Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Bruno Major, known for his “blissful, soulful, romantic” sound (Billboard) releases the music video for “18” from his new album ‘Columbo’ (Harbour Artists & Music / AWAL Recordings).
“18” poignantly captures Bruno’s feelings after the loss of two loved ones to suicide; Bruno now reflects “I’m twice the age you’ll ever be.” Directed by Tess Lafia, the music video captures the lyrics’ sentimentality in a minimalistic, snow-covered setting. Bruno reminisces amongst the pine as the sky fades from twilight to sunrise.
“18” was released as part of Bruno’s latest album ‘Columbo’, the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2020’s ‘To Let A Good Thing Die’. The 12-track body of work weaves the autobiographical with the observational and stretches Bruno’s palette into new forms, yielding the most accomplished and honest expression of his music to date.
Marking a triumphant return to the stage after his 2020 tour was canceled due to COVID, Bruno continues the North American leg of his tour following the successful extensive run in Asia with sold-out shows in Singapore and Jakarta. Esquire Philippines raved “he was able to deliver a mesmerizing show,” while Nylon Manila echoed “ he’s back on the scene, and arguably better than ever.”
Major’s talent is undeniable, with an impressive 1.4 billion streams and a consistent monthly average of over 2.4 million streams across multiple music platforms, Bruno Major’s music has captivated listeners worldwide and garnered recognition from international publications including Billboard, Rolling Stone, Hypebeast, and more. His top 10 streaming countries include 🇵🇭 #1 Philippines, 🇮🇩 #3 Indonesia, 🇲🇾 #4 Malaysia, and 🇹🇭 #10 Thailand.
About ‘Columbo’ And Bruno Major
“Creativity is such a mad thing,” observes Bruno Major, a hint of disbelief flashing across the singer-songwriter’s eyes. “It’s like you’re in a fishing boat: the further you go out to sea the bigger the fish, but the harder it is to get back to shore.” With his beautiful third album, ‘Columbo’, Major didn’t just frolic in the shallows. “There was a point where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get back to shore again,” Major confesses. Choppy waters and close calls may have threatened Bruno Major’s very being, but the risk has come with rich reward: ‘Columbo’ is a stunning collection. Twelve tracks that weave the autobiographical with the observational and stretch Major’s palette into new forms, yielding the most accomplished and “honest” expression of his music to date.
The experiences that birthed ‘Columbo’, however, were fraught and wild to say the least. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, Major was holed up at his parents’ house in Northampton, where he first faced a blank slate, followed quickly by personal crisis. Stripped of the creative carousel of writing, recording, and performing, what was his purpose? More to the point, when his admirers’ screams were replaced by silence, who was the young man looking back at him in the mirror?
Major calls it “an ego death of sorts” – circumstances that chipped away at his self-worth. When travel restrictions lifted, Major hotfooted to LA and bought a vintage ivory white 1978 Mercedes 380SL. “I felt starved of life,” he recalls. The City of Angels was a land of plenty after the strictures of lockdown. He partied night after night, embracing opportunity with open arms: “I drank a lot. I was saying ‘yes’ to everything,” he says, which brought him into contact with the rich tapestry of humanity – a place where goodness and malevolence sit side by side.
One night his drink was spiked, and danger was only averted thanks to the presence of a trusted friend. Elsewhere, paranoia led him to ditch an Uber journey in the early hours of morning on a highway, convinced he was being kidnapped. His manager came to his rescue. While he confesses that he generally “thrives from chaos”, he was pushing things too far this time. A month of burning the candle at both ends meant he was losing sight of who he was in a different manner to his lockdown life. “Looking back on it, I was melting down,” he laments.
All things, good or otherwise, come to an end. It was on one fateful day during LA’s golden hour that his car came to its own abrupt end, so too his period of dissolution. He was driving through Lower Grand intersection when his beloved Mercedes ploughed into another vehicle. His vintage motor, affectionately nicknamed ‘Columbo’ after the intrepid detective from the iconic TV series, was crumpled in a heap, steam fizzing from the bonnet. Under the encouragement of a charismatic auto-repair shop worker, he went across the street and bought a bottle of Maker’s Mark whiskey and sat on the curb. It was there that the melancholic melody for ‘Columbo’, the album’s wistful title track, emerged. Out of the mire, inspiration arrived. And from there it wouldn’t stop – the floodgates were open.
Bruno Major had an idyllic upbringing in Northampton. In the early 2010s, while in his early twenties, he headed to London to further his music career. A prolific songwriter, he would capture performances on his phone and upload them to Soundcloud. These were recordings devoid of touch-ups and decoration: merely live renditions documented crudely. Even so, A&R folk came flocking. They would message asking, “Who is the singer?”. It was all Major. A jazz degree had played its part in providing a formidable schooling, honing his compositional know-how and impressive guitar chops, but his lilting croon was a surprise even to him. After all, he hadn’t sung until the age of 22. Little did he realise that he was sitting on a voice that evoked the warmth of Nick Drake and Chet Baker.
He was soon snapped up by Virgin Records and furnished with the funds to make an album. Hopes were high as he went into the studio with acclaimed producer Ethan Johns (Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, Paolo Nutini) a heavy-hitting backing band, including esteemed bass player Pino Palladino, pianist Jason Rebello, and drummer Jeremy Stacey. The album was rejected outright and has never seen the light of day. Major looks back on the experience as being crucial to where he is now: “I learned how to make an album,” he says. “Even though I’d been dropped by my record label, the fact that Ethan had seen something in me, and Pino thought I was an amazing musician…what my peers thought of me was far more profound and instructive.”
Back to the drawing board, down but far from out, Major took to the opposite extreme, sitting in his kitchen with a mic, his guitar, and an 808 drum machine to lay the foundations for what would become his first released album, 2017’s A Song for Every Moon. This was followed in 2020 by his second outing, ‘To Let A Good Thing Die’, featuring his hit romantic vignette, “Nothing”.
Whereas previous albums were written on the piano, Major armed himself with no more than a notepad, a pen, and an acoustic guitar for ‘Columbo’. “I wrote pretty much all of the songs like that,” he says. Writing took place over six months and, aside from his LA memories, a musical diet of Arthur Shauf’s 2016 concept album, The Party, Bach and Billy Joel fuelled his process. Then there’s Paul Simon, whose influence courses through the title track’s intricate guitar pattern and aching vocal. Major declares Simon “a hero” and “the musician’s musician”, whose quixotic impulses and commitment to the songwriting cause is a blueprint for how he would like to approach his own career. In short: nothing is off limits. The door is open, the antennae is switched on. The possibilities are endless.
“I’m a songwriter at heart and the song is what carries my music through,” he explains. Lyrics must have substance and music must convey feeling. These are non-negotiables. “For me, the magic of songwriting is the interplay between words and the music.” He continues: “I’m a perfectionist and I’m incredibly fastidious: everything’s overthought, edited and fiddled with, and it takes a long long time.”
Bruno and his longstanding collaborator Finlay Robson AKA Phairo (“Meeting Finn really defined the sound of my music,” he says) produced the album over a year. The chaos that had fuelled the writing was offset by the steady comfort of recording in familiar surroundings: his converted bedroom that now functions as a studio. When they wrapped, Major decided he’d name the record after his written-off Mercedes. The reason is simple, and powerful too: “that car – more than any other song – is representative of the whole feeling and period of writing the album,” he shares.
‘Columbo’ raises its curtain with “The Show Must Go On”, a piano flourish giving way to a clean, snare-less drum pattern and guitar strum that conjures the cosy fireside intimacy of Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend”. ‘If you’re always putting on a show/You lose yourself before you know’ comes the pre-chorus cry. “It is the only [song] that really focuses on my sort of personal viewpoint,” confides Major. It therefore felt like a natural opening gambit to “introduce” the album, he says.
Elsewhere, “Tell Her” is a slice of simmering R&B, while the heart-breaking “Tears in Rain” is dedicated to his late grandmother. The song posits questions – “the little details” – to his late loved one that he never asked while she was here, expressing regret and longing for the time they’ll meet again. “18” extrapolates his conflicting emotions regarding two family friends who committed suicide 16 years ago (‘I’m twice the age you’ll ever be’, he sings).
“We Were Never Really Friends” picks over the bones of a relationship gone wrong, while “You Take the High Road” summons the spirit of Elliott Smith in its haunting vocal and sparse guitar. Trajectories is the third installment of a series that started with “Places We Don’t Walk” on his debut and the title track from the second album. “Trajectories feels like the [final] trilogy [piece],” he says. “The End” rounds off the album, featuring a soaring solo that recalls perennial influence, Queen, and more pertinently, Brian May.
“Something I’ve managed to do with ‘Columbo’ more than any other album is find a way of saying exactly what I want to say,” reveals Major. “The album investigates my personal relationships with people and other things. It is self-diagnosis on a grander scale.”
Crucially, Major feels that all roads have led to ‘Columbo’: “I’ve been dedicated to art my whole life,” he says. “All I focused on from the age of seven was my guitar; and whether it was learning jazz, or learning how to write songs, or learning how to produce, this album particularly feels like the reason I did all of that. I’m so proud of it. I feel peace in a way that I’ve never felt peace before because I feel I’ve done what I owed myself.”
‘Columbo’ is Bruno Major’s defining statement to date. A musician who wears his heart (and art) on his sleeve, this is the sound of an artist who risked it all and somehow made it back to shore.
- The Show Must Go On
- Tell Her
- We Were Never Really Friends
- When Can We Be
- A Strange Kind Of Beautiful
- You Take The High Road
- Tears In Rain (for Granny)
- St. Mary’s Terrace
- The End