Evanston man turns from software to songs

Diana Xin

When he was in his twenties, Evanston resident Bruce Holmes was part of a rock ‘n’ roll band and dreamed of making it big. Now, nearly 40 years later, he has finally completed his first album.

“Like most things in life, it’s just a matter of keeping at it,” Holmes said.

Holmes, 59, ran a software corporation and wrote a novel before returning to music.

His album, “Life’s an Intelligence Test,” features 14 songs Holmes wrote and recorded inside his attic with accompanying musicians.

Holmes uses his attic both as an office and as a studio. His recording equipment, worth about $4,000, stands beside a keyboard and a rack of four guitars, though Holmes has more guitars downstairs, as well. Two stands wait with sheet music and a giant dictionary.

Holmes spends most of his day working in the attic, writing or revising his songs.

Though he was once in a band, he said he had not planned on continuing his music career later in life.

Holmes graduated from the University of Southern California with a film degree and spent 14 years writing software.

It was after his company closed that he refocused himself on music.

“At that point I just decided I was going to do what I like,” Holmes said. “It was now or never.”

Even so, Holmes has also pursued a variety of different hobbies.

He taught seven years of Aikido, a martial art, at Northwestern, and wrote and sold thousands of cassettes on a yoga-like technique called the Feldenkrais method. His 1984 science-fiction book, “Anvil of the Heart,” was sold in the U.S., England and Germany.

“For one ephemeral moment in the summer of 1984, it led the Nebula nominations for the best novel,” Holmes said of his book. “Then it got left in the dust.”

Holmes is now at work on a second novel he hopes to publish, but he said he finds it difficult to devote much time to it.

His focus at the moment is still music. Since the album was released, Holmes has received increasing recognition and has tours lined up in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin.

“I’m hoping the time will come when I spend most of the year on the road. That’s the goal,” Holmes said with a laugh. “I’ve got dreams of getting an RV and living the life.”

Carol Kent recently booked him to play at her coffee shop, Pick A Cup, 1813 Dempster St. , and enjoyed his songs.

“They all had a little story,” she said. “It was worth listening to the words, the story, as well as the music.”

Holmes said he finds his music hard to classify as just rock or folk, but that each song has meaning for him.

An unexpected fan favorite, “Angels,” was about the death of his mother.

“I don’t know what possessed me to write it,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone would like it.”

But fans of the song include friends of his teenage son.

Holmes attributes his varied achievements to perseverance. His novel required seven rewrites before he was happy with it, and he said it took 30 years to develop his musical talents.

“Anybody who’s made it in this world of music or film, it’s just a lot of years and a lot of hard work,” Holmes said.

“I’m blessed with a certain hubris. I just assume I can do something.”

Reach Diana Xin at [email protected]