One of the many endearing things about Bruno Major is that he doesn't seem to have any idea -- really, not a single clue -- what a powerful and emotionally searing singer he is. Ask Bruno about his guitar-playing and, sheepish grin out of the way, he'll wax lyrical about an instrument he first picked up at the age of seven, and which has seen him through good times and bad, triumphs and false starts, ever since. It comes as no surprise whatsoever to learn that Bruno studied and mastered jazz guitar (studies that saw him earning a living as a session guitarist from the young age of 16). The "extra chord" that is such a hallmark of the jazz greats -- and eludes so many guitarists unversed in the musical language of the genre -- is a constant in Bruno's writing, and a quality that sets him far apart from that endless stable of like-minded peers.
You can hear it in the opening bars of "Easily," one of a series of tracks Bruno has released over the past nine months, a series that has achieved over seventeen million streams to date. Just as the melody of the verse seems set to resolve itself, a detour occurs as he is ensnared by the beauty of another unorthodox chord.
It has been a prolific nine months, recording, mixing and releasing music from his North West London flat that Bruno occupies with his Brother, Dot, one third of the acclaimed minimalist-pop three-piece London Grammar. To release songs in such quick succession is not a tactic as such, rather a cathartic release that Bruno craves.
A late-starter on the singing front, Bruno wasn't exactly first out of the traps as a songwriter, either -- another surprise, when you consider how fully-formed and natural his writing sounds, a skill that has led him to write with Sam Smith, Marcus Mumford, Disclosure, SG Lewis, Eliza Doolittle, Jorja Smith and Maverick Sabre. "I think a combination of a lot of different things had stopped me writing before. The main thing was needing to understand that I had the ability to write; I had no idea. I'd never sung before, I wrote poetry, and I wrote music in my head. It takes a certain amount of courage to put your personal thoughts into a musical format and put them out into the world. Writing my first song felt like an epiphany, and the floodgates opened and that was that."
He finds it hard now, he says, to imagine a time when he didn't write. "I'd been a guitarist for so many years, and I knew that music was the thing that was most important to me, but I didn't know quite what it was within music that I needed to do. I'd been a session player, I'd studied jazz and done classical music, it was all there, but I hadn't worked out what was missing.
It was suddenly so obvious; a real on-off switch moment, when he wrote his first song. "I felt like a much more complete person, more at peace, about everything."
"I admire people who can write amazing songs at the age of 18, but I don't know what I would have written about. I hadn't discovered anything about the world. It took a few years of doing that, of living life, before I could begin to process that and spit it out."
It's the dueling tension in Bruno's song writing that creates such engaging moments. In the lifts of soaring ballad "Home" or the struggling ode of "Easily" -- it's contemporary balladeering that touches something very familiar in the listener.
Bruno may still fight with his identity as a performer, but long may the battle between his two natural gifts continue. Because tension has rarely sounded this sweet.
Nominated for Best Singer/Songwriter in the 2015 (and currently 2017) San Diego Music Awards, Raelee Nikole owns up to her hometown's reputation and is proving herself to be one of America's finest. After several years of making waves in the local music scene, she released her debut album, "Answers" last summer, which has since sold thousands of copies digitally and physically worldwide. It was no surprise that 2016 would arrive along with warranted success, including multiple West Coast tours and landing a spot at number six on Spotify's US Viral 50 Playlist with her song, Dreamin'. When it comes to the recipe for success, her good-for-the-soul-songs mixed with a voice like butter make for an artist on the rise that is certainly one to watch.