Recently seen supporting Sam Smith at Dublin's 3Arena, Bruno Major is coming back for his own show at The Workman's Club at the end of this month. He tells Harry Guerin why being dropped was the best thing to ever happen to his music.
I wanted to be a songwriter rather than a singer.
I never perceived myself as the artist. I started writing songs just because I had songs coming out of me. Instead of hiring a singer I would sing them myself. And then when I played them to people - 'I've written a song' - they'd be like, 'Your song's great - but who's that singing?' And it was me! So it kind of very naturally led to the point where I was the artist. It wasn't something that ever really crossed my mind, it just sort of happened.
What I learned from Randy Newman is that you can embody a character in a song and it doesn't necessarily have to be you talking.
That freed me up a lot. I don't necessarily have to be talking about my ex-girlfriend: you can write about love as a concept from the point of view of a protagonist. I also learned from him to have humour and to have functional harmony - the way that he approaches chords and it all gels together in the most beautifully logical way. That's what I love about him.
From D'Angelo, I took the deep channelling of the soul.
But not soul as it's bandied around like, 'This person is soulful, this person has a soulful voice'. He is that real true soul - he comes from Marvin Gaye, he comes from Prince, he comes from James Brown. He breathes musicality and the way those records sound is just so free. I aspire to have that in my music.
I really emulated Chet Baker on a vocal level.
I love that the songs that he sings from The Great American Songbook - My Funny Valentine, Like Someone in Love. All of those songs that were written by Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter, those are the greatest songs of all time and I'm trying to bring that writing sensibility into my music.
I've been through the mill of the music industry.
Four years ago I was signed, and I was only there for about six months because of regime change. They just came in and decimated my thing that was going on at the time. I had two years where I basically had to learn how to produce. I bought a laptop and decided I didn't need a record deal and a giant cheque and a man telling me what I could and couldn't do. I just wanted to make it myself. I had faith that if I made music that was good enough [people would listen]. I did it and it has worked. It's something I'm very proud of.
I felt I'd had a bit of an easy ride up to that point.
There was no great backstory. I hadn't come from 8 Mile; I came from a nice place. I started writing songs and it all happened very quickly and I signed this record deal. It was like an escalator and then bam! Suddenly, I've no money; I've had my album taken away from me. My life's work's gone; I can't release it because it legally doesn't belong to me. And my girlfriend dumped me at the same time! I had this real s*** period.
I remember I had this moment where I was sitting on the sofa in my flat in my pants.
I hadn't done anything that day and I just thought, 'This is it, isn't it? I've got two choices: either I stay on this sofa in my pants, or I get up and sort this out'. So I went, bought a laptop, bought [music software] Logic and started. I made really terrible music for six months. Really bad electronic music that will never see the light of day! But it was just learning how to use Logic - how to literally press the right buttons in order to facilitate what was going on in my head.
Coming out of that I feel so much stronger.
I feel like I know that I can overcome bad things. And I know that even in the darkest situations, I have belief in myself. That was a really important lesson. So I'm really glad it happened. Genuinely glad it happened.
Bruno Major plays The Workman's Club in Dublin on Sunday April 29. His album, A Song for Every Moon, is out now on July Records.