There was a time not long ago when Trace Bundy, former CU engineering professor turned full-time acoustic guitar instrumentalist, was affectionately known around here as the “acoustic ninja,” a moniker applied informally by an early and enthusiastic fan. And not altogether inappropriately, as Bundy’s playing technique, replete with slapping percussives, flying capos, shimmering harmonics and dazzling, multi-voiced picking, could pass for a sort of dreadnaught martial art form. His sound is part cerebral discipline, part crazed instrumental assault, unleashed feral instinct joined to restless harmonic exploration.
But these days it’s pretty much his name that’s keeping him busy.
“I’ve had a couple of UK tours this year — one in April and one just recently, and both of those went really well, especially London. Had good turnout there. Also got to play quite a bit up in Scotland.”
Plus Korea and Taiwan, two of the improbable locations where Bundy’s repute as an off-the-reservation player first took off a few years ago, via a couple of Quicktime videos lifted from his Adapt CD/DVD project, filmed at the Flatirons Theater in 2004.
“It’s great,” says a still somewhat befuddled Bundy on his explosive popularity in Southeast Asia. “You play a slightly smaller country, and they kind of think you’re Brad Pitt or something. So, yeah, Korea will probably be a yearly thing, just because every time I’m over there, it’s just so good.”
These things don’t happen by themselves — Bundy had been at this for a while, and the gigs that followed the whole video-sensation thing generated a buzz up and outward across a firmament he was heading toward anyway. You still have to show up to cash the check an online video writes for you.
The lesson here may be that the music business may be collapsing, but it’s also falling around the foundation of whatever will take its place, and some of it is the same framing it was built on in the first place. It’s about performance, doing it yourself, using the technology to get the word out, putting playing ahead of business, getting to know and appreciate your audience.
Take a good look at Trace Bundy, because you’re looking at the future.
The “actually being there” part is still key, maybe more now than ever since the beginning of the recording era, and it’s key for Bundy, even if it makes it a little harder to compose music that fills out and dignifies his unorthodox playing style.
“Not as much as I’d like to,” he says of taking time out for composition, “just because the touring has been so intense. My passion, really, is performing in front of people. But to do that, you have to write new songs, and I have a few new songs since last year, as well as a few cover songs that I’ve been playing with.”
Some musicians can write on the road, flipping a little switch in between (or during) soundchecks, down time in the hotel, whatever. Bundy’s talents are fundamental, but writing on the fly isn’t one of them.
“I have a couple of little writing sabbaticals planned, one in January and one, I think, in March,” he says. “But you know, you set this time aside, and … I mean, I love touring and playing live, and someone I know will say, ‘Hey, I got this great show or festival or whatever for you to play,’ and maybe it’s another country, or maybe someplace that my wife and I have never been to, and I go … ‘Ah, let’s do it.’ “I really need to be disciplined and take the time off to really keep writing. Sometimes little things will come to me during a soundcheck or something, but it’s very rare. I’m really a kind of sit-down type of composer, I really need to have space and time.”
Bundy promises a few surprises for his upcoming Boulder Theater gig, including a sort of magnum opus cover-song suite that he was a little bit cagey about discussing in too much detail (fans know Bundy as a guy who can cover Guns N’ Roses, Backstreet Boys and Pachebel in the same gig), but we asked particularly about the marquee, an unexpected double-bill pairing him with low-fi Seattle-based songwriter Damien Jurado.
“Yeah, he’s someone I’ve been a fan of for several years,” Bundy says. “I had a bunch of mix CDs that people burned me over the years with a few of his songs on it, maybe going back to a decade ago, and then I got married to my wife, and she’s from Seattle where Damien Jurado lives, and she’s been a huge fan of his for years.
“We were brainstorming with my management about who we could get for an opener to this show, and someone threw out Damien Jurado’s name, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’d be cool if we could get him.’ And we contacted his management, and they were thrilled.
“Yeah, it’s a little different,” Bundy continues. “He’s a singer-songwriter, kind of from that indie-rock world, which is a type of music I always loved. So … I don’t know, maybe it will bring a new audience that wouldn’t otherwise go to listen to a solo guitar player.”
On the Bill
Trace Bundy plays at the Boulder Theater on Dec. 11.
Doors at 6:30. All ages. Damien Jurado opens.
Tickets start at $19.50. 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786- 7030.