Merging evocative folk, melodic pop, and an edgier roots rock sensibility, singer/songwriter/guitarist Jonatha Brooke began releasing music in the early 1990s, first as a member of duo the Story and more enduringly as a solo artist. Though credited to Jonatha Brooke & the Story, she made her solo debut with 1995's Plumb before cracking the Billboard 200 with her third set of original songs, 2001's Steady Pull. A year later, she performed two songs for the Disney film Return to Never Land. In 2008, Brooke issued The Works, which paired her original music with previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics, and an album based on her own one-woman play, My Mother Has 4 Noses, arrived in 2014, reaching the Billboard Americana/folk chart's Top Ten.
Born in Illinois and raised in Massachusetts, Jonatha Brooke was already writing songs when she met singer Jennifer Kimball while they were students at Amherst College in the early '80s. Though they played regular local gigs as Jonatha & Jennifer during their time there, the duo never issued any recordings and took a break after graduation, during which time Brooke joined a dance troupe. By the end of the '80s, however, the group had re-formed under the moniker the Story, and they issued a demo called Over Oceans in 1989. The Story was promptly signed to the independent Green Linnet label, which issued their debut album, Grace in Gravity, in 1991. It wasn't long before Elektra Records expressed interest in the band, in turn reissuing their debut the same year, as well as a sophomore LP, The Angel in the House, two years later.
By 1994, however, the Story had split up for good and Brooke began pursuing a solo career. Despite Kimball's absence, Brooke's 1995 solo debut, Plumb, was credited to Jonatha Brooke & the Story. Brooke received sole credit beginning with 1997's 10 Cent Wings, which also marked a shift to a more radio-friendly sound. This shift continued with such releases as 1999's Live and 2001's Steady Pull, the latter of which was co-produced by Brooke and renowned studioman Bob Clearmountain (known for his work with the Rolling Stones, the Corrs, and Hall & Oates, among others). The album landed at number 192 on the Billboard 200 as well as making the Top Ten of the independent albums chart. Beginning in the late '90s, Brooke's albums were issued via her own record label, Bad Dog Records.
In 2002, Brooke contributed an original song ("I'll Try") and a cover ("The Second Star to the Right") to Disney's Return to Never Land soundtrack. Two years later, she performed a set of ten shows at the Public Theater in New York, the highlights of which were collected for the 2006 release of Live in New York, complete with a DVD of the concert. Careful What You Wish For followed in 2007, and Brooke delved into Woody Guthrie's lyric journals for her next release. Issued in 2008, The Works set Guthrie's words to Brooke's original tunes.
Brooke continued to tour over the next several years, providing the theme song, "What You Don't Know," for Joss Whedon's TV series Dollhouse (2009-2010) and occasionally collaborating with other artists, while writing what would eventually become her one-woman play, My Mother Has 4 Noses. Inspired by her mother's battle with dementia, the play opened at the Duke Theater in New York in February 2014. During that time, she also released an album of the same title based on the play. Reuniting with mixing engineer Bob Clearmountain, Brooke recorded the full-length Midnight. Hallelujah, which arrived in 2016. The Imposter EP followed in 2019. ~ Greg Prato & Marcy Donelson