Clonefluence had the chance to interview the lovely Bruce Nowlin!
Where are you from?
I grew up in the Austin, Texas area. We lived in small towns around the edge of Austin when I was young. It was a dream of mine, that after finishing school I would move to Austin and become a musician. At the time, 6th Street was the place to be for Texas musicians; it was Texas' very own Sunset Strip; Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Vaughan, BB King, Lyle Lovett, Fabulous Thunderbirds, ZZ Top, I am sure that even Willie Nelson and probably George Strait have played on 6th Street.
Have your surroundings shaped you in a creative sense, and in what way?
Central Texas music is unique. Texas music in general, for many decades was dominated by Country and Tejano music. Willie Nelson< Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Strait ruled the radio when I was growing up. Despite Texas having a very large influx of Tejano music: Selena, Los Lobos and many others. They also are home to numerous famous blues musicians: T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, Lightnin Hopkins, Albert Collins and others. In the late 1990s and early 2000s though, heavy metal began to come alive in Texas. Bands like Dangerous Toys, Pantera, Texas Hippie Coalition and others started getting attention. Red Dirt metal was alive. Growing up listening to multiple formats played a huge sense in how I put together my music today.
What’s your background like?
Growing up my sister and I had a stay at home mom; she is a devout Christian and my dad, well, he wanted to be James Dean, Dirty Harry and John Wayne all in one. He was a mariner; a vessel captain. He was rarely home and when he was in for a few days from the boats he would go straight to a bar. We never did and still don't connect even though he doesn't stay drunk or at bars anymore; he had his time – I've accepted it and moved forward.
Where do you stand on the music scene in your area?
My genre is fairly unique in that my music is painted by numbers. The first single off my upcoming album REFLECTIONS is titled “Trust.” There are no words to any of my songs, it is up to the listener to define what they want the song to mean to them. My latest Top 50 hit is “You're The One'' from the album THE DOCTOR (because I often get mistaken for being Doctor Phil); that song is an upbeat instrumental but it contains so many elements. My lyric-less formula doesn't necessarily equate to being club friendly. I do however rank at #1 on ReverbNation and I incidentally do have two top 50 hits so I do stand somewhere in the local scene.
What did you start doing first, producing or rapping?
I wrote music lyrics all through high school, lol, I wrote more lyrics than I did reports for class work. At one point though school I had this girl in class reading a song I wrote. It was around the same time Poison's “Talk Dirty To Me” was popular. I mimicked their melody and wrote some words down; we went to her house during lunch break. I had one of those big 4 inch binders full of lyrics. I should have let more girls read my lyrics. Sadly however, I kept the lyrics in the trunk of my car and when I sold that car, I forgot to take the lyrics out and now I have no idea where they are. I can't say that any band in particular somehow got a hold of those lyrics but I know one or two songs on the radio a few years later sounded familiar.
How did you get started?
I got hooked on music when I was about five or six. I tried convincing my parents into buying me a drum set but that never happened. I remember listening to the radio as my parents would play “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers on their record player over and over. A couple of years later I got a guitar and soon thereafter a friend of mine asked me to join him and his brother playing in their band. I played guitar for a while before moving into synthesizers and piano.
Do you have anyone that you consider your mentor?
I read a lot of history, biographies and such about musicians and watch a lot of documentaries on bands and musicians. I've read three or four books about Stevie Ray Vaughan. I've read Yanni's personal biography and read numerous articles about him as well as Enya, Stevie and other acts. To me it provides great insight into dealing with the industry and life in general.
How has their help or advice shaped you?
In one of Stevie's biographies the author talked about how SRV would look for inspiration from his influences and usually find it in the least likely places. That is a stark contrast to Yanni, who in his bio stated that when he is working on his music he locks himself away and meditates on his work, sometimes days at a time. What I learned is this: Inspiration comes from everywhere, when it hits you – take notice or it will fade away quickly. Just look at the definition of the word - Inspiration is a sudden, unconscious burst of creativity. Bursts don't last forever, you have to notice that sudden burst and act on it. That is when brilliance happens.
What is one experience in life that, without it, you wouldn’t be the artist you are today?
I have been going to concerts my entire life. I recall when I was probably about six or seven years old my mother brought my sister and I to see Jimmy Swaggart perform; his ministry and band. A year or so later we went to see Dino Kartsonakis. We were always catching live shows. I still go out and watch live shows when I can. One of the last shows I seen was Foreigner. I sat backstage with Kelly Hanson (lead singer of Foreigner), we talked for a good while.
What do you hope to accomplish this year?
I've landed two top 50 hits (one #43 and one #36); I would like to see another top 40 hit. A number one would be better but one thing I have learned is gratitude and I am thankful for the two top 50's I already have. I couldn't have done it without my fans. I just hope they keep liking the music I put out there for them. The music is after all, just as much for them as it is for me.
What does your work aim to say?
Music to me is a combination of science and psychology. Scientists have conducted numerous studies on the effects of sound waves, interval structure, etc. and they have proven that combinations of certain elements within a song, will make people like that song. I try to stay within a given parameter on all of my music because I want everything I do to portray positivity. Certain aspects of a tune may have a sprinkling of depression but if I could avoid writing something in say D7/Fm/C then by all means I do. I would like to only put out songs that say 'hey I am happy, I'm laughing' but that isn't always life. Sometimes we need that downer so we can realize just how blessed we are when things are good.
Who are your biggest influences and what do you like about them the most?
I would say that Pink Floyd is definitely one of my biggest influences. They managed to combine rock, blues, jazz, punk, instrumental and a plethora of other styles into their music. In doing so they were able to create albums which still to this day are unsurpassed in length of time on the billboard charts. As of January 2021, 'Darkside Of The Moon' still sits on the Billboard charts. The album was released in 1973! Yanni is of course another major influence, he combined classical music with modern synthesizers and ethnic variations from around the globe. No one else had ever tried that before. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson (both Texas legends) had a big impact on me. The one thing I picked up from both of them is the importance of space and finding alternate voicing; instead of a “C” perhaps use an Am; and you do not have to have your music take up every second of the song.
How would you describe your own style?
No boundaries is the simplest definition. I combine elements of Pink Floyd with elements of Yanni. When I get that burst of creativity. My style typically incorporates a catchy beat/rhythm; whether it is a blues shuffle, a rap beat or a pop rhythm, whatever. After that track is laid, I already have the concept in my head. I then lay down the keyboard part. From there I work on incorporating what I consider to be complementary elements: ambient sounds, backing instrumentation, etc. I might work with one track for days trying to get it right. Occasionally, I will reach a certain point where I am just not happy with the project and the whole thing will get trashed.
In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
I would have to say broader instrumentation. When I released "THIS LIFE" in 2015 it was music I was working on in 2013 and 2014. I didn't have all of the gear that I have today. I didn't have a Theremin, a 32 track mixer, a Korg piano, Pro Tools, etc. I had some basic stuff, an idea and a desire. The nice thing about THIS LIFE, despite the simplicity of that first album and the horrible mix. There are a couple of songs on that album which still receive a good share of radio attention. The music was catchy and people liked it. It makes them feel good and it makes them move.
What are the main inspirations for the songs you write?
When I write, I focus on feelings and events. For example, I was writing day before yesterday, I had a rhythm going, it was sort of a dance beat with a touch of rap. It makes you bounce your head with it. I was stuck and couldn't find the keyboard sound to go along – WRITERS BLOCK! Thus came the song “Tear It Down.” That's what I felt the song was telling me, tear down the writer's block and start creating. The guitar part at the end is closure, the block was defeated, the wall was torn down.
What would be your dream venue in which to perform?
Ultimately, the venue doesn't matter much. I want to be on stage with Yanni. I don't really care where, it could be the Acropolis or Carnegie Hall for all I care. The man is a huge inspiration and I probably would not be creating the music I create if he would not have created the music he did. Same goes for Pink Floyd. I would love to do a set with them too.
What’s a song you have stuck in your head these days?
Many but the one song above all which I can listen to over and over is Yanni's “One Man's Dream.” I love the simplicity of the song, even if the song only incorporated just the right hand piano part it would be such a beautiful tune. For something more mainstream and modern it would be “Dirty Finger” by Texas Hippie Coalition.