Music / Features
They Made Me Do It -
Talking Influences with Gena Rose Bruce
Words by James Lynch
Wednesday 17th July, 2019

Off the back of the release of her debut album late last month, we caught up with local indie-rock mastermind Gena Rose Bruce to find out what inspired the tangle of sounds found on Can’t Make You Love Me.
Despite being a reoccurring name on the local music scene since 2013, it was only in the wake of a relationship ending in late 2017 that Gena Rose Bruce found the space and focus to finally form her debut full-length album. In a period she describes as “a healing time”, she spent three months alone on a property in Warrnambool, and pieced together the songs that would eventually make up Can’t Make You Love Me.

Unashamedly a breakup album, the result is a striking debut that bursts with emotion, particularly thanks to its ability to both lean into and defy the tropes of the style. While themes of self-doubt and defeatism permeate across the album, her performances brim with self-assurance and sophistication, and although a number of lyrical moments feel a little familiar, they breathe with new life as every instrumental that backs them feels incredibly inspired.

In fact, it’s the album’s unwillingness to stick to any stylistic expectation altogether that makes the listen so captivating, as Gena effortlessly bounces from genre to genre - from the 90’s indie-rock groove of opener ‘Can’t Make You Love Me’, to the darkly erratic ‘I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You’, through to the jangling guitars and warm synths on ‘Rearview’ and the cinematic synth-pop of ‘Revive’. Similarly, she isn’t afraid to change direction mid-song, like on album highlight ’Coming Down’, which opens with a classic rock ’n’ roll swagger, just for a pulsating synth to emerge moments later, shifting the mood and starkly contrasting her country-tinged drawl. However, each of these moments highlights how masterfully fluid Gena’s songwriting ability is, which allows her intoxicating voice to be the glue that holds everything together while the instruments sprawl and the genres blur.

Largely, few of the tracks on Can't Make You Love Me rely on overwhelming dynamics to evoke the intense emotion felt across the album - instead, most are built with minimalist arrangements over a steady groove, leaving plenty of space for Gena’s passionate vocal performances to pack the emotional punch. But when the instrumentation does fill up, like on the outro of ‘Angel Face’, which juxtaposes the self-defeating lyric/album title with an explosion of euphoric chords and vibrant grooves, we’re simply reminded that beneath the surging layers is an incredibly clever musician and an emerging force to be reckoned with.

To get a better insight into the album, we got in touch with Gena to find out what inspired her to create the sounds we hear on Can't Make You Love Me.

Francoise Hardy - 'Le Premier Bonheur du Jour'

I unfortunately don’t speak French, but I still get lost in the storytelling of her songs. The way she plays with expression and emotion in her voice captures me and I’m left completely smitten. I kind of love everything in general about Francoise Hardy. I remember trying to challenge myself to learn this song and teach myself French, I’m still working on it.

Angel Olsen – 'Shut Up Kiss Me'
This song has such anger and wit, it’s very clever!! Angel’s voice is so intense and the way she really uses it as an instrument is inspiring. I can never work out where she draws her unique vocal melodies from, she has definitely influenced me to explore the many expressive way I can use my own voice.

The Dandy Warhols – 'Godless'
I’m not great with music terminology but the guitar tones in this song were a big reference for my album. Gritty, dreamy and 90’s. I get images of a Californian dessert. The rhythm guitar is so rudely loud and jangly with the lead so intricate and psychedelic. The whole album Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is pretty hypnotic, one of my all time listens.

Have a listen to Can't Make You Love Me above, and catch Gena Rose Bruce on tour over the coming weeks.