Yorkey was born in Omaha, Nebraska; raised there and in Issaquah, Washington. He graduated from Columbia University where he served as the artistic director of the Varsity Show. He also is an alumnus of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop.
Prior to bringing Next to Normal to Broadway, Yorkey was affiliated with Village Theatre in Issaquah, where he began as a KidStage student and eventually progressed to a six-year tenure as associate artistic director. Five musicals written by Yorkey—Funny Pages (1993), Making Tracks (2002), The Wedding Banquet (2003), Play it by Heart (2005), and A Perfect Fall (2007)—were staged there.
Next to Normal began as a ten-minute-long piece called Feeling Electric, which recent college graduates Yorkey and Kitt wrote as a final project for the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop at the end of the 1990s. Their inspiration was a segment about electroconvulsive therapy Yorkey saw on Dateline NBC. Yorkey has observed it's "exponentially harder to write an original musical. Musicals that go wrong can be ridiculous because it's a ridiculous art form. People bursting into song can be ridiculous. But musicals that go right can be sublime." Next to Normal won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010, citing "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals." It also won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.
Yorkey is currently writing the original musical SCORE!, with Robert Downey, Jr. attached to star, which is set up at Warner Bros. with Anonymous Content and Team Downey producing. His screenplay Love Undercover is set up at Overture Films with Pandemonium producing. He also scripted Sluts for Lionsgate Films and co-created the series The Bears Next Door for the Logo network. Brian’s first feature film pitch, Time After Time, sold in a bidding war for high six figures to Universal Pictures. It is now fast tracked at Lionsgate/Summit with Brad Buecker (GLEE, AMERICAN HORROR STORY) directing. He is also working with the legendary English singer Sting on a musical theatrical work based on The Soul Cages.
In August 2010, Tom Kitt and Yorkey's musical In Your Eyes was workshopped at the Village Theatre's Festival of New Musicals in Issaquah, Washington (they also workshopped Feeling Electric there as well). The show is about "The students of Lakeshore High School are sent into a full-blown lock down (not to mention a flood of animosity, fear, and insecurity) when a plot of gun violence is suspected. As a group of unsupervised students attempts to make sense of the chaos, they end up learning more about themselves and their classmates—from the troubled rocker spitting lyrics, to the sarcastic fashionista pointing fingers from her pedestal."
- "Brian Yorkey: Writer". Playbill (playbill.com). Retrieved 2009-05-31. See also biographical blurb archived 2010-07-29.
- Truzzi, Gianni (January 15, 2009). "A moment with ... Brian Yorkey / director". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- "Brian Yorkey – Playwright". Doollee.com. 2003. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Hughes, David-Edward. "The Wedding Banquet at the Village Theatre". Seattle. Talkin' Broadway Regional News and Reviews (talkinbroadway.com). Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Berson, Misha (March 25, 2005). ""Play It By Heart" is a rags-to-rhinestones musical tale". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Marinik, Molly (June 2, 2009). "The Popdose Interview: Brian Yorkey". Popdose.com. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Read, Kimberly; Marcia Purse (May 16, 2009). "Interview with Brian Yorkey – Writer and Lyricist of Next to Normal". About.com. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- "The 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Drama". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-11-12. With two short biographies and liner notes to the recording.
- "Watch Charlie Rose: Sting online". Audio-video recording.
- MacAtee, Rebecca (July 24, 2013). "Magic Mike, The Musical Heading to Broadway, Channing Tatum Confirms". Eonline.com.
- Gans, Andrew (July 24, 2013). "Tix Now on Sale for Pre-Broadway Engagement of New Musical If/Then, Starring Tony Winner Idina Menzel". Playbill. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
- Brian Yorkey at the Internet Broadway Database
- Interview with Brian Yorkey on MyNorthwest.com
- Brian Yorkey at Library of Congress Authorities, with 2 catalog records