A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Melbourne, Australia, Gena Rose Bruce first appeared back in 2019 with her excellent debut album, Can’t Make You Love Me. At that point, Gena looked set to make a mark on the musical world, with dates planned in the UK, Japan and a stop in America with a much-anticipated slot at SXSW. When Covid-19 ground Australia to an abrupt halt, Gena’s plans were flattened, and she found herself isolated, unsure of her future and questioning her artistic worth. As she recalls, “when everything stopped, I felt exhausted and completely frustrated…I felt like I wasn’t really good at anything. I didn’t like myself as a person“. From that low ebb, Gena began to look inward for inspiration, diving into literature, relating her own life to the stories she found in those pages, and slowly beginning to turn back towards creativity and music. The result is her upcoming album, Deep Is The Way, the chronicling of her path back into the light, out next week via Dot Dash / Remote Control.
As you might expect for a record charting a path back from a difficult time, it’s a record of peaks and troughs, moments of intensity paired with more serene moments of calm. It results in a record of eclectic styles, take the segue from Destroy Myself into Foolishly In Love. The former is the record’s darkest moment, a buzzing, anxious exploration of self-destructive tendencies, inspired by reading Sigmund Freud, while the latter is a synth-pop dancefloor anthem, fantasising about the thrill of a new relationship from the security of a long-term partnership. At the heart of much of the record’s charm are two of Gena’s key collaborators, one old and one excitingly new. Much of the record was made with Tim Harvey, who also worked on Can’t Make You Love Me, Gena reflecting how, “we got all the shyness and politeness out of the way when working on the first record together so for this record we could get real deep fast and try all sorts of wild ideas“. The other key collaborator was perhaps a little more surprising, the legendary Bill Callahan. The pair corresponded during lockdown, swapping ideas and co-writing both the aforementioned Foolishly In Love, and the stunning title track, to which Bill also adds his vocals, “we have only ever had written correspondence, sending lyrics back and forth to each other, with sometimes weeks in between responses, just analysing lyrics, there was no small talk, just keeping it about what’s important – the music“. The contrast in the pair’s vocals is particularly wonderful, Bill’s rich baritone contrasting the lighter, poppier tones of Gena’s voice as they celebrate slowness and nature, “just like the sun, sadness is real, just like the sun, it’s going away. So don’t get lost in a world that favours fast living, ’cause you’ve got a mind for drifting and dreaming”. Away from the show-stealing duet, Gena is never afraid to push her musical boundaries, from the soaring brightness of the almost gospel-like Morning Star to the scintillating Angel Olsen-like Love. While it could be labelled a pandemic record, a document of a particularly difficult period in many people’s lives, Deep Is The Way is a record that steps beyond that, it is a record for any tricky moment, a monument to believing in yourself and following your instincts, allowing yourself to accept the whims of time and circumstance and discovering that true contentment often comes from reconnecting with the ground below, the sky above and the flawed, beautiful and brilliant human being that lies within us all.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Gena Rose Bruce?
A songwriter/singer/gardener/runner/yogi/bookworm from Melbourne, Australia
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I was not nervous at all, I was so confident in myself, I was 6 years old…how things have changed!
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Honestly I really can’t explain why I do it, it’s something that comes from deep within my heart, Ive always been writing songs and wanting to share them with everyone, it’s never been a conscious thought of “I’m going to make music” – I just always have.
FTR: What can people expect from the Gena Rose Bruce live show?
A lot of emotion- moody and melodramatic vibes but with awkward shy banter in between.
FTR: What’s next for Gena Rose Bruce?
I had a big trip to Japan planned in 2020 and obviously it was cancelled so I’m hoping to get back there and do that trip!!
They Listen To…
Gloria Ann Taylor – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing
Weyes Blood – God Turn Me Into A Flower
Radiohead – How To Disappear Completely
Jade Imagine – I Guess We’ll Just Wait
Lomelda – Talk