The passing of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon Saturday provides insight into the music and life of musician Billy Bruce’s latest CD, “Future Comes Early.”
In the wake of the news, Bruce shared via Facebook the story of Sharon’s decision to allow people of all religions access behind the Wailing Wall – a move which angered Muslims and spurred terrorist attacks. At the time, in 2000, Bruce was among several journalists scheduled to tour Israel. Given the escalating violence, the other journalists backed out of the trip.
Though family and friends thought he should also stay home, Bruce “kept saying, naw, this is going to be great! I get to tour the whole country from top to bottom! Free of charge!”
Billy Bruce went to Israel. Photographs from this trip illustrate “Future Comes Early.”
That’s Bruce. Singer, songwriter, reporter, drummer, musician, veteran, traveler, seeker. He’s worked at many newspapers, played with many bands. Yet, he sticks with what he believes, adheres to it, no matter what others may think or say, and lives life by a certain credo.
This philosophy runs deep through the songs on “Future Comes Early.” Songs of independence and freedom. Songs like “Get Me Out of Here,” “I’m Independent,” “Survival Instincts,” “Troup Street Blues” (inspired by driving to work during his last time working as a reporter at The Times).
“I wouldn’t so much say a ‘credo,’ but I do seem to have a message of survival,” Bruce says. “Life throws some pretty hard obstacles and situations our way. It takes a strong faith and a sense of humor to roll with the punches. Life doesn’t get easier as we age. It, to me, gets easier to cope with and roll with. Maybe it’s wisdom and maybe it’s a realization that hey, I am still here after all this.
“Life is worth going through. Love makes it worth everything.”
A twin son of Ted Bruce Sr. and Frances Bruce, Billy was born in Miami and lived in Jacksonville, Fla., through seventh grade. In 1968, Ted Bruce took the job as South Georgia/North Florida salesman for U.S. Steel. The Bruces moved to Valdosta. Billy attended Valdosta Junior High and graduated from Valdosta High School. He joined the Air Force, stayed in the military four years, became a sergeant E-4. He returned to Valdosta, attended Valdosta State for a bachelor’s degree in journalism/English.
For a year and a half after the Air Force, he drummed with Valdosta-based band Montana.
Montana was only one in a list of Valdosta and other bands from Bruce’s past.
“In the mid-1970s, I played drums in the Krank rock band; drums in a rock band named after me, The Billy Bruce Band,” Bruce says. “I played drums with the late Botie Chitty on a few shows. Swank was a disco rock band I traveled with in the mid-1970s all over the southeast with Randy Williams of Valdosta. Randy is now in The Creeksiders.
“I played bass in a rock band called Too North more recently. I played in the country-rock dance band Crossroads through college at VSC at the now-defunct Rum Keg Lounge that was where Denny’s Restaurant is now – paid my way through college. I played drums in a ‘50s band in Florida called The Bee Bops. Then I decided to get out of clubs and concentrate on recording with a home studio and learned to play guitar and bass. I already knew how to play piano so I bought a digital keyboard to add strings, organ, piano, etc.”
Coming after past albums, “One Lane Bridge” and “Caxambas Pass,” “Future Comes Early” features Bruce playing instruments on all of the songs, though he is joined by some additional musicians on some of the songs. He enjoys playing numerous instruments.
“Drums, bass, electric and acoustic guitar, piano and keyboards and vocals,” he says of his instrumental arsenal. “I just bought a mandolin and am learning that now. The fourth album will be recorded this year (titled ‘Paradigm’) and will include the mandolin.”
He also hopes to learn violin.
Recording allows Bruce degrees of versatility and independence. He can take his time creating his songs from the writing to the composition to getting the sound he desires. “Future Comes Early’s” songs were recorded during a three-year period from 2006-2009 and pressed as a CD in 2013.
“With this album, I was much pickier and more patient about waiting for the better song to come along,” Bruce says. “I really tried hard this time to make every track on the album count, quality wise.”
While learning new instruments, writing more songs and looking forward to the production of his fourth album, Bruce attends graphic design classes at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.
Making music, Bruce can be himself, be independent, while reaching out to others.
“On writing songs, it’s much the same as any other type of writing,” Bruce says. “It’s therapeutic for me. I am able to take a slew of leftover emotions and thoughts and then try to make sense of it all by crafting them into something that makes sense. Now it might not make sense to you, or it may make different sense to you than it does to me.”
Yet, some emotions, some thoughts, he wants to directly relate.
On the song “Survival Instincts,” Bruce sings, “You don’t need summations to find your way of living. Just follow the built-in compass of your heart.”
“In other words,” he says, “do not let anyone tell you what your goals should be. You set those based on the desires of your heart and the gifts God gave you to achieve them. Sometimes you are the only person you can trust. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else does.”
It may not be a credo, but it’s certainly a song worth singing.
Billy Bruce’s “Future Comes Early” is available at Ben Owens Music in Remerton and online at www.cdbaby.com/billybruce3 or email firstname.lastname@example.org