The guitarist’s bio is written in the first person, and details her love of fellow female country and folk artists as well as her wish to be the best performer that only she herself, uniquely, can be – despite a less than awesome start: “[There were] group [guitar] lessons in school. My teacher turns around like a few weeks in, and [says] ‘Oh look, you’re just too slow for this group, so you can just not play the guitar, you can just sing for the rest of the kids so that they can keep up.’ And I was so shattered! I was like, ‘My teacher says that I’m shit,’” she laughs. Motivation and a genuine enjoyment of the instrument’s possibilities propelled her forward, thankfully. “I taught myself. I went on YouTube, and looked online, and I just played along to songs,” she explains. “It’s something that I enjoy; it’s my way of expressing myself.” Bruce’s voice is rich and sonorous, and she could have chosen any instrument to accompany the innate skills of those pipes. However she bee-lined for the guitar at 15 after witnessing a schoolmate perform, and declared her intent to her family. “I went home that day and said to my dad, ‘Uh, I really want to learn the guitar. Like, I want to be a rockstar’,” she laughs. “We went out the next day. I got all my savings that I had in my little moneybox and went and bought my first electric guitar.”
It was also during high school that Bruce had her first contact with Sydney producer Matthew Fell, who, along with Nashville-based but Australian-born Sam Hawksley, would end up creating Bruce’s EP The Steps We Took. “He contacted me,” she says, “but I was doing high school, I had no money. So I was like no, I can’t afford to do any recording this year, or at the moment, but hit me up in a few years time and I’ll definitely be keen. So when I really wanted to get something out I contacted him and he was like ‘Look, we’re doing this deal where we’re taking a few artists over to Nashville to record with the musos over there, and we’re splitting the costs’,” she says.
Fell and Hawksley are talented musicians in their own right, and Bruce speaks warmly of their participation in creating her record. Stand out track Next Time contains a subtle slide guitar, played by Hawksley, and Fell contributed bass and backing vocals among other parts. “It’s really handy because they can actually put their creativity and their ideas into the sound as well, instead of just saying ‘It should sound like that.’ They’ll actually show you. It just opens up your mind a whole lot more,” she explains.
As for her live band, Bruce has enlisted trusted friend Bradley Green to aid in picking out the best musicians for the sound she wants to create. “It’s really hard because a lot of people have got other commitments and things like that,” she says of using uni friends in past setups. “To get everyone to the one place to have a rehearsal, or even just do the gig, is really hard. [Green] plays guitar for Daniel Merriweather, so he’s getting a band together for me which is going to save me a lot of drama! I’ll just rock up to the rehearsals and show them all the songs,” she says cheekily.
Bruce will begin the 14-hour drive to Tamworth on Friday, returning to the town whose Music College she was granted a place in 2009. “They have probably about 20 people who attend the college for two weeks. They have people like Casey Chambers and Adam Harvey and all these really well-known country artists, or even radio hosts and producers and publishers,” she says. “They come in and they mentor you and they give you advice. It was a great experience. I have many friends [from the college] that I still keep in contact with to this day and they’re doing really well, musically.”
Bruce is a study in how to leverage the kinds of excellent opportunities that are offered out there for young and talented musicians, in keeping your head level and in making meaningful connections with those around you who share your passions.
BY ZOË RADAS