Guitarist Bruno Major Talks Songwriting, Touring with Sam Smith

Following the release of his 12-song project, A Song for Every Moon, last year, London-based guitarist Bruno Major found himself playing to sold-out audiences in North America and the U.K. with pop megastar Sam Smith.

Originally a seasoned jazz musician, Major began his career as a session guitarist at 16. His distinctive playing style, inspired songwriting and soulful vocals have earned him legions of fans worldwide. And with more music and another run of his own headlining dates in Europe and North America on the horizon, he’s an artist to watch in the months ahead.

Guitar World recently spoke with Major about his music and more in this new interview.

To someone who may not be familiar, how would you describe your style of music?

At the core of it, it's songwriting. I’ve played guitar since I was seven and as a jazz musician, I was influenced by Chet Baker, Louie Armstrong and the Great American Songbook. There’s a lot of musicality and soul that I try to emulate as a songwriter. I’m also a huge fan of electronic music and artists like Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar. There's a lot of hip-hop and electronic music when it comes to the production.

In your opinion, what makes jazz so timeless and special?

There’s a wide spectrum of music that’s covered under the umbrella of jazz. What attracted me was that it seemed to be the key to understanding music at large. Whenever I hear jazz, I can also hear everything I love about pop and classical. In a way, it’s like learning a language, like English or French. If you want to communicate your feelings accurately, you have to be fluent in the language that you’re speaking. Grammatically, jazz is the most difficult form.

What’s your songwriting process typically like? What inspires you when you write?

It can be something that someone says; a line in a book I’m reading, or I can sit down at the piano and an idea will fall out. There's no real set pattern to the process. All I know is that when the moment comes, and you get the feeling that a song’s coming, you have to drop everything and make sure that you're ready to chase it.

Did you always know that music would be your calling?

I’ve always known, but I wasn’t sure what it was within music I wanted to do, until I had written my first song. I also enjoyed writing and at one point even considered becoming a writer. I think that’s why I love songwriting so much. It allows me to combine my love of writing and music.

You have a unique fingerstyle picking technique. Is that something you developed and transitioned into?

I use both a pick and fingers. I started playing classically and when I got into jazz, I became obsessed with Joe Pass and the way he used his fingers to play a chord-melody style. I feel very comfortable playing that way. Sometimes when you use a pick, it feels as if there's an extra element of separation between you and the instrument. You can't touch it or feel it and it, and it's harder to pay with emotion.

What’s your current setup like?

I have a black 1984 Les Paul Custom black with silver hardware that I recorded my whole album, A Song For Every Moon, on. I love that guitar. When I’m recording, I play it exclusively through a Supro Dual Reverb, which is an unbelievable amp. When I perform live, I also use a tube screamer and a vintage ProCo.

What are your current tour plans like?

We just completed a U.S. tour and then I did a U.K tour with Sam Smith. I've got a week off and then we’ll be going around Europe and the U.K., and then I'll be back in America doing another headlining tour.

What was it like touring U.K. arenas with Sam Smith?

I’m not going to lie. It was pretty fucking cool, man [laughs]. Playing guitar solos in front of 25,000 people is just the most fun thing ever. It given me a new target. I want to get back there again as soon as possible!

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.