to the song as well.
While stories like that are highlights for the former Boston Yacht Club valet, he says the best part of the job isn’t when the song comes out.
“It’s in the studio, when you’re done and playing it back and knowing this is a good one. You have to celebrate making a song you all love,” he says.
Brook loves to come home and does what a lot of people do when they come back to town after being away awhile: He goes on a Neck run (with his sister Alexandra) and visits Peaches Point. He recently walked from Seaside to Marblehead Harbor, which he highly recommends.
He loves to visit the local food shops, naming 5 Corners, Mino’s with his nephew, August, and Shubie’s.
“We essentially lived on Shubie’s growing up. That was the chef in our house,” he remembers fondly.
The award-winning songwriter uses the word “magic” when talking about the Fourth of July in his hometown.
“My mom rents Terry’s Ice Cream truck for the family and friends,” Brook says. “I always try to get back for it. The older I get the more I realize how insanely lucky I was to grow up in Marblehead. It’s still my favorite place.”