Bruno Major Talks New Album 'To Let A Good Thing Die,' Seeing Korn Live At 13 & More
Over the past few years, British singer/songwriter Bruno Major has found his groove and made a name for himself as an independent artist. After suddenly getting dropped from his major label, he decided to record and release a song each month. This body of work became his debut album, 2017's A Song For Every Moon, and, with its poetic lyrics and chilled-out melodies, earned him a major following and packed touring schedule.
On June 5, the "Wouldn't Mean A Thing" singer will share his sophomore effort, To Let A Good Thing Die, via Harbour/AWAL. Ahead of its release, we caught up with the artist over the phone to learn more about how his creative flow shifted between the two albums, what it's felt like to put a pause on touring and staying calm during quarantine. He also dives deep into one of the lead singles, "Old Soul," his life-long passion for music and who his biggest influences are.
Your sophomore album, To Let A Good Thing Die, comes out in just about two months. What are you most looking forward to about sharing this project with the world?
Well, I think on a basic level, art doesn't really become art until it has been consumed by people. So, at the moment, I feel like I've made the painting and then it's just sitting under a shroud in my attic. I'm really just looking forward to it being on the internet, the catharsis of release and celebrating all my hard work.
On your debut, A Song For Every Moon, you wrote and released a new song every month. How did the creative flow and timeline shift with the new album?
It was really different. With my debut album, I had just been dropped by a record label and I was living on the remnants of my advance. I set myself a task of writing and recording a song every month, and it was a big workload, but I literally had nothing else to do. So this time around, obviously I [was] touring around the world and running my own label with my manager, and it's kind of learning to balance.
When you're touring, you have to become this soldier and whatever happens, if you feel ill or sad or whatever, you still have to get on stage and be an entertainer and give 100 percent. And the person that makes the album is this delicate butterfly who wears his heart on his sleeve and is clear with all his feelings and really vulnerable. They're two diametrically opposed concepts almost. I think the hardest thing for me was being a soldier for a month on tour and then coming home and being a butterfly for a month and learning how to transition smoothly and just balancing my time, really.
"When you're touring, you have to become this soldier and whatever happens, if you feel ill or sad or whatever, you still have to get on stage and be an entertainer and give 100 percent."
Do you ever write songs when you're on the road?
No. I've never written on the road, not even once. I'm almost a different person when I'm touring. I just get up in the morning and go to the gym, and I focus on the show that night. I just smash all the targets, it's like survival. Whereas, when I'm home, I'm experiencing and feeling, loving, tasting, partying and making music. Really, you're an artist when you're creating and not so much on tour.
As you mentioned, you were on the road a bunch last year, and now, obviously, you've had to postpone your North American tour. What has this break from touring and performing felt like for you, and what are you most looking forward to once it's safe to resume life outside of quarantine again?
I mean, without wanting to sugarcoat it, it really sucks. I spent 18 months working so hard at this album and then at the very last minute I finished it—these tours are meant to be the celebration of it and they've been ripped from underneath our feet. But at the same time, you have to be aware of your position. Although this wasn't the best thing that ever happened to me, it certainly isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to anyone. There are a lot of people dying in the world from this, and I just have to be grateful that I can be with my family.
I feel very lucky that I finished the album and I can release it and at least share the recorded music with people, and hopefully they can find some solace and some warmth from the recording. And obviously, we've rearranged the tour to September, so all fingers and toes crossed, we'll be coming back to America and we're going to have the biggest party and ever and celebrate us defeating this virus.
You've released a few singles ahead of the album, most recently being "Old Soul," which you said you created the beat on a drum kit. I'd love to hear a little bit more about the creative process of that song specifically and how the different pieces came together.
Well, normally I co-produce everything with Phairo, he's on my debut album and this album. And the way it works is, generally speaking, I write the songs and then I bring it to him and we produce it together. He makes all the beats on his laptop.
And for some reason with this one, we were in the studio and I went into the live room and I just started playing on the drums, and I'm not a drummer, but it was cool and was good, so we kept it. He sampled what I was doing and made that into the beat. I love it and it's a great one to play live.
Did you start with the drum part, or did you already have the lyrics down?
The song itself I wrote with a British artist called XamVolo. We wrote it a little while ago actually, and I wanted to bring my own spin on it. It's very musically charged. A lot of my songs are basically poetry which I decorate with music. And with "Old Soul," I feel like the music really led the way on this one, which is a really freeing experience for me.
I'm always interested in how songs are crafted, especially when it's different from the typical flow you feel comfortable with, so that's really cool.
It's funny because if you take a song like, well, most of my songs, but I have one called "Nothing." The last line is, "There's nothing like doing nothing with you." When you say that sentence, I literally can hear in it, [singing] "There's nothing like doing nothing;" the melody is contained within the words. Whereas with "Old Soul," I actually start with guitar, where it goes like this [strums guitar], and then we have that melody and we added the words into it. The melody came first, which is a backwards way around for me.
I'd also love to learn about the vision for the "Old Soul" video and working with Tom Ewbank on it—the Super 8 shots really support the track with its fuzzed out feel.
As I was saying, this record is musically charged, so I felt like the video didn't really need to be a feature piece, it could be more of a musical, basically me playing live and following me around on tour with that Super 8 footage. I'm not a videographer. I dedicated my whole life to music from the age of seven, and then you finally get to the point where you feel like you're ready to release your music out to the world, and at the very last minute, people are like, "Oh, by the way, you've got to make a video. Everybody's going to judge you on the video as much as they are on the music."
For someone like me who really spends all the day thinking about melodies and chords, it's like, "Ugh. Really?" So thankfully there are people in the world like Tom Eubank who spend their whole time thinking about how to make the most beautiful videos in the world. He's an amazing artist and I trust his artistic vision implicitly. I was obviously involved creatively with the video, but it's very much his piece of art.
Rewinding a bit, what was the first concert you ever attended?
You're not going to believe it, but it was Korn. I was a real metalhead when I was a kid.
How old were you?
I was 13 years old. I'm still a metalhead. I listen to metal pretty much every day, when I work out. It charges me up. But when I was 13, I didn't listen to anything else. We went to see Korn and it was the coolest thing in the world. I was so short that I couldn't see, but this random dude picked me up and put me on his shoulders the whole gig. It was so sweet. And I got a hoodie at the end, and we drove home and I had this delicious KFC meal on the way home. I remember the whole thing very vividly.
You mentioned music being part of your life since you were really young. Was there a specific artist or a specific moment that made you want to get into making music yourself?
Yeah, it's always been a constant for me. My dad played guitar, so there were always guitars lying around the house and we had a piano at home too. I got lessons because I wanted to play guitar like my dad did, and then it came very naturally to me and I really enjoyed it. And I quickly realized that I didn't really care about much other things. I loved writing and I loved languages, so I thought maybe I was going to be a writer and maybe I was going to be a musician, and I chose music. Really, it could have been either one for me.
I knew I wanted to do music, but I just couldn't figure out where in the world of music I fit in. I was practicing guitar like six hours a day trying to become the greatest guitar player in the world. That was my dream. But when I was 22, I wrote my first song and it was a real light bulb, a eureka moment. I was like, "Oh my God. I can be a writer and I can be a musician at the same time. This is awesome." So I think then, when I wrote my first song, was the moment I knew that this is what I'm meant to be doing.
I think that's one of the hardest things about being an artist, finding your artistry. I always knew I was an artist and I always knew that I had something to offer, but it wasn't until I started writing songs that I really found my reason.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
I was like seven. I actually have a video. My parents bought me a guitar for Christmas and I have a video of me, I was just like, "Wow! A guitar!" And I still think, "A guitar!" every time I look at one.
Who are your biggest influences in your art?
I have so many. As a songwriter, I would say Randy Newman is probably my biggest influence. As a singer, I would say Chet Baker. As a guitar player, Joe Pass is my biggest influence. As a producer, I would say James Blake, J Dilla, D'Angelo. I feel like I'm very much, as all artists are, a tapestry of influences, of all the things ozmosized along the journey.
Given all the craziness in the world right now, do you have any practices or anything that helps you stay grounded?
Yeah. Being a musician, I've had zero structure in my life since I was 16 or 17 because I left school. So, [typically] I go the gym every morning and make sure that I do something every day that's the same. I feel like I need routine in my life. If you don't have it, you have to create it yourself. So just make sure you exercise every day or do something that isn't just Netflix. Learn a new skill, read a book, learn the piano. Just try to vary your days up.
I think there's a great lesson to be learned here as well. When you don't have the thing that you should be doing every day, then you're just left with the things you want to do. And you have to worry about what it is that you want. I think people are learning a lot about themselves during this period.