Long before David Brookings launched his recording career in 2000, tracked three albums at the legendary Sun Studio and regaled fans for years in the Bay Area with the coolly retro modern day British Invasion vibe of his band David Brookings and the Average Lookings, indie power pop/rocker David Brookings was an 11-year-old kid in Richmond, VA making his live performance debut with the first tune he ever penned, “All I’ll Ever Want” at a middle school talent show. 

The memory of the craziness Brookings felt in the aftermath of that moment was the impetus for his latest full length album Mania at the Talent Show, a powerful showcase of his vibrant musical energy and the character driven musical storytelling that has long defined his artistry. Though he has recorded several albums in recent years with a full band, this collection is essentially a two man remotely recorded production of the singer and Josh Scolaro, a Richmond based engineer who worked on Brookings’ debut album Sounds Off. The album will also feature cameos by former bandmates and longtime musical friends. 

One of two infectious preview tracks being released in advance of the LP’s drop November 12, the dreamy, atmospheric mid-tempo tune “Hard Times” may have been the last one written for the project, but it perfectly captures the zeitgeist of 2021 and the latest stage of the pandemic era – where we’re moving about freely but cautiously, waiting to emerge fully from the anxieties, fears and challenges of the past year and a half. 

Brookings sets the personal yet universal tone and the clever rhyme scheme of the tune in the first verse: “How much more can I take? I’ve been trying not to break in the hard times/Feel the wind through the trees/Heaven help you if you sneeze in the hard times.” Between the main verses, he inserts bridges that address the fraught reality but ultimately offer encouragement: “These are strange days/There’s an outrage/Everything’s fine – it’s just hard times.”

The other preview tune, the spirited and jangling, 60’s-early 70’s influenced “Get Off (My Mind) harkens back to the youthful melancholy feeling of never quite getting over that first love and pining for her and the past like “a ghost” that’s still “flying strong.” Catchy as the song is, it’s certainly ironic coming from a guy who’s been happily married for 16  years – but that’s the genius of Brooking’s great ability to fashion relatable characters and put them situations we can all relate to. 

Inspired by everything from his parents’ old school record collection (think Lovin’ Spoonful and The Turtles) and seeing old Monkees episodes on MTV, Brookings started playing guitar and writing songs at age nine and by 15 was playing Richmond area clubs. After releasing his debut album, he moved to Memphis and became a tour guide at Sun Studio from 2003-2009, which gave him the opportunity to record his albums Chorus Verses The Bridge, Obsessed and Glass Half Full. After giving a special guided tour to Steve Jobs in 2009, the Apple founder hired Brookings to work at iTunes (now Apple Music), prompting a move to the Bay Area, where he formed The Average Lookings and was an ongoing presence (playing events like the International Pop Overthrow at the Hotel Utah) until his family’s move to Los Angeles in 2019. 

“I enjoy taking artistic license with stories inspired by my life,” he says, “and on Mania at the Talent Show, though it was just a debut performance by me at 11 years old, I envisioned me being in front of a mosh pit with teachers jumping off and into the crowd. I look at music a lot differently than I did when my first record came out, and I’m proud of my development as a songwriter and the fact that I don’t just write about girls. I try to always write about different interesting things, projecting myself as a character in various situations and creating an interesting musical movie around that. The new album isn’t concept driven, per se, but most of the songs tie into relationships I’ve had with family members and other people in my life – though always slightly veiled and never getting overly specific and personal.”