Mike Shinoda is a hip-hop head who makes his money in a metal band, but when his manager slipped him a demo of singer/songwriter Holly Brook, he was hooked.
"Her style of music is really rooted in the songwriting," Shinoda said. "You don't need all the frills and the production. You can put her on a $50 mic in a room and she sounds just like the record because the talent is really there. A lot of artists rely on tricks to make their stuff sound a certain way, but we all appreciate the rawness of what she does."
"We" meaning the rest of Linkin Park, who immediately signed Brook to their Machine Shop Recordings imprint. Shinoda then turned to Brook's angelic voice while he was recording his Fort Minor side project to sing the hook on his multiformat smash "Where'd You Go."
With Brook's debut, Like Blood Like Honey, due Tuesday (June 6), rapper/producer/multi-instrumentalist Shinoda showcased another skill — interviewing — for an exclusive one-on-one with his protégé for MTV News.
Shinoda: You've been singing for a long time. Did you always know you wanted to be a singer?
Brook: I didn't really have a choice in the matter, because I came from a very musical family, so it was just in my blood.
Shinoda: How long have you been performing?
Brook: Well, I started performing when I was 6 with my mom, and we sang folk songs and kid songs. And we made three independent albums together. We had some interesting song titles, like "We Are the Colors of the Rainbow" [both laugh] and "Grandma Slid Down the Mountain" and, what else? Oh, they're all crazy, like "Hurricane Mom."
Shinoda: I know you play piano and guitar. Are there any other instruments you play?
Brook: I also play an instrument called the dulcimer.
Shinoda: Enlighten the kids.
Brook: OK. A dulcimer you play in your lap — well, there's two kinds of dulcimers, but the kind I play, you play in your lap — and it's got four strings and you strum it. And I picked it up because my mom had one around the house when I was growing up, and there's not really that much to do in Wisconsin so I was bored.
Shinoda: And there are some artists that you like that played dulcimer, right?
Brook: Joni Mitchell, she was a big influence of mine growing up.
Shinoda: Who were some of your other musical influences growing up?
Brook: Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Sarah McLachlan and a newer band that I really like is Death Cab for Cutie, which you actually turned me on to.
Shinoda: So a lot of people are surprised that you're signed to my band's record label, Machine Shop. I'm sure that was a little bit surprising to you when you first got offered the deal. What was going on through your mind at that point?
Brook: Yeah, it was a little bit of a surprise that somebody like you guys would sign somebody like me.
Shinoda: How did your part in "Where'd You Go" come about?
Brook: Well, you already had the song written and you had your voice on it and wanted a female touch I guess, and so since I was already on the label and you wanted to keep it in the family ... you just asked me to sing it, and then I went to the studio and sang for about a half-hour and left.
Shinoda: As you know, the song "Where'd You Go," I wrote it for my wife, Anna, who you know. A lot of people do songs about being on the road, and I wanted to do this song about the opposite perspective: the people who are at home, your family, your friends, your loved ones who are at home. Have you done a lot of touring? Do you have people at home that miss you?
Brook: I haven't done that much touring, but I can definitely relate in the sense that I made a big move from Wisconsin to L.A. and left all my family and friends there. So I can definitely relate in that way.
Shinoda: The video for "Where'd You Go," that was the first video you've ever done. What was that like?
Brook: Well, it was fun, but there was a lot less shooting time than I thought there would be. I thought it would be a full day of being on camera, but most of the time was actually getting my makeup and hair done.
Shinoda: So you've got an album coming out [Like Blood Like Honey]. Tell us a little about that.
Brook: I'm very excited about it. It's quite a bit different than the stuff that you'd hear right now, because we kept it really organic. We actually recorded a lot of the songs live in the studio with live musicians on analog tape.
Shinoda: And for a lot of people who don't know that much about recording, a lot of studios and even places that manufacture analog equipment are going under — like analog is outdated, it's harder to find, harder to do. So is there a reason why you wanted to do that?
Brook: Well, it gives everything a much warmer sound, kind of like older records, like some of my favorites. So I wanted to capture that. So it's pretty organic and stripped down, and it lets the songs speak for themselves.
Shinoda: Well thanks very much, Holly. Good to see you again.