A few years ago, Laura Bell Bundy told the New York Times that her music was y’alternative. Maybe because the songs aren’t like exactly like mainstream country, because they have more soul and more roots.
But there’s also something very y’alternative about Bundy’s viral approach to marketing.
Like telling her 4200+ Twitter followers to find out if she’s a douchebag. “It was just kind of a different way to get people to go read the reviews of my song. It would have been so douchey to say ‘Buy the single!’,” she told Monsters and Critics about her sass-packed new song “Giddy On Up.”
“And I don’t ever want to read the reviews and then have them influence my music. It just matters that it’s unsettling to some people. That’s a good sign.”
Bundy raged on about the reviews she swears she doesn’t want to read. “Some will say, ‘This ain’t country,’ and I want to say ‘Yes it is, plus it has a sense of humor,’” she said.
She went on to cite Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” and Dolly Parton’s “Why’d You Come In Here” as the kind of music she’s emulating. She says people just don’t know their country music history. Not that she’s defensive or anything.
And even though she’s signed to a major Nashville label (Mercury), Bundy’s not necessarily doing things the major-label way. Instead of starting with a single on country radio, they went straight to video.
Bundy’s background as a Tony-nominated Broadway star (she was the always-lovely Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, so most people would recognize her as the voice behind hits like “Omigod You Guys”) probably had something to do with that call.
And what a decision that was. Since it premiered exclusively on CMT in mid-January, her video has become the most-streamed video on CMT.com. And on YouTube, there were over 19,000 views in 4 days.
That doesn’t begin to include all the embeds and tags and Diggs and Facebook Likes the “Giddy On Up” video had. Bundy was going for a western but one with a dance breakdown, so it would be sexy, fun and full of action.
But she credits director Shane Drake with such quick edits you don’t ever want to turn away because you might miss something. Drake’s style was edgy enough for Panic at the Disco when they did "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," so he was edgy enough for Bundy.
And that’s all part of the Bundy package. That she’d choose a director like Drake over all the other Nashville directors who are in tight with the record labels. That she’d choose a visual medium over the audio medium to make her debut. And that she’d be influenced by old-school country more so than, say, Gretchen Wilson.
“My mom listened to old country, like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline. So so did I. But my dad was from Muscle Shoals, Alabama (home of FAME Studios), so all that soul music really influenced my style.
When I was 14 he took me down there and I got to hear that southern soul rock sound,” she remembered. “Otis Redding and James Brown and Aretha Franklin. They were the best. But then, you know, Shania Twain made country cool again, and then the Dixie Chicks brought that bluegrass feel back.”
All those bits and pieces come together in her songwriting. That’s where she said she tries to combine things like throwback melodies with very relevant and modern lyrics. Hence the bluegrassy banjo-based cadence with lyrical references to cell phones and a sexting innuendo. Bundy loves unlikely pairings like that, telling us “Like how Amy Winehouse will have topical crazy shit but with a Motown sound.”
So all that went into the making of Laura Bell Bundy? Maybe not every single one of those voices is in her debut single, but you can definitely hear a combination of Aretha and Loretta. Oh, and somewhere in there you may get a feel for Albert Einstein. Bundy has a bit of a crush on the late German physicist.
“He was a bit of a player,” she laughed. “But I just loved how he was pretty philosophical and spiritual for being a scientist. And on an intellectual level, he was awesome. He was a talented musician, a great violinist. He got bad grades in school. I feel like that sometimes. I mean, I didn’t really start learning until I stopped getting graded for things. Now I am allowing my personal fascinations to teach me.”
Laura Bell Bundy will be performing music from her upcoming country album Achin’ and Shakin’ on February 6 at New York’s City’s premiere gay nightclub Splash in Chelsea.