Published: June 14, 2013
race Bundy heads to the salon almost once a month to get his nails done. They put acrylic nails on his right fingers, and shorten and tidy up the left ones.
"They give me a hard time and ask what color I want," says the fingerpicking guitarist from his home in Boulder. "I think I'm one of the only people around who can do a tax write-off for getting my nails done for business purposes."
Bundy is known as the Acoustic Ninja because of his playing style and intricate fingerpicking skills. He plays at The Loft Music Venue on Friday.
Unlike a lot of guitar players, Bundy gave up using a guitar pick in high school.
"I realized I could use all five of my fingers," he says. "And to this day, I have long fingernails. It's like having a guitar pick on each finger - I have five guitar picks."
When he was 10, Bundy and his older brother each ponied up $5 to buy an old, used acoustic guitar that a friend was selling.
They bought a guitar magazine, and thanks to his brother's affection for heavy metal, the first song they learned was Metallica's "One." Bundy worked diligently at his musicianship, teaching himself songs out of magazines. And with each new song, he says, he'd learn a new trick. Through his teen years, he began to learn musical theory and then started to write his own material.
"I started thinking outside of the box, of how to break the rules of what you're supposed to do," he says, which gave birth to a two-finger harmonic slapping technique, the use of looping pedals and delay effects and harmonics. He loves to play with capos, devices that clamp down on the guitar strings and make the pitch higher. One of his signature pieces, he says, is "Hot Capo Stew." In it, he uses five capos to hold down strings, and at the song's end he rips them off, much to the audience's delight.
It was a YouTube video that first earned him some notoriety about 10 years ago. In it, he played a rendition of Pachelbel's Canon in D. He played the melody with his right hand and the bass line with his left.
At the same time Bundy was schooling himself on the guitar, he was diligently earning his undergraduate and masters degrees in civil engineering from the University of Colorado. The school offered him a job teaching two freshman engineering classes, and he did that for two years while also moonlighting as a touring musician.
"I'd fly out on a Friday or Saturday morning and play two or three concerts somewhere, and try to make it back by Monday morning to teach class."
The offers to play began to pile up during his teaching tenure and he had to turn many of them down. He eventually did the math and figured that pursuing music full-time would make him more money than teaching. He quit and proved himself right. He has released six CDs. "Elephant King" was the latest in 2012.
He still experiments with new playing techniques. At a sold-out concert in February at the Boulder Theater, he whipped out his iPhone and looped Bebot, a synthesizer you can play on the phone, PocketGuitar and Pocket Drums, and covered Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
Don't go to a Bundy show expecting a typical singer-songwriter.
"I feel like I've been cursed with a bad singing voice," he says, "but that curse ended up as a blessing in disguise. I put all my energy into playing."
On the website Examiner.com, reviewer Jeff McQuilkin wrote about a 2011 concert at the Soiled Dove in Denver: "Underneath all the tricks and surprises, it was apparent through every song that Bundy is simply a master of his instrument, and that fact alone commands both attention and respect. In short - when one guy alone onstage with two guitars can keep an audience riveted for an entire evening with no opening act, he has to have something on the ball."
"I didn't know where (music) would wind up taking me, but I did love it," Bundy says. "It's so fun because it's like problem solving, and I'm wired that way."
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: The Loft Music Venue, 2506 W. Colorado Ave., Suite C
Tickets: $15-$20; 445-9278, loftmusic venue.com