Art by Susan Kellaway
Photography by Ryan Downey
INTERVIEW BY ANDY KOVACIC
Hailing from Melbourne, Gena Rose Bruce is a rising singer-songwriter making waves in the music scene. Her captivating tracks feature ethereal vocals and introspective lyrics, often infused with the poignant essence of heartache. In her latest album, Deep is The Way (2023), Gena takes listeners on a profound introspective journey. Each song in this collection gracefully drifts between various dreamscape melodies and acoustic arrangements, consistently delivering a captivating and soulful experience.
One standout track from the album is a poignant duet with acclaimed American musician Bill Callahan. Titled "Deep is The Way", this song delves into themes of love and vulnerability, highlighting the transformative power of unity and resilience. Bill's deep, whiskey-soaked voice intertwines beautifully with Gena's delicate tones, resulting in a harmonious blend that is warm, smooth, and tender. Another notable gem is ‘Harsh Light’, an energetic anthem infused with vibrant electric riffs and lively keys. This track grabs immediate attention with its sharp rock 'n' roll chords, all while Gena delves into the complexities of love with a buoyant optimism. The infectious optimism of this song, reminiscent of Gena's beloved The Beatles, adds a magnetic and bouncy quality to the overall sound.
Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming Gena Rose Bruce as our guest, as she discusses her new album and shares insights into her artistic process amidst a perpetual journey of self-discovery and creation. At the time of this interview, Gena was preparing for her first tour in the United Kingdom. Londoners, mark your calendars for July, as Gena will be performing at Rough Trade West—a show not to be missed.
GENA, WHAT ARE YOU READING TODAY?
Where are you right now?
Right now I am in my rental apartment in Elwood, Melbourne Victoria. Me and my partner live here. It’s a small two-bedroom apartment. We really love it, it’s cosy and does the job.
What did you do this morning?
Well, I’ve been a bit unwell today so I actually slept in for the first time in forever. I’m quite an early riser and I slept in till about 9am, which is pretty big for me.
Do you have anything planned for the weekend?
What am I doing? Yeah, I’ve got a rehearsal with the band. I’m gonna go to yoga. It’s a public holiday here so I’m meant to be having some friends over for dinner tomorrow night as well to catch up with them, it’s been ages so I’m trying to see everyone before heading over to the UK really.
Who is one of your biggest inspirations?
That’s a tough one. It always really changes. I get quite obsessed with different artists and for a while, they are really influential when it comes to songwriting. I think if I had to choose one that I really do keep coming back to, you know I won’t listen to them for years and then I’ll go back and listen to them again, will probably be The Beatles. I think in terms of songwriting, every time I’m in a writing phase, I listen to their albums. I’m a huge fan of the way they write songs.
If you had the chance to play one song for them, which one would you choose?
That’s another tough question. I feel like I’ll say a song…and then I’ll regret saying a song. Probably "Harsh Light", one of the songs off my new album. I would be really keen to hear their thoughts on it.
I think with this album I was more aware and attuned to what I wanted to say as an artist and be as an artist
What are you loving at the moment? What are you hating?
Just got into doing yoga and I feel like I finally get why people are so obsessed with it. I’m really loving how it makes my body feel and my mind and kind of feel a bit addicted to it. So yeah, loving that. Hating…I hate being sick.
I feel like when you get sick or rundown or a cold…I’m really bad at stopping. I feel like, in a way, it’s good because everyone needs to stop but I find it really frustrating cause I’m someone who likes to keep moving and find it hard to sit still. So today, yeah, I don’t like having a cold.
What’s the last song you played on Spotify?
I just had a look and it was "CHURCH GIRL" by Beyoncé off her album Renaissance. I really love that song and that whole album.
Choose one: fiction or poetry?
That’s really tough. I feel like...that’s a really tough one. It’s one of those things where I - I’m constantly reading between both of them but I’m gonna go with fiction today because I’m reading a really good book at the moment Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. When you find a really good fiction I feel like time just passes by and it’s a beautiful way to spend the day reading and getting lost in the story.
How do you approach songwriting? What is your process?
It’s pretty different a lot of the time. I guess one kind of thing that keeps happening is I get inspired by words a lot. Even if I’m reading a book or watching a film or having a conversation with friends and I hear people say a sentence or they express how they’re feeling there are certain words that trigger or not trigger but inspire me to be like oh that’s a really cool way to put something or that’s a beautiful way to say how you’re feeling and that kind of spurns on this creative path of a whole story behind those two words somebody has said. So yeah, it definitely starts with the lyrics, the words first and then afterwards I’ll either write it on piano or guitar. For me, the lyrics are the most important aspect or what I enjoy the most really.
Explain the title of your new album: Deep is The Way.
It’s actually kind of funny. When I was writing this album I was doing some co-writing with Bill Callahan, he’s an amazing songwriter, and he actually wrote the lyrics 'deep is the way' in one of my songs, which is just like this weird moment. He hadn’t even heard the rest of the album but it literally summed up everything else.
It was this weird sort of mind-reading thing so I can’t take credit for it, that was Bill’s and it just fitted in with everything else I was trying to say. I kind of refer to him as a pen-pal because we never met and we just had these beautiful long writing sessions over email and we got quite deep into our conversation and what we wanted the songs to be about. Yeah, it just happened to be that he thought of the title, which he wasn’t thinking it was going to be the title, just the lyric, so it’s quite bizarre.
Between your first and second albums, have you changed as an artist?
I think so. I think like anyone you’re developing as you grow and you just become better at your craft and have more of an understanding of who you are and what it is you want to say. Obviously, I think it’s not necessarily the better version but a different version, we’re constantly changing. I think with this album I could express how I was feeling a bit more deeper and a bit more honest . I think as an artist when you are starting out you are a bit more influenced by the artist you like and what’s around but I think with this album I was more aware and attuned to what I wanted to say as an artist and be as an artist and I don’t think I’m as influenced anymore about what’s around me. I think it’s a little bit more personal and just reflective of who I am now, four years later.
What track on the album is the most meaningful to you?
They’re all my babies so it’s hard to pick. I really like "Misery and Misfortune". That was the last track I wrote for the album. I call it a vomit track because it poured out of me in one afternoon, which is really rare; songs usually take a long time to make, months even, but this one literally happened in like the space of three hours. For me, I really love it because it wasn’t such a fight to write. It was really easy so I have very fond memories of it but I also felt like I could really express myself and how I was feeling and in a way it was kind of cathartic after writing that song. It felt like a relief of this built-up emotion. Plus, I’m really happy about how it came out in the studio. It’s also a really fun song to play live, with all the crazy synths happening. So yeah, I’d probably pick that one.
Do you think it’s accurate to read heartbreak and loneliness in your songwriting?
I think it’s accurate. This album has a bit of heartbreak in it because there was heartbreak at the time but it also talks about not getting over that heartbreak but getting through it and owning essentially that heartbreak or that misery, it’s kind of finding strength in those dark times and I think this album feels like it isn’t all sad or all getting better. It goes in between hard times, good times, maybe we’re going to be fine or (laughs) no, it’s not going to be fine. It feels like a neverending story, which I think is reflective of life really; there’s no real ending, it’s always going and changing. And I think with loneliness, to be honest, it was written in the pandemic so that’s probably a very accurate feeling of being in isolation for so long and in lockdowns…yeah, I definitely felt pretty lonely during that time.
It feels like a neverending story, which I think is reflective of life really; there’s no real ending, it’s always going and changing
Anything else you’ve been daydreaming about lately?
I’m currently studying horticulture so I've had a lot of assignments to get in before I go away so I can pause my studies and pass these two next subjects. So my mind has been filled with garden pests and looking for diseases in plants and all of that world, which I really love. It’s a bit nerdy but it’s really fun.
GENA ROSE BRUCE is a singer-songwriter from Australia. She has two albums titled Can't Make You Love Me (2019) and Deep is The Way (2023). Her latest release is a single titled "Lighting Up".