A young Derry woman whose singing talent and personality has captured the hearts of a nation will take to the stage this weekend with ambitions of securing a place in the semi-final of The Voice UK.
Like many others at present, the drama student at Ulster University’s Magee Campus is working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic but her mind is firmly focussed on the task at hand on Saturday night.
She’s having ‘withdrawal symptoms’ from not seeing her two biggest fans, grannies Peggy and Sheila, who have also become household names thanks to their guest appearance on the show.
But Brooke has been calling them on a regular basis and wants to ensure they’re kept safe.
The 20-year-old is from Bellaghy Co. Derry but lived in the Rosemount area for two years while studying and has family connections in the city.
Her love of music developed at home, growing up her father ‘almost burnt the house down’ when he fell asleep as a child listening to the record player. None of her family are singers but they’re all passionate about music and listen to the ‘golden oldies’.
Brooke’s own taste has been informed by those cherished records and she’s been fortunate enough to see idols live such as Dolly Parton, Cher and Tina Turner. Other favourites include the Eagles, Aerosmith and John Mayer.
She never envisaged a career in music - ‘every competition I entered I never got through, except from one year at Ballymena Festival which I won’, she said.
Unbeknown to Brooke a friend submitted an application of her to audition for The Voice UK 2020. She was shocked to get call back from the producers before going across to England in April last year, where she secretly filmed her Blind Audition – an experience shrouded in secrecy from her wider friends and family.
At the beginning of January Brooke’s first appearance was aired on ITV. All four coaches were visibly moved by her performance. First to turn were will.i.am and Meghan Trainor and they were quickly followed by Sir Tom Jones and Olly Murs.
A tug-of-war took place between the coaches but American singer-songwriter Ms Trainor convinced the Derry woman to join her team and quickly declared that she had a potential winner on her hands.
That cover of Lewis Capaldi song Bruises was a breakthrough moment and one that changed her outlook.
“I’m so grateful for everything because it really has shown me that by getting turns from all the coaches, it has reassured me and reaffirmed everything that I want to do, it has given me that push and urge to say, ‘I should be doing this, I will do it and be as good as I can’.”
It has already proven a seminal moment in her life and one which she now uses as motivation. “I watch that back on my phone when I’m going to perform on the show again, “ she reflected. “It gives me that lift and belief that I was worth the four chair turn.
“I genuinely didn’t think it was a good performance of that song because as soon as they turned I went into panic mode. I’ve sung it so much better.
“But the crowd were standing applauding, it was a surreal moment and one I’ll never forget.”
Directly after the performance the 20-year-old’s sense of humour shone through, while speaking to the coaches she joked to Tom Jones and Olly Murs that her grannies were both single.
Her own harshest critic, Brooke also wasn’t happy with her performance during the Battles round and views this Saturday night as an opportunity to redeem herself.
Saturday’s Knockout performance is set to be special as she sings a song that is close to her heart. “It’s a song with a lot of meaning for me, it was the first song people heard me sing in school and has had a lot of luck for me. I hope it does again on Saturday,” she added.
The reaction in her hometown and further afield has been humbling and spurred her on.
She explained: “People have been so supportive, particularly over the last few days when I’ve noticed my social media followers going up.
“To think that people want to listen to me is amazing. I’m so glad I have the local support and want people to be proud of me and able to relate to me because I live in the same place.”
A woman of many talents she also plays camogie having represented the county team and Bellaghy’s senior team. She shares the interest in sport with family members including her younger brother and two older sisters.
However, The Voice remains her primary focus at present with her time split between Derry and London. If she didn’t grasp the opportunity with both hands and devote herself to it entirely she feels it would always be a source of regret.
Brooke said she may be biased but believes choosing Meghan Trainor as her coach was the ‘best decision’ because they share a lot of similarities. “She FaceTimes me, messages me on Instagram, she is unbelievable and is here to make a point. I believe she’ll look after me in my career and is just a brilliant, brilliant coach.”
Although only nearing her 21st birthday, the young Derry woman has ambitions of pursuing a career in music, or acting, regardless of the outcome on Saturday night.
“I want to act, I want to sing, I want to bake, everything that comes at me I want to say yes because you never know what will come out of it.
“I just want to help people, I want to give them something that takes them away from their worries.
“It’s about growing as a person and artist, and being a good role model to young people who are looking up to me most, like Meghan has been for so many - that would be my dream achieved.”
Tune into The Voice on ITV this Saturday at 8:30pm as Brooke takes on the Knock Outs for a place in the Live Semi Final.
The semi-final and final which were due to air on March 28 and April 4 have now been postponed until later this year.
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