MOJO Rising: Gena Rose Bruce

MOJO welcomes Melbourne singer-songwriter, Gena Rose Bruce, making her dreams a reality with some help from Bill Callahan.

Gena Rose Bruce

by Tom Doyle |
Posted on

Nearing the end of the writing process for her second album Deep Is The Way, Australian singer-songwriter Gena Rose Bruce submitted to her music publisher what she calls a “dream list” of potential collaborators. Among the names was Bill Callahan. “I’m a huge fan,” Bruce enthuses. “He wrote back saying, ‘I’m keen’. He had actually heard of my music before, which was really cool.”

The result is two songs co-written by the pair: the typically atmospheric country of the record’s title track (in which they very effectively entwine their voices), and the atypical (for Callahan) upbeat synth pop of Foolishly In Love. All communication between Bruce and Callahan while writing lyrics was done via e-mail. They’ve yet to meet.

I’m a huge Bill Callahan fan. It was really quite poetic

“It was really quite poetic in that sense,” she says. “We never actually discussed, like, This song is about this. I would just make a little recording, send it to him, he’d send something back. It worked really well, surprisingly.”

The experience provided a chink of light in what was a dark period for Bruce. Following the cancellation of all of the touring plans for her 2020 debut Can’t Make You Love Me, she found the grim months of Melbourne’s on/off lockdowns – totalling 262 days, the longest of anywhere in the world – tough going.

“Yeah, I struggled with my mental health, for sure,” she says. “It feels like a foggy period of time.” In her lowest moments, Bruce contemplated giving up music altogether. “It was like, Have I been delusional this whole time? I knew it was always something I wanted to do. But then I really questioned my own thoughts. Maybe music’s not a good thing for me? But it is, it’s just who I am.”

Growing up with a guitarist father and singer mother, Bruce remembers her parents blasting out the Sex Pistols and The Clash at home as she was growing up. She, however, was more drawn to country: Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams, Patsy Cline and Alison Krauss. “I guess I was really intrigued by the storytelling,” she says. Other key inspirations include Mazzy Star and Angel Olsen. “I really love moody music,” she offers. “I’m a bit moody myself. Probably too much. When I listen to Angel Olsen, I really feel very disconnected to what’s going on around. I’m very centred there. I love music that takes you into a different world.”

Bruce is also confessional in her lyrical approach, so much so that I’m Not Made To Love Only You finds her stress-testing the stability of her current relationship. “I’ve definitely had to tone some songs down,” she says. “But me and my partner are very honest with each other.”

Ultimately, the trials of the past few years have only served to embolden Bruce in terms of pursuing her music career. 
“I think it’s really just taught me to enjoy the process of making music,” she concludes, “and being someone who can write a song and still wants to share it.”

Deep Is The Way Is Out Now via Dot Dash Recordings


●  For fans of: Angel Olsen, Bill Callahan, Mazzy Star

●  Still unable to support herself entirely as a musician, Bruce has a day job as a gardener – having at the start of the pandemic lost her previous gig working in a jeans store. “It’s a much better way of life for me,” she says. “Just go out and mow some lawns.”

●  For her next LP, she’s envisaging a more stripped-down sound, in contrast 
to the layered Deep 
Is The Way. “I’ve already started writing it, and I feel like it’s going to be 
a bit more just kind 
of one instrument, one voice.”


Foolishly In Love

Deep Is The Way

I’m Not Made To Love Only You


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