In Conversation:
Bruno Major

The Northampton-born, London-based artist spoke with tmrw about his anticipated sophomore full-length album due out June 5 via AWAL.

Bruno Major admits that he cried often while crafting his sophomore album titled To Let A Good Thing Die, but he has been focusing on making other people smile lately.

On April 1, in the thick of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Bruno did his first ever live stream session on YouTube. He played the guitar and sang songs for 40-plus minutes from his parents’ living room.

“We are in a strange moment, so 8,000 of you watching me sing songs in my parents living room, in the same seat I used to sit and practice my guitar as a child, seems strangely in context,” he tweeted afterward. “It IS a beautiful thing that we are all able to connect in profound ways though physically we are separate. Keep your heads up, keep smiling, there is light at the end of tunnel.”

The first song Bruno sang on the live stream was “Nothing,” To Let A Good Thing Die‘s third track. “But there’s nothing,” he sings in the song, in what has become his signature delicate delivery. “Like doing nothing / With you.” In that moment, thousands of people probably felt that way about him.

It may have been Bruno’s first live stream, but he is an experienced veteran when it comes to giving people a soft place to land through his music.

To Let A Good Thing Die will serve as the follow-up to his debut A Song For Every Moon, released in August 2017 after a year-long process that saw him release a new song every month that he had written and recorded himself. A Song For Every Moon is where Bruno’s story began as far as many people are concerned, but as with everybody, his story actually began long before that. Bruno had moved from his hometown Northampton—a sleepy town about an hour north of London—to London. He was exposed to things he had never come across during his childhood. Cultures, energy, experiences, people, everything. He finally had the inspiration to write his first song—a “really rubbish song” about a man he had met on the bus. He will never show it to anybody, and the fact he never intended to show anybody is actually telling.

This all began for him in a very sincere way. He wanted to document the things he was experiencing, and he did it the only way he knew how. In that respect, nothing has changed.

This is not a concept album by any stretch of the imagination,” the 31-year-old singer-songwriter told tmrw over the phone on March 27. “It’s really a musical diary of where I’m at at the moment. It’s a collection of songs I’m very proud of, but in terms of the subject matter, I don’t conceive them to be conceptually aligned too much. There are certain themes that run through it—just ’cause that’s what I think about all the fuckin’ time. Like, why am I here? What the fuck is going on? Why do I love this person? Why do they love me? Am I a nice person? I dunno. All of the things that are just going through my head all the time, that’s the theme.”

Bruno was going through “some shit” during the making of To Let A Good Thing Die. But what he has called the “most important song” he has ever written emerged from the fire.

“You know, normal stuff,” he says. “I had broken up with my girlfriend at the time, and I had been dropped by my record label. I was in the car with my mum, and she said, ‘Don’t worry. All of these things that you’re going through will always be part of your tapestry.’ And I remember writing it down in my phone and, like, three days later, wrote ‘Tapestry.'”

The song—the whole album, really—shows Bruno at his best. His voice weaves effortlessly through registers. He sings in a way that somebody only can when they are intimately—painfully—familiar with what he is saying. His writing process often involves a considering things through a visual lens, and that is strikingly clear in “Tapestry”:

Have you seen the seven oceans?
Or the snow cap of a mountain top?
Or the northern lights set in motion?
Or a heartbeat slow to a stop?

[…]

More than all the things that I’ve seen
You will always be part of my tapestry
More than all the places I’ve been
You will always be part of my tapestry

It is also clear that Bruno doesn’t cheat anything. He doesn’t come off as a fan of shortcuts. (After his label dropped him, for example, he took a job with a local theatre company to write music for Shakespeare plays. His tapestry is much more extensive than we’ll get into here.) He wants to experience and feel everything, even if it hurts. He describes To Let A Good Thing Die as having “a lot of ponderings on the ephemerality of life itself, the fleeting nature of existence and how the beauty of existence may as well lie in its brevity.”

He has grown into one of music’s best at soulfully articulating vast life concepts as well as the emotional spectrum. The version of himself who wrote about a strange man on a London bus couldn’t have imagined the rabbit hole he was about to dive into, and the version of himself dropped from a Los Angeles label only to return without confidence or money to London most likely never thought he could write songs that he loved again.

“I think you just become more adept at it,” he reasons. “You stop thinking. I think it’s like an instrument. When you first learn to play a guitar, you’re thinking about, Where do I put my fingers? How do I do this? What is this chord shape? And after a while, when you’ve learnt enough of it, you stop thinking about the guitar and you start to think about what you’re gonna be playing on the guitar. And it becomes an instrument to describe your thoughts and feelings. Songwriting is the same.”

The songwriting is never compromised across the To Let A Good Thing Die‘s tracklist regardless of how the 10 songs are individually packaged—from a piano ballad “To Let A Good Thing Die” to a jazzier, more upbeat “Old Soul.” Every lyric is precisely placed. The anecdotes are specific enough to be poignant yet vague enough to fit any situation for any listener. The musical composition is intricate but never overbearing. The finished product is a lesson learned for Bruno and a safety net for everybody else.

“I learned that second albums are harder than first albums,” Bruno says. “I think that, with the first album, I really didn’t have anything to do. I didn’t have a fan base. I didn’t have any tours. I didn’t have anybody asking me when stuff was gonna be there. I didn’t have any commitments outside of just being in my kitchen writing this album. It was hard work because I wrote and released a song every month, so it was intense, but with this album, the challenges were really different. I’ve been touring around the world this whole time whilst I’ve been making an album. So it’s kind of just trying to take off the soldier who can do a gig every night and be healthy and energetic all the time and coming back and being the heart-on-the-sleeve romantic who thinks about how he feels all the time then puts it into words. It’s kind of like two separate characters, and I felt like trying to balance that was quite tricky.”

Bruno was supposed to be playing to a sold-out crowd at Brooklyn Steel in New York City the night before our conversation. Instead, he was on lockdown at his parents’ house. COVID-19 forced the postponement of his 10-date North American tour to the fall.

Fans will benefit from Bruno’s extra time away from the stage. After all, we have heard what happens when Bruno is allowed time to marinate in something. It is special and visceral.

And when that tour does begin on Sept. 25, Bruno’s goal will be the same as it was during his live stream.

“I just hope that my music can help people in some way,” he says. “Whether it’s to feel relaxed in the evening or help understand something they’ve gone through or to communicate something they need to communicate to another person that maybe they couldn’t think of the right words to do themselves. Whatever it is, it’s different for each person.”

 

Upcoming tour dates:

Sept. 25: Oakland, California @ Fox Theater

Sept. 26: Los Angeles @ The Novo

Oct. 5: Chicago @ Concord Music Hall

Oct. 8: Toronto @ Queen Elizabeth Theater

Oct. 10: New York, New York @ Terminal 5

Oct. 11: Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club

Oct. 16: Atlanta @ Variety Playhouse

Oct. 18: Houston, Texas @ White Oak

Oct. 19: Austin, Texas @ Scoot Inn

Oct. 20: Dallas, Texas @ Canton Hall

 

Words by Megan Armstrong

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