Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Bruno Mars: Out of this world!

Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars Bruno Mars Bruno Mars Bruno Mars

Having written, produced and sung on two recent worldwide smashes for both B.o.B (âNothinâ On Youâ) and Travie McCoy (âBillionaireâ), sweet-singing, Hawaii-born-and-raised man-of-the-moment Bruno Mars has additionally this month launched his own solo career big-time via the transatlantic chart-topping success of his buoyant debut single âJust The Way You Areâ. Whose blend of heartfelt lyrics, instantly-haunting melody and infectious groove in turn makes for an ideal conversation-starter... As a beshaded, behatted and charmingly chatty Mr. Mars enjoys lunchtime drinks in the autumn Kensington sunshine with a similarly-beshaded-and-behatted Pete Lewis!

âWell, Iâm a big fan of songs like Joe Cockerâs âYou Are So Beautifulâ and Eric Claptonâs âWonderful Tonightâ - songs that go straight to the pointâ, begins the mega-talented 23-year-old singer/songwriter/producer: âYou know, thereâs no mind-boggling lyrics or twists in the story - they just come directly from the heart. And to me âJust The Way You Areâ is one of those SONGS! Thereâs nothing mind-blowing about it. Iâm just telling a woman she looks beautiful the way she IS - and, letâs be honest, what woman doesnât wanna hear those lyrics?!... I mean, thatâs why Iâve been singing those kinda songs to get girls since I was nine years OLD!â

âAnd because of what it says, itâs also a song that can help guys stop getting into fights with their girl!â, he adds knowingly: âLike youâll be getting ready to go out to a movie and the girl will be in the bathroom doing their hair, putting on 10 different outfits... And the guyâs like âBabe, come ON! Letâs GO! You look fine with what youâve got ON!â⦠And it can all escalate into one big old fight! So in that situation âJust The Way You Areâ is the ideal song for guys to dedicate to their girl! If they donât know exactly what to say they can just play the RECORD!â

The current global breakthrough success of âJust The Way You Areâ meanwhile, is also setting things up nicely for the forthcoming release of 23-year-old Brunoâs debut album, the unusually-titled âDoo-Wops & Hooligansâ.

âWell, âdoo-wopâ is s very special word for meâ, explains an ever-personable Mr. Mars: âBecause I grew up listening to my dad who, as a Fifties rock & roll head, loved doo-wop music. Plus doo-wop, again, is very SIMPLE! You know, I could get a guitar, play you just four chords, and sing a thousand doo-wop songs! Because they come from a time back in the day when there were no TRICKS! You just needed a beautiful melody, you needed a beautiful voice, and you needed to CONNECT! And because to me âJust The Way You Areâ just feels like it fits into that vibe, thatâs where the âDoo-Wopâ side of the title comes in. But, while the âDoo-Wopâ part is for the women, you also have to remember that Iâm a young kid who likes partying and who gets up to some riff-raff sometimes! Which is in turn represented by the âHooligansâ side!.. So the title basically reflects that you get to hear the two sides of me on this one album.â

So what in general can we expect musically from âDoo-Wops & Hooligansâ? âJust an eclectic mix of music coming from my soul!â, replies Bruno without hesitation: âI know it sounds cheesy to say, but I really donât like to over-think music! You know, I donât make a song for the purpose of the radio or anything like that. I just sit down and write a SONG! And I actually think the beauty of âNothinâ On Youâ being a hip hop song, âBillionaireâ being a reggae song, and âJust The Way You Areâ being a kind of pop ballad is that itâs giving people a WARNING - in the sense of âI donât know what Bruno Mars is gonna come up with NEXT!â... Because thatâs what the album is ABOUT!â

âYou know, I just do whatever FEELS right to me! And so thatâs what youâre gonna GET!â, he adds enthusiastically: âSo I have songs on there that just have an acoustic guitar; I have a reggae song that features Damian Marley; I have a song called âRun Away Babyâ thatâs the show-opener - you know, that aggressive âHere we COME! Here we ARE!â vibe... And then I have songs like (the next single) âGrenadeâ, which represents the OTHER side of love - where youâre in love with a woman and you know for a fact that she doesnât love you the way you love HER... So yeah, Iâm definitely hoping that I can gain some new fans who are just gonna invest their time in me and say âYou know what? I wanna know what heâs TALKING about! I wanna know what heâs got to SAY! Because heâs all OVER the place, and to me thatâs interesting!â!â

Born in October 1986 in Waikiki, Hawaii to parents of Puerto Rican and Filipino descent, Bruno - one of six siblings - grew up in a musical family (his father a Latin percussionist, his mother a talented vocalist), and from an early age began impersonating musical icons like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson as part of his fatherâs local Vegas-style revue which featured the entire family.

âYeah, from a very young age I remember watching the show and being completely fascinated!â, he recalls fondly: âYou know, my uncle would be up there playing guitar, my dad would be up there conducting the whole show, my mom would be singing out... And Iâd be like âI wanna go up there TOO!â! So, from the moment my dad started allowing me onstage, I became a ham - and just started loving the attention! You know, I remember being four years old and just loving the fact that people were getting a kick out of my Elvis impersonation! I may not have LOOKED like Elvis, or SOUNDED like Elvis - but because the crowd were lapping it up, in my mind I was doing something really BIG!â

Interestingly, Bruno also attributes much of his innate musicality and gift of melody to his Honolulu upbringing: âYeah, everyone in Hawaii is really laid-back and happy and content with life - because everyone knows the BEACH is right outside! And so music is just in the AIR, basically! Itâs just everywhere you GO!â, he explains with a smile: âYou know, thereâs always someone around with a guitar whoâs ready to SING! Like you see these big, 200-pound Hawaiian guys singing in the sweetest voices EVER! I mean, you simply cannot go to a barbecue without someone playing the guitar and singing! And so I guess thatâs how I became how I AM - just ready to sing and play at ANY POINT!... I mean, reggae is HUGE out there! And if you ever listen to Hawaiian music youâll hear that, even if you canât understand Hawaiian, the melody is INCREDIBLE! Itâs just memorable, classic melody that, once you hear it, youâll never FORGET!... So I guess growing up there did in turn play a big part in helping ME to write songs like that - with melodies that STICK!â

Meanwhile, it was after graduating from High School in Hawaii that an ambitious 17-year-old Bruno moved to Los Angeles, California in pursuit of a musical career. A move which would eventually bear fruit big-time several years later... When, after experiencing an abortive solo deal with Motown Records, Mars teamed up with friends Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine to form the production/songwriting team The Smeezingtons - with whom he very quickly got to craft such bona fide global smashes as Flo Ridaâs âRight Roundâ and KâNAANâs âWavinâ Flagâ. Nevertheless, it wasnât until earlier this year that Brunoâs actual vocal talents came to the forefront - when he additionally ended up singing the hooks on ultimately-world-conquering tracks The Smeezingtons were creating for B.o.B (âNothinâ On Youâ) and Travie McCoy (âBillionaire)... Which in turn immediately led to his current solo deal with Atlantic Recordsâ Elektra label.

âYeah, when I got signed as an artist to Motown Records around 2004, I donât think I was READY! I mean, what the hell are you gonna talk about at 17/18 years OLD?!â, retorts Bruno honestly: âSo, once I got released from the label and I was a couple of years older, I was like âWhy was I waiting for someone to tell me what to DO? Why was I waiting for a producer to call me so I could get into a studio with him? I actually PLAY music! Let me just do this shit by MYSELF!â⦠So I met Philip Lawrence - an incredible talent - and we started a production and songwriting team together that we called The Smeezingtons. You know, because we were so broke back then I was like âIâm gonna forget the artist thing for the moment! We need to EAT! So for now letâs just concentrate on writing and producing and selling our TRACKS!â!â

âSo the whole time we were writing and producing stuff like âWavinâ Flagâ for KâNAAN and âGet Sexyâ for The Sugababes, we were just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that somewhere along the way the A&R executives were gonna listen to the guy singing on the demo of these songs - ME! - and be like âThis guy is GOOD! Letâs SIGN him!ââ, continues Bruno, now in full flow: âWhich is exactly what happened when the label heard âNothinâ On Youâ! You know, they were like âThis feels GOOD! Letâs not try to find a big artist to get on the hook so it can get immediate mass attention. Letâs instead try and break both B.o.B AND Bruno with this record!â⦠And that, in a nutshell, is the story of me becoming the solo artist you see today!â

Meanwhile, with our pleasant and revealing chat drawing to its inevitable close, one last question remains⦠With Bruno actually having been born Peter Hernandez Jr., how, when and why did he become âBruno Marsâ?(!!): âOh, my dad nicknamed me âBrunoâ when I was two years old!â, he laughs good-naturedly: âYou know, I guess I was this chubby kid, and at the time there was this chubby (Italian) wrestler called Bruno Sammartino! So my name has been Bruno ever since I can REMEMBER! My mom always called me Bruno, my sisters always called me Bruno⦠In fact, the only place I was ever Peter was in SCHOOL - because that was my GOVERNMENT name! So in that way I guess I grew up like two different PEOPLE! Which may be why my MUSIC is all over the place - Iâm just a confused PERSON!!.. And then the âMarsâ came about through a joke in the studio. One day I was in there messing around and just telling people âHey, Iâm outta this WORLD! Iâm Bruno MARS!â!... And from that it just STUCK!â

Bruno supports Travie Mc Coy on his upcoming UK tour - Birmingham Academy 2 (October 18); Oxford Academy (21); Manchester Academy (22); Glasgow G2 (23); London Kings College (25)

Brunoâs single âJust The Way You Areâ is out now. His single âGrenadeâ follows on January 10; while the album âDoo-Wops & Hooligansâ will be released January 24, all through Elektra/Atlantic Records

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