DR Exclusive Interview: Laura Bell Bundy
As stated in Laura Bell Bundy’s BIO on her official website “There are two sides to every story, as the old adage goes, and there are certainly two sides to the story of singer-songwriter Laura Bell Bundy’s daring Mercury Records debut release, Achin’ and Shakin’. Laura Bell bypassed the tried-and-true Music Row approach usually taken on country albums and instead created a bold concept album that is essentially two separate albums within one project.”
I sat down with Laura and we visited about her new project as well as her venture into the country music scene.
Bev: Thank you so much for inviting me to spend some time with you Laura, please tell me what has you the most excited about the new album?
Laura: I feel it is a really good representation of who I am. I am a two-sided type person; I have that “Achin’” side and the “Shakin’” side. I have an outspoken, enthusiastic, wild and witty personality on one end which is my social character and then I go home and would rather be alone, writing, thinking and, wallow in my sorrows. The “Achin’” side of me is definitely the more intimate side of me. The other side, I am showing the audience who I am right out of the gate instead of a little bit at a time. It is like “here I am”.
Bev: Did you personally choose all the songs on the album?
Laura: I wrote every song but one and the one I didn’t write, I chose. I feel really fortunate to be at this label where I have been given enough rope to hang myself. I have been a part of every decision that has been made. They let me conceptualize the video; they let me conceptualize the album. No one has ever said “I don’t like this or that”. I have been able to cut things that people weren’t so sure about and now they are. They have trusted me a lot and I have been able to prove myself and it feels really good. There has never been anyone else choosing the songs; I always ask “do you like this song”? Which one do you like better? I want to know and I want to know more than they tell me. You expect that when you get a record deal, you have to sell out.
Bev: What was the most fun part of the single and making of the video? It is so energetic, so much action and activity.
Laura: The dancing was the most fun for me. When you see the town, we do what I call the “Jerry Reed rap section” where we were trying to combine clogging and hip hop. “Cloghop” is what Jerry House told me was the new trend that I was going to start. I got to ride a horse; I rode horses as a kid so that was really fun. I jumped through a breakaway glass window, tried to do a split on a bar but my heel got stuck, a lot of high energy and dance. I loved it!
Bev: Did you shoot it in one day?
Laura: Yes, a long 18 hour day but we rehearsed several days before. Conceptualizing the video was one of the fun parts about it.
Bev: How did you come up with the idea for it?
Laura: I am one of those types that writes a song and within days, I come up with a video for it. I think it is because I like to have a visual component to my music. I kept thinking about a musical movie and then take just a scene out of a musical movie and that would be the video. I was listening to the song soon after we wrote it and were doing background vocals on it, the Jerry Reed rap section, I was clogging to it but I was also doing some “crumping”. So we started to think, how do we do this and we came up with the idea we would do it like an old western with really good looking girls with hair flying everywhere. I thought chaps, midriff, I had the costume; everything in my head. Then I thought about what was before that. I kept thinking about the “baby where you been, it is half past 10” and I kept thinking about Dolly Parton and “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. She is getting Burt Reynolds, she takes them upstairs and they are all running around and I kept thinking about that but it was more like an old western saloon, like a Mae West kind of a vibe. So I thought, Mae West meets Dolly Parton in the beginning and we have John Wayne walking in so we really want something like an old western.
Bev: Where was this shot at?
Laura: It was actually shot in a western studio. All they do is westerns. They shot Wyatt Earp there and Deadwood there. It is about 20 minutes outside of Los Angeles.
Bev: What has been the fan reaction to the video?
Laura: There have been different reactions. There have been people that say “oh my gosh, I love it”. We have had all these Youtube videos come in where people are trying to do the dance break and recreating the whole video in their back yards and in the snow, their houses, guys, girls, babies, you name it. There was an all Asian dance group that came up with a line dance. There has been a really interesting response to this. Then there are people that say “was she trying to be funny?” Yes, I was trying to be funny; I wasn’t making a lot of faces for nothing. It winks at you; it is tongue and cheek in a Dolly Parton kind of way.
Bev: What is your person favorite song on the album?
Laura: My personal favorites are probably “When It All Goes South” and “Cigarette”; they are on the “Achin” side. On the “Shakin” side, “If You Want My Love”, but they change all the time. I tend to like the ones I have heard less; that I am not sick of yet. I love them all; each one is like a child.
Bev: What are you doing for promotion? Any out of the box things?
Laura: Everything has been out of the box. Releasing the video before going to radio was definitely outside the box. We did a contest of the “Giddy On Up” Video and the winners are coming to town next week and I am going to teach them the routine. We are shooting it at the fairgrounds in their old town looking area so we are recreating the video but with fans.
Bev: What are you doing with that once it is done?
Laura: It will be on CMT. It is a CMT contest thing. We are doing a lot of promotional stuff with CMT because they were the first people that took a chance on me and my music and really wanted to get the “Giddy On Up” out. They have really championed and rallied around my music. I want to thank them adequately and do some things for them. I am doing some television appearances, that is not so out of the box. I have done a dance remix of “Giddy On Up” and I have performed it at dance clubs. Also, I think I am going to do some acoustic sets—like the polar opposite, around the country for radio stuff. Things change every day. I will go home and read something and go “I’m doing what? I’m going where?”. I think they are going to have me go to Europe too.
Bev: Tell me about your past, how did you get into the business?
Laura: I have always been a precocious kid, creative. I have two older sisters but they were out of the house when I was growing up so I spent a lot of time alone which meant I talked to myself, which meant I sang to myself, which meant I created a world inside my head. I became an imaginative person. My parents saw that in me and instead of putting me in soccer or whatever, they put me in dance classes and theater. My family is a musical family, my grandfather was a DJ and singer; my aunt sang and she was Miss Kentucky and in the semi-finals in the Miss America. I was around that stuff; I use to imitate pageant girls. I did the walk and I made up my whole sponsor bit and everything.
I started imitating people as a child and I started to excel at the dancing and so I was asked to do competitions, I was winning competitions. I had an opportunity to go to New York when I was six years and my Mom had sent my picture to a modeling agency and they called and said they were interested in meeting me. They asked if we lived there and we said “no, we live in Kentucky and we are not going to move but we could be around some in the summer”. They offered me a contract so I spent part of the summer there for several years. During the summer, I also had a singing teacher from New York and I went to Broadway Dance Center which is a dance place in New York and I was probably one of the youngest people running around and dancing there. Tap is probably my best type of dancing. There was an audition for Radio City Music Christmas Spectacular. They didn’t want to see me because they wanted kids that were 13 years old or older and I was nine. My Mom was “my child can do this, just see her”. They let me in and I got the part. My Mom is like Dolly Parton meets Donald Trump, she is something else. So my Mom and I had to move to New York for several years. A guy that was doing that show was also developing a new show, that ended up being called “Ruthless”, an off-Broadway musical and Britney Spears was my understudy. She left and then Natalie Portman was my understudy. It is so funny, the life I had as a kid. After being in New York for several years, I moved back to Kentucky and I think that is one of the best things that happened. I had a normal high school, I was never a normal child but I had a normal lifestyle. I ran track and cross country, went to school with my cousins and was just “home”. I started writing music then, I started writing a lot of poetry. That was one of those things that was very personal to me—no one really knew about.
When I was 18, I was going to go to college, move back to New York and go to NYU. I started to write more music and sing more of my own music. I formed a partnership with one of my best friends and we had a band. Her name is Amber Rhodes so we were Laura and Amber. Totally unoriginal. We came up with all these names and in the end; we just decided to do Laura and Amber. We got a band and played around New York City. At the same time, I got a reoccurring part in a soap opera, so I couldn’t go to school full time so I deferred out of NYC. I was supposed to run track there.
After that, I ended up getting “Hair Spray” and from there, I got “Wicked”. That whole time, I was writing with Amber and performing in clubs in New York City that we weren’t old enough to get into. For me, it felt like I had two different baskets with eggs in them. The acting and theatrical eggs kept hatching. So I would go there because I loved that too and it was paying me. Then these music eggs were just slower to incubate.
Finally, I decided that the type of music Amber and I were doing wasn’t really what I loved. It was a little more contemporary and pop-country. You would listen to more of my “Shakin”’ side and go well that sounds like pop-country but is actually more traditional music meets old soul produced modern. It’s not like rock with fiddles. The “Achin’” side is a very throwback feel and that is what I love, that is what I am inspired by.
There was a time between 14 years and 18 years old when I listened to a lot of country radio. I grew up listening to Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and, Dolly Parton as kid with my Mom and that is where I thought my roots were. I started writing music on my own like that and in the meantime kept getting shows and eventually, while I was doing “Legally Blonde”, I did an album called “Longing For A Place I Have Already Gone”, all very “throwback”. I called it “y’all-ternative”. It was very sparsely produced, very raw sounding. I started a little label and did it on my own as an independent. Then I did “Legally Blonde” and I decided after that was over, I was going to move to Nashville and give this music a go in the place that it happens. I was fortunate enough to get a deal before I left New York but I was going to move anyway.
Bev: How did the label thing happen? Did they come to you, was there a showcase?
Laura: My showcase was “Legally Blonde” and the other CD. I guess they heard my music, knew that I could write and had an affinity for the more traditional country and then they saw me perform and do “Legally Blonde” so they knew I could perform. I was talking to two different labels and I ended up going with Universal.
It is interesting because I really feel that if I had come from Kentucky at 18 and gone to Nashville and done this, maybe I would have been noticed but I learned so much from living in New York. I learned so much from doing theater and learning how to be a fearless person and having all these experiences that I could write about. Being able to understand an audience, I became better equipped to do what I am doing now. It’s divine timing. No one cared about my music until I was doing a Broadway show. I did country music forever but no one cared. I believe in divine timing—when it is meant to be, it happens. You get what you need all the time, you don’t always get what you want but you are not always suppose to—it’s like unanswered prayers. At 18 years old, all I wanted to do was get a record deal but I wasn’t prepared for it creatively, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Right now, I feel like maybe I’m still not prepared but I’m better equipped than I was then.
Bev: Do you have anyone that you idolize or want to be like?
Laura: I want to be like me—I want to figure out who I am and be like me. Yes, I do idolize both Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn.
Bev: Have you met either one of them yet?
Laura: I have met Loretta Lynn. I have not performed with her yet. I was going to perform with her sister, Crystal Gayle but she ended up getting sick. I have not had the great fortune of singing with Loretta and I have not met Dolly Parton yet but I think I am going to meet her this year. I want her to sing the opening verse to “Giddy On Up” in a show. I idolize Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Carole Burnett, Julie Andrews and Bette Midler. Those are my influences. I love Doris Day, too. I like all these people that were really successful either before I was born or just after I was born, or when I was young. I watched their shows and listened to their records as a kid with my Mom. I know every line to the “Sound of Music”; I impersonate Julie Andrews and Judy Garland.
Probably the most modern country music singer that I adore is Shania Twain. She is just not afraid to be a “sassy” girl. I loved her music when I was in high school. I have a lot of influences.
Bev: Are there any duets on this album?
Bev: Do you have any duets? Do you have someone in mind?
Laura: It depends on the song. If it is a duet with a guy, it would be awesome to do it with either Jack White or maybe Jamie Johnson. If it was a duet with a female, I would love to do it with Loretta, Dolly or Shania. I have a great song for Shania to do.
Bev: Is your Mom still part of your Nashville team?
Laura: My Mom works at a store now and takes care of her grandbabies. She is very supportive. She tells me what she thinks I should do but she is no longer involved in it. As an adult, I have really had control over my career.
Bev: What was your favorite part of CRS?
Laura: My favorite part was doing the Blair Gardner after party at Cadillac Ranch with Digital Rodeo.
Bev: Did you do anything else at CRS?
Laura: I did a bunch of interviews where I talked about myself all day. I actually got really tired of it; but I met a lot of really great people. The other great thing is I got to sing at the Ryman Auditorium with the other artists on the Universal roster.
Bev: CMA Fest is gearing up, what do you have planned for that?
Laura: Something fun! I will have a booth and be dressed up in character when the fans come to see me. I think I am going to be performing on one of the stages this year.
It all feels like it has happened so fast. I have no frame of reference right now because I haven’t done this before. I feel like I am a novice, I’m getting on a moving train and letting it take me wherever.
Bev: Describe the concept of the album with two themes.
Laura: The “Shakin’” side of the album is interesting because it tells of losing love, getting over it and getting on to someone else. It’s the “I’m no good for you baby” to the rebound of “can I call you my boyfriend”. The album has a story line on the “Shakin’” side, the “Achin’” side doesn’t. It is more reactionary and more about regret, heartache and loss and finding yourself in the midst of all that. I put the story of the album in the liner. I suggest buying the physical copy of the album instead of just the digital so you can see what every song means, what it means to me, what it means to the album, how you should listen to it.
Bev: Are you doing all the social networks?
Laura: Oh yes. I tweet on the toilet. Sometimes I forget and then I remember I haven’t tweeted today. I sometimes call it “twotting”. I love to live in the moment and that is hard to balance with technology.
Bev: Have you had any strange or scary things people have approached you with thinking they know you better than they do?
Laura: I did with “Legally Blonde” and I was on a soap opera for awhile and they called me the character that I played. I was on a train one time and someone yelled “Oh my God, its Reba’s daughter, girl, you shouldn’t be dancing on that table like that”, giving me the “what for” on a train from New York to Philadelphia. I like interaction with the fans. I would rather sit and talk to every fan than to just get a picture.
Bev: Have you had any stories that have come back to you that have really touched you?
Laura: Absolutely. I have had people write in on Facebook about how much the song “Cigarette” meant to them, they were going through something and really connected with that song. I get a lot of emails from people that connected with “Legally Blond” where they tell that I made them feel confident, they went to law school because of me or the show made me feel like I could do anything.
We all make mistakes and do what we want but at the end of the day, I realize I have the ability to touch people and to influence people. I need to be honest and true to myself first and foremost and if they can learn from that example, then I am doing what I am supposed to do.
Bev: Laura, I have enjoyed our time together so much – thank you. I look forward to doing this again.
Laura: Same to you, we need to talk again soon!
For more information on Laura Bell Bundy visit http://www.laurabellbundy.com
Transcribed by Pam Stadel
Source: Digital Rodeo's Bev Moser