Deborah Crooks

Deborah Crooks is a seeker. The San Francisco Bay Area-born and bred singer/songwriter grew up at the nexus of two tectonic plates; close to the city known for its history of social, musical and political upheaval. These underlying conduits of tension seem bred into those from The Bay Area, but few more so than Crooks, who began writing songs as a young child. These days Crooks is a vibrant artist carrying on the San Francisco tradition of powerful female singer/songwriters with literate lyrics and progressive musical attitudes; well respected within the music scene and increasingly so outside of it.

The lid came off of Crooks’ creative self during her studies at Colorado’s The Naropa Institute. The ecumenical Buddhist-based educational philosophy of the school inspired Crooks to take up Buddhist practice, begin studying yoga and to see her creative side as a spiritual outlet. Around the same time Crooks experienced the Telluride Folk Festival, and was inspired to walk in the footsteps of artists such as Michelle Shocked and Shawn Colvin. Little did Crooks know that she was embarking on a new life path. If yoga became the rock upon which Crooks life was built, music became the lifeblood.

Having built a worldview through the lens of opportunity and tragedy, Crooks sees in her surroundings the opportunity to make the world a better place. She has lived through earthquakes, personal loss and even the 9/11 attacks in New York City. As a songwriter, Crooks reflects the contradictions she sees in the world in song, unveiling in her lyrics truths that are simultaneously pragmatic and mystical. The Blues/Americana musical blend that is her canvas is simply the base from which Crooks’ songs grow. Ultimately, her music is a cultural ecotone born of her California roots, her spiritual development, her transcendant instinct and the quest for enlightenment that is both of and divergent from the disparate influences that bore it.

The various tensions that swirl about the life of Deborah Crooks have catalyzed a songwriting talent that is soul-wise and edgy. Combine this with Crooks’ distinctive voice and you’ve discovered an artist capable of owning a room. Deborah Crooks doesn’t so much blow you away as she creeps into the questing places in your soul and insinuates herself as the reflective voice that sheds wisdom on a worrisome world. It’s this quality that first gained Crooks the attention of RockerGirl Magazine for her 2003 debut EP 5 Acres. The Roberta Donnay-produced EP landed Crooks on the RockerGirl Discoveries compilation and gained Crooks a national audience for the first time. In 2007 Crooks followed up with an EP entitled Turn It All Red, a stepping stone to her first full-length album Adding Water To Ashes, released in 2008. 2010 has seen the release of two EPs from the prolific singer/songwriter. It’s All Up To You was made possible by a Bay Bridged Grant and shows Crooks’ social conscience in full force, while Other Halves displays some of Crooks’ most focused songwriting to date alongside a powerful cover of Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold”.

Her work is fueled by periodic returns to India to further her yoga and vocal studies and write. Considering that Crooks and her band have recently begun to find the sort of magic that is born of chemistry, talent, hard work and time spent together, such personal rebirth could be the charge that leads Deborah Crooks onto the national stage to stay. Crooks spent the winter of 2010/2011 in Southern India, another leg on her socio-artistic journey. From there the sky is, quite literally the limit. Deborah Crooks walks the path of musical enlightenment.

How do you describe your music to people?
Soul-driven Americana/Blues

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I've written for as long as I remember and have always loved music. As a little kid I used to ride my bike around the driveway singing and making up songs.  I finally got a guitar 10 years ago.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Being an artist, continually learning new things is my m.o. but really it's all boils down to practicing yoga, being in community and creating.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Balancing the right and left side of my brains so I both grow as an artist and keep my feet on the ground and a roof over my head.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

President! Which is crazy. I always ended up teaching the other kids as I read way above my level and was similar in the visual arts and because I grew up with a brother, was kind of pioneering the playground for the other girls.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
It's key. From my once monthly songwriting group, to my bandmates to my fellow musicians who I pow-wow with--it's all influence and learning and support to keep on keeping on.

What other artists out there do you love?
Right now, Sara Siskind is getting lots of play around the house. Lucinda Williams is an old favorite as is Petty, Patty Griffin and Neil Young. Wilco. The India trip opened my ears to Classical Indian instrumentalists, particularly tabla and sarod that was a like a whole new flavor of sound.

What does your future hold?
Well, for the [past two months I've been] based in the Bay Area, playing a bunch of shows in SF and the East Bay, and finishing an apprenticeship with my Ashtanga yoga teacher...and in late April/early May [I did] a little tour in So Cal. I'm mulling another Soutwest tour for August. And then I plan to return to India, Oct/Nov and continue my yoga and voice studies. I'm writing new material but I'm trying to push my edges so I don't expect to record anything too new until, earliest, next year. But we'll see!