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“I’m tackling the future by wrestling with the past, all the while living in the present tense.” – Bruce Sudano


Years ago, on the iconic American Bandstand show, TV legend Dick Clark stuck a microphone in young Bruce Sudano’s face and asked, “What is your musical ambition?”


The teen fans who filled the audience didn’t have to wait long for Bruce’s answer: “I want to perform in Madison Square Garden.”


It happens that Sudano, then a member of a trio named Brooklyn Dreams, had already played in that fabled venue a few years earlier, opening with his band Alive ‘N Kickin’ for Eric Burdon and War. But in ways that were then beyond his imagination, he achieved much more than that one gig in the Garden. He continued to love playing live shows but his true passion quickly became songwriting. Back then, Sudano cultivated a style that combined pop and soul sensibility with jazz-worthy polish.


“I was trying to incorporate more musicality into my songs,” he explains. “I wasn’t afraid to go off into a jazz chord progression or to employ major seventh chords — chords that rock ’n’ roll songwriters typically avoid. But I grew up listening to Carole King, Neil Diamond, Doc Pomus and Leiber & Stoller, so I appreciated earthiness combined with musical sophistication.”


On his new album, Talkin’ Ugly Truth, Tellin’ Pretty Lies, both qualities are evident. But there’s something new too — a perspective that encompasses every stage of life, from the exhilaration of youth on the opening cut (“Better Than This”) through the maze of love, loss and lessons learned before ending with a rumination on what it all means and where the journey leads from there (“Under the Gun”).


“First you get the young Bruce,” Sudano says. “And it leads to ‘How’d you get here? Where did life go? When is the next phase going to appear? How will you navigate that? Will you do it with grace?’ It’s also about navigating the unforeseen of what goes on in society these days: Why do renegades live their lives as thrill seekers, ignoring truth, telling lies, ignoring the consequences that inevitably catch up to you? It’s all these elements.”


Sudano’s journey provided ample inspiration for Talkin’ Ugly Truth, Tellin’ Pretty Lies. It begins in Flatbush, where his father helped kindle his curiosity about music. “He used to have a jukebox route,” Sudano says. “He’d come home at the end of the week with a box of 45s. The thing that always intrigued me, even more than the singers and musicians, was the names under the title in parentheses – the songwriters.”


His career in music began when he co-founded Alive N Kickin’. They released one hit single, “Tighter, Tighter,” which peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard charts in 1970. Tommy James (“Hanky Panky,” “Mony Mony,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now”) wrote the tune and co-produced the album. Sudano had written much of the band’s repertoire, but it was James’s mentorship that helped him to elevate his work. “Those early songs are really funny in that they’re indicative of the time – rambling songs about things I had no knowledge of,” Sudano recalls. “They had titles like “Kentucky Fire,” “Junction Creek” and “Mother Carey’s Chicken” – crazy songs which I basically poured out of my ass.


“When you’re a young songwriter,” he continues, “you want to succeed because you have to pay the bills. That was my dream, but it was hard because as I learned more about the kind of writer I am and where my strengths lie, which wasn’t necessarily in the place of cute and clever Top 40.”


His focus intensified as his songs were picked up and recorded by some of the major artists of the day, including Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Michael Jackson with his brother Jermaine. But his most fruitful association dates from 1977, when Brooklyn Dreams was hired to provide background vocals for Donna Summer on her album I Remember Yesterday. In 1980, their relationship blossoming beyond the studio, Donna and Bruce married. The fusion of their professional and personal lives boosted each one’s creativity as they co-wrote her world-wide smash hit “Bad Girls,” as well as  “Lucky,” “On My Honor,” “Can’t Get to Sleep at Night” and “Starting Over Again,” which Dolly Parton recorded and lofted to No. 1 on the Billboard Country Music Charts.


Tragically, Donna succumbed in 2012 to cancer at age 62. Though shattered by her passing, Sudano understood that even in the depths of sorrow, seeds of creativity continue to grow. “Suddenly I was in a new situation,” he says. “I didn’t have Donna to write for anymore. I was at the age where I’m not gonna put another group together. Instead, maybe I could be the singer/songwriter that I didn’t take the opportunity to be before. Out of the deep hurt of the situation, I felt challenged to continue to be an artist. That’s an essential element, to continue to be challenged, to be forced to go to other places, to feel other things, to know you’re not stagnating.”


This great loss in his life opened the door that led ultimately to a period of creative growth, releasing 6 albums and numerous singles in the last decade, and now 2024’s  Talkin’ Ugly Truth, Tellin’ Pretty Lies. His maturity as an artist – really, as a human being surveying everything in his story, whether heartbreaking or uplifting – informs every moment of the new album: the catchy but urgent account of flight from the chaos of modern life (“Make The World Go Away”), the lines that lovers should leave uncrossed (“Two Bleeding Hearts”), the portrait of a mysterious “magical girl” who lives “in a cardboard world [where] truth is a neon sign, chasing the dark from light” (“Cardboard World”, elegies for a generation’s shattered ideals and surrender to “the obstacles and ailments” of age (“How’d You Get Here”) or reaching “a place of surrender … where victory is found” (whispered in the chilling spoken word composition “Navigating the Unforeseen”) …


… all of which leads to that last track, “Under The Gun,” and it’s warning that “you can set the clock for yesterday, but you can’t turn back time.”

As a former Adult Contemporary Artist of the Year and author of Adult Contemporary Song of the Year “It’s Her Wedding Day,” Sudano fully understands the allure of past accomplishments. Yet he also knows that with new albums like Talkin’ Ugly Truths, Telling Pretty Lies, his best work still lies ahead. “There’s this fantasy that things were so much better then: ‘Let’s go back to then. Well, you can’t do that! It’s a false flag. I’ve learned that it’s really all about now and tomorrow. Let’s make now and the future better!”

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"We love Bruce Sudano"


"A compelling singer-songwriter"


"Bruce has been responding to the zeitgeist with a series of critically-praised EPs"
-New Folk Initiative, John Platt


"Texture is always a component of expressiveness in Bruce Sudano's music."

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