Interview: AWOLNATION

AWOLNATION - Photo courtesy of AWOLNATION

AWOLNATION - Photo courtesy of AWOLNATION

If Aaron Bruno, the 32-year-old face and frontman of AWOLNATION, could choose just one word to describe his outlook, it would be “grateful.”

“I’m grateful, just basically, to be alive,” he said. “I’ve been through so many ups and downs…that I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have this opportunity that I never take one moment for granted.”

But that philosophy extends to every aspect of his life, and particularly his music career. After playing in the bands Hometown Hero and Under the Influence of Giants, Bruno set out on the solo artist path, and was met with open door after open door.

Bruno then signed with Red Bull Records, releasing the EP “Back from Earth” in 2010, followed-up by this year’s full-length, “Megalithic Symphony.”

Although AWOLNATION has built up a solid following in the United States, Bruno said the mere fact that people listen to and enjoy his music is still humbling, and surprising, in large part because he tries to keep his expectations low.

“I certainly have no expectations at all,” he said. “I’m happy that people believe in me and I’m happy that it’s going as good as it’s going.”

Earlier this month, AWOLNATION hit up Berlin with his band during the European leg of tour in support of the album, which was released in March.

He noted that the European crowds, just like the American ones, have no common demographic, something which pleases him.

“There’s no genre-specific person that comes to our show. It seems to be like a little bit of everybody, which has always been the goal for me,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid I always believed that music is for everybody, and it’s not for hipsters or just metal kids or hardcore kids or whatever.”

Furthermore, Bruno said that, considering the hybrid of rock, hardcore, rap, and other styles he mixes in his music, it makes sense.

“I think that’s kind of fitting for the record,” he said, referencing the variety of influences he draws upon and integrates into his music. “[And] I’m grateful to not be pigeon-holed. If you like the music, you do. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s just music at the end of the day.”

Bruno’s own songwriting process is something that transpires in the most unexpected places and ways. Instead of sitting down in a studio atmosphere to write, he said he often comes up with a riff or an idea in the everyday moments in life, and typically has to rely on the voice memo feature of his phone to record the fleeting inspiration.

“It’s so full that it’s broken right now,” he said of his phone.

Once the rough sketch of those ideas is apparent, Bruno said he then immediately sits down and tries to make something of the ideas, before they’re gone. However, he said he never tries to force an idea, instead allowing the songs to come together naturally, or otherwise, not at all.

“I try my best to get those ideas recorded and done as soon as possible,” he said. “I try to service the song as best I can. I never try to get in the way or say ‘it’s gotta sound like this or that.’ It is whatever it is.”

Another aspect of songwriting and recording that Bruno, an avid extreme sports guy, loves, is the proximity to the beach.

“Writing and being in the studio is great because I get to go surfing every day,” he said, sharing that being away from the ocean is one of the hardest parts of touring.

Yet more than anything, what Bruno said the music does for him is that it’s changed him. He said that his career as a musician has seem him mature from a boy to a man, and it’s all because of everything he’s had to deal with along the way.

“Dealing with adversity. Dealing with heartbreak. Dealing with depression. Uphill battles and so forth and so on. Accepting stuff for what it is and not taking it too personal. Ever since I kind of let go of that stuff I’ve found that I’ve been blessed and the stars have been aligned for it to go way better than it ever has before,” Bruno shared. “But I think when I was younger, I was a little bit too, maybe cocky, or didn’t understand the opportunity that was in front of me and I wasted a lot of opportunities. Where now, I understand the way it goes and I’m a little bit weathered, and a bit of a veteran now.”

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