“’Firefly in a Jar’ is a perfect metaphor for the past decade,” Bruce says. “It never works well to bottle up emotions, and all my life I’ve relied on songwriting as a safety valve. For the past twelve years, there was so much going on, big life stuff, and I couldn’t bring myself to write about any of it. Definitely not the best plan.
It was time to open up the jar and hope there was still something flickering, living inside.” A born-and-raised New Yorker, one of Bruce’s fondest childhood memories is of spending summers at her Grandmother’s suburban Pittsburgh home. “We would catch fireflies in the front yard and sometimes put them in a jar overnight. Typically, that didn’t end well for the firefly.”
With Bruce’s signature eloquence and insight, the songs on Firefly in a Jar tackle some of the inevitable challenges, both good and bad, of adulthood. Right after the birth of her first son, her mother was given a terminal diagnosis, and her husband’s once thriving career as a children’s book illustrator came screeching to a halt. Bruce had to take a part-time job, which became a full-time job, and at one point several jobs, to keep their family afloat. After the birth of her second son, Bruce’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and his care became a large part of her life. “I went into auto-pilot as grief, loss and stress threatened to pull me under. It felt like there wasn’t room for me in my own life.”
Bruce found herself going through the motions not for months, but rather for years, until she received a phone call at work, out of the blue, from an old music industry friend and supporter. “Charlie Jones zapped me back from the living-dead with that phone call. He told me that I had to be doing music. That I couldn’t just stop. That music is a part of who I am and that I needed to find a way. Tears were streaming down my face as I hung up the phone knowing that he was right and that I needed to begin writing for myself again.”
“Backlit Bottles,” the first single released from Bruce’s Firefly in a Jar EP, essentially written from a barstool on the Upper West Side, marks that moment when Bruce decided to write her way out of her rut, one song at a time. The title track, Firefly in a Jar, “is very much about letting go and accepting the impermanence of all things,” says Bruce. “Complicated Hearts,” an ode to her husband of over 25 years (they met during Bruce’s junior year abroad in Paris), is a testament to the resilience of their relationship having weathered many storms. “I asked my 11-year-old what comes to mind when he thinks of love and he answered, ‘Two people falling down in a field of flowers.’ Hence, I wrote “Our love was never fields of flowers!”
The last song on the EP, “Giving up The Ghost” describes being at her mother’s bedside as she died. “I’m not a religious person, but I’ll come right out and say that I believe in ghosts. Beyond the many inexplicable things I’ve experienced in my life, I felt my mother’s presence several times in the year following her death and she appeared in my dreams each and every night. That fall, walking through the park by myself, a breeze rustled the leaves around me and I simply can’t explain how or why, but in that moment I felt my mother with me. It was an overpowering feeling that came and went. It was a gift.”
In addition to five original songs, Firefly in a Jar also includes an exquisitely, soulful rendition of the John Waite, 80’s hit song, “Change,” endowing the cover with new layers of emotional meaning and depth.
After launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund her EP, Bruce recruited Emmy Award-Winning, veteran producer, songwriter and guitarist, Matt Anthony. Bruce had been working with Matt for years on TV and film pitches, including the most recently licensed song, “It’s Your Parade” written with Jennifer Marks and Noel Cohen. “I call him ‘Magic Matt’ Bruce cays, “Since you walk into his studio with a lyric sheet and a song in your head and you walk out with a gorgeous recording. I knew he would feel this album and the simplicity I was looking for.”
Bruce admits that there was more to making this album than just liberating her own pent up emotions. “I needed to make this album, not just for myself, but for anyone out there who has had to put a dream on hold. Sometimes you have to adjust your dreams a bit, but that doesn’t mean giving up.”
Few independent artists have managed to attain the level of exposure Bruce has achieved since the release of her first album in 1997. A 1999 Lilith Fair Talent Search finalist, she garnered attention from major music industry publications for her work, including Billboard Magazine. “Home” from her 2001 release, Soul On Fire was included as the only track from an “unsigned” artist on a popular Martha Stewart compilation CD, featuring Alison Krauss, Barenaked Ladies, Lucinda Williams and other well-known artists.
Her work has been recognized with numerous songwriting awards, including first place in the coveted Billboard Song Contest Great American Songwriting Contest as well as the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, the International Songwriting Contest, the Independent Music Awards, the Just Plain Folks Song Contest, the Unisong Songwriting Contest, the USA Songwriting Contest and the Windrift Songwriting Contest.
Bruce’s recordings can be heard in multiple network TV shows, including: (ABC) All My Children, (CBS) Ghost Whisperer, (NBC) The Today Show, (WB) Dawson’s Creek, (WB) Glory Days, (NBC) Meet My Folks, (UPN) Jake 2.0, (FOX) King Of The Hill, (ABC) Six Degrees and (COMEDY CENTRAL) Children’s Hospital.
Each firefly has its path and Bruce has released her songs into the proverbial twilight to discover their own glowing destiny. The EP, Firefly in a Jar, elicits the feeling of opening a jar and watching fireflies emerge and flicker in the twilight.