Bruce Humphries is a singer-songwriter known for his group Bruce Humphries and the Rockabilly Rebels. Originally from Indiana, he’s lived all over the Midwest and South and has been in Wisconsin for the past decade. His shows are known to be “knee-slapping fun” as The Pitch Weekly puts it. His latest single “Promise Me” came out in June.
ME: To start, tell me about how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.
BRUCE: Through my massage therapist (laughs).
ME: Oh, amazing.
BRUCE: Yeah, I was getting a massage and my therapist had apparently been at a conference or some business meet-up, and she told me about Allison and that I should contact her. And I did…within a couple days we were booked for a show to play a rockabilly Christmas thing at one of the galleries she had a connection with. Turns out we’re both Kansas City Chiefs fans, and she turned us onto the meet-up at BW3’s, so that was cool.
ME: Hey man, it’s the degrees of separation. You know someone who knows somebody who can change your life. That’s how it happens.
ME: So Bruce, you’ve been playing music for a while in a lot of different states. What’s one of your favorite venues that you miss playing at?
BRUCE: You know, I was talking with someone recently about this. I would say, in Philadelphia there was a place called the Blue Comet that had Sunday night rockabilly. It was a really small bar in a really small suburb, and they’d have pretty decent-sized acts come through; one of the guys that lived in that area was one of my really good friends and he was the web designer for Brian Setzer. The venue probably fit 50 people, uncomfortably. But that’s kind of where some pretty surreal experiences started to happen for me. Mostly other places I played were just bars…you know, you’d play for door and be lucky if you got anything. I started playing with this guys named Dibbs Preston; he was from a band called The Rockats, and I met him through that bar. I miss that weekly environment where all these rockabilly people converged in one spot.
ME: Awesome, sounds cool.
BRUCE: Definitely. I know that that bar no longer does those shows, and that was before the pandemic. It was a sad thing to see disappear.
ME: State Fair or Summerfest – what’s more your vibe?
BRUCE: Well I’ve only been to Summerfest once, but if you’re looking at it from just being there, I’d definitely say Summerfest. The day I went it was right around my 50th birthday, and there were all these 80’s new wave acts playing…The Church, Berlin, Tommy Tutone, The Suburbs…
ME: There was a lot of dad shit playing that day.
BRUCE: Yes, yes. And then Setzer was playing that evening, so I went by myself and spent the whole day walking around listening to music. You don’t get that so much at the State Fair; I mean, there’s a lot of musicians playing but it seems like it’s mostly cover bands and not a lot of originals.
ME: Yeah, it looks like that’s slowly changing as time has gone on, like I know that there was a decent amount of original music there this year. I’d have to say I prefer State Fair but I’ve been to Summerfest more because you get the opportunity to see the music that comes through town that you’ve always wanted to see. So I hear you.
ME: So with your band, have you gotten to tour around the state much?
BRUCE: We haven’t; we’ve played some shows up in Green Bay and something down near Illinois, but it’s pretty much all been down here. I’ve just kind of been focused in this area, and during the pandemic I realized I’ve needed to push it a bit more. We’ve been really busy this summer with local shows, and having a kid who’s nine and a half, she’s at a much better age where I could leave for a longer period of time whereas before I didn’t want to leave my wife having to stay at home and take care of a toddler. Now it’s a bit more realistic for us to go out a bit further, but we all have jobs and we’re a bit older, so that’s a challenge. We’re all in our 50s and it’s not quite as easy as it used to be.
ME: Sure, I get that. Who are you playing with now?
BRUCE: Lorenzo Ripani is the lead guitar player, Kurt Weber is the drummer, and Jojn Steffes is the bass player. And they are all in other bands…seems like most bands here are like that.
ME: Yeah, that happens a lot (laughs).
BRUCE: I’ve joked around about how I should start another band and my wife is like “no you’re not” (laughs).
ME: My last question for you is, what are you working on now?
BRUCE: Trying to get through the summer. Our schedule has slowed down; I think we’ve got about five more shows out of 23 I think we had this summer. I did a lot of recording toward the end of last year and beginning of this year, and I recorded the basic tracks for about 30 songs. So I’m looking forward to this winter where I can get back to those songs and see if I can’t get half of them onto some sort of platform. That’s my goal. Our drummer has a home studio so I’m hoping we can get in there; my plan is to do a solo album and a Rockabilly Rebels album.
ME: Once you get those going, send them over!