A Legendary Songsmith

–with Bruce Coughlan

Music is one of those careers that is viewed by many as not “a real job.” However, for the creative who has a passion for music and brings the element of a message related to life to the listener, music is indeed a valuable career.

Meet Bruce Coughlan, a lifelong musician who picked up a guitar at age 14 and never looked back. He is a career songwriter and recording artist residing in British Columbia with over four decades in the music industry. Bruce is a storyteller, with timeless messages and a flair for intrigue and mystery. His newest release, Waiting for Rain, is soulful Retro-esque Roots, Rhythm & Blues music. He has many accolades, most recently having won the Bronze International Male Emerging Artist 2023 ISSA award.

In this interview, Bruce shares his beginnings, how he has stayed in music as a career, and sage advice for others in the industry.

Eileen: You are a career performer, having been in the Music Industry for over four decades. That is a long time! What got you started, at what age, and what has kept your interest?

Bruce: I suppose I’ve always known. I can’t remember a time in my life when Music wasn’t a motivating factor. By my fourteenth summer, I was busking full-time on Vancouver’s Granville Street, while haunting all the “Hippy Havens” of the day: Wreck Beach, Kitsilano & Gastown, where song circles, and drum circles were commonplace, and Folk Clubs of the day were a valuable learning ground for a fledgling Roots artist.

Eileen: You play an array of Roots music genres. This is a unique path to take, please share the moment you knew this is what you wanted to focus on and how it has formed who you are as a musician.

Bruce: When I was six years old, my father took me to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to see the Irish Folk group Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. They bounded onto the stage, and from five rows back my world was forever changed. In a heartbeat, I knew how I was to spend my life; as a balladeer.

The Clancy Brothers & Tommy performed a spell-binding set of song and story. After the show, I was allowed backstage to meet them. Somehow, I’ve never outgrown that wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Eileen: You play at festivals, concerts, arts presentations, community and corporate events. What is your favorite, if you have one, and why?

Bruce: I like festivals because I get to enjoy the music and the comradery of my own kind. Kindred spirits. I enjoy engaging other performers away from the lights and sound. I’ve made so many friends at after-parties and side sessions.

From a strictly performance standpoint, I love a concert setting. In the absence of life’s distractions, a concert setting allows a story-telling songwriter to engage the audience on a very personal level.  Watching the response of people painting pictures in their own mind’s eye, based on their own experiences, is possibly the most rewarding aspect of what I do.

Eileen: You have recorded 100’s of songs and recorded 15 albums. That is quite an achievement! What has kept you motivated to keep writing, recording, performing, and being a lifelong musician?

Bruce: It’s the process itself that keeps me motivated artistically. For me, it’s become a cycle of discovery, analysis, engagement, immersion & expression. I discover a style or genre of music, I break it down into components of content, structure, and nuance. I then engage practitioners of that style or genre. Once I have immersed myself sufficiently in music and its culture, I endeavor to find my own voice within those constructs. I strive always to express myself in an authentic manner. If you hear me sing the Blues, it’s because I’ve lived them and because it comes from the heart.

Eileen: Everyone has a story about their life’s journey. What is the most memorable part of your music journey to date and why?

Bruce: So many memorable legs to my journey. The term “Life’s Rich Pageantry” comes to mind. I set off at fourteen with a guitar to take on life as a balladeer. It’s been nearly a half-century and life is still an adventure novel, and every song is a new chapter.

Eileen: There are lessons learned to grow both personally and professionally. What has been the most profound lesson that has taught you to keep going forward and do what you love to do?

Bruce: A life in music can be a humbling experience. You first must realize that the true power of music is not in its ability to generate revenue.

The true value of music stretches far beyond rhythm and melody, it expresses elements of culture and identity.

No other art form can truly express the depth and breadth of the human experience. For music to be authentic and true, it cannot be about ego. Music has the potential to unite.

Eileen: Have you had any mentors along the way of your long music career? What has been their best advice that has enabled you to be successful?

Bruce: I’ve had many mentors (whether they realized it or not) and so many teachers (so to speak). Having never been a studied musician, everything I know, I’ve learned from observing and engaging other musicians. The best advice I’ve received has been the product of observation. Those who are meaningfully, productively, and remarkedly engaged in a life of music are those for whom life is art.

Eileen: If you are not writing songs, recording or performing what do you like to do, any hobbies?

Bruce: I like to explore, geographically and culturally. I like history, which allows us to view culture with a deeper understanding.  I always find inspiration in discovery.

Eileen: Words of advice for life, up-and-coming artists, and what to focus on for fulfillment, joy, and happiness.

Bruce: Music is the toughest way to make an easy living, especially these days with music being so monetarily undervalued. It takes a lot of work, and it takes a team. The process itself can be daunting, but the rewards can be immeasurable. Music is a noble craft and a timeless one.

Editor’s Note: Visit Bruce’s Website Here


Eileen Bild
Eileen Bild
EILEEN is Founder of The Core Thinking Blueprint Method, CEO of Ordinary to Extraordinary Life, Executive Producer of OTELproductions, and talk show host for OTEL TALK. She holds a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology and is a published author, Internationally Syndicated Columnist, contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change and Breakthrough S.P.A.R.K. Coach. Eileen and her husband Trevor are a power couple whose foundation is a 360 view of the world through inspiring, uplifting, and empowering others. Maximizing performance, communication, and drive for growth for your highest achievement is what you will experience working with Eileen and Trevor. They are owners and producers for ROKU channels KNOB TV, OTEL TALK, and OTEL MUSIC VIDEOS; and develop channels for professionals and businesses. They collaborate with companies, such as 360° Nation/Dennis Pitocco, musicians, entrepreneurs, and many more. Go from Ordinary to Extraordinary!

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