When an artist takes five years between albums, you might assume they’ve been taking it easy, charging their batteries before heading back into the spotlight. That might be true for anyone but Laura Bell Bundy. For her, “time off” just isn’t a thing.
Bundy’s boundless energy has seen her darting between songwriting, touring, Tony-nominated stints on Broadway and starring roles on various TV shows. Talking to her is like chatting to a double-shot latte – even down the phone, at the end of a packed week for the blonde Kentucky native. At different points in our conversation, she references Lucille Ball and breaks into song. Just a few days earlier, she launched her new album “Another Piece of Me” at a late night show at a Nashville gay bar.
“There’s something about being at that kind of club that you can just throw caution to the wind,” she says. “It was really really fun. I’ve had so much support from the gay community, so it was a perfect place to do an album release. I called it the ‘Laura Bell Bundy’s album is coming out party’.”
That inclusive spirit positions her slightly out of the mainstream country box, even as she releases her most country record to date. “Another Piece of Me” comes almost exactly five years after her country debut “Achin and Shakin”, a mix of a danceable, high energy tracks and soulful, heartfelt songs (the “Shakin” and “Achin” sides respectively).
While it looked to the outside world like Bundy had shifted her focus entirely to her acting career, she had quietly been working away at new material, continuing to write with Nashville A-listers and cut demos.
“I knew it was time to be making another record as soon I finished the last one. It was just a matter of when would be a good time to release it. I woke up every day and I just wrote. I would write on my own or I would do writing sessions or demo sessions or whatever.”
After wrapping up runs on hit TV shows “Anger Management” and “Hart of Dixie”, Laura set about sorting through the dozens of songs she’d written, trying to find a theme for the record that would help her cull down the list.
“I think having the song “Another Piece of Me”, which I wrote with Kristian Bush, helped a lot. I really loved that song and thought: ‘this is the theme of the record. The many pieces of me and my journey’.
It’s the story of where I’ve been over the past five years, but I really do think that the themes in the record are still relevant to my experience now.”
While she has received much acclaim for her work performing other people’s words and inhabiting other characters, Bundy works hard to make her music “honest, authentic and truthful”. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the song “China and Wine”.
“It’s the most personal song on the album. Probably the most honest I could get about my experience being a child of a broken home. The idea in the song is that I’m imagining what it was like when my parents were happy. They’d made an agreement that they would be together forever and the process of me dealing with their separation at fourteen years old and not understanding why this was happening, and now to get to the point where you’re an adult and you can look back and have a lot more clarity and understand what it’s like to be in a relationship that doesn’t work. I have a lot of forgiveness and gratefulness that they decided to be honest with each other and be healthy about it rather than destroy each other.”
Writing the song has made the self-confessed “commitment-phobe” come to terms with her own ideas about love and marriage.
“I can still say at the end of the day that I’m hopeful about the possibilities of my own marriage, if I have one one of these days. And that’s been a process for me. The song ends and there’s a good feeling, not a bad feeling. ‘China and wine/everything is fine’. We’re delicate and over time, we become richer and more full bodied. When I played it for my dad, he was pretty emotional.”
Honesty cuts both ways. For Bundy, authenticity isn’t just about confessional ballads, but cheeky romantic numbers like “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “She Only Wants to Dance”. After all, this is a woman who recently made an effort to celebrate National Bourbon Day, despite being stuck in an airport.
“I was in the Nashville airport on the way back to Los Angeles. And I didn’t really want to drink because it’d been a crazy weekend, but I had to do it because it’s National Bourbon Day!”
Aussies got a taste of Laura up close when she performed here for the first time back in March, as part of the massive CMC Rocks QLD festival. As well as co-hosting the TV coverage of the festival with local star Morgan Evans, Laura played the main stage – and was knocked out by the audience response.
”I was really genuinely surprised that there were people in the audience who were singing my songs back to me, even ones that hadn’t been released in Australia. I saw this girl on her boyfriend’s shoulders in the crowd. She was singing all of these songs, and I was like ‘How did she get these songs? YouTube? Facebook?’
I really enjoyed talking to everybody after the show and doing the signing. My one regret was not making my trip longer so I could spend more time in Australia.”
With “Another Piece of Me” out and Laura’s focus back on her musical career, hopefully we can look forward to seeing her in Oz again soon. Fingers crossed it won’t be another five years before country album number three.