Laura Bell Bundy: Making Her Place

Laura Bell Bundy, the Tony and Drama Desk nominated actress of Legally Blonde, celebrates the release of her debut country album entitled "Longing for a Place Already Gone" with concerts at the legendary Birdland on Mondays July 23 & 30 and August 20 at 7PM.

BroadwayWorld.com's own Eugene Lovendusky, based in San Francisco, had the opportunity to chat with Bundy between shows this Saturday, to discuss her original music, her new record label (The Lab) and to recount some of her Broadway experience…

Eugene Lovendusky: Thanks for taking a moment out of your busy Saturday schedule to chat with BroadwayWorld.com and congratulations on your debut album! You'll be at Birdland Monday night celebrating your CD release.  What can the concert audiences expect to hear?

Laura Bell Bundy: They can expect to hear country music! [laughs] It's my first time ever performing my music live, so it's going to be a virginal experience for me as well as for everybody there.  It's going to be really fun.  There's tunes for fun and crazy and rocky and it's probably not what Charlie Parker intended for Birdland! [laughs] It's probably a little crazier and wilder in terms of the country edge. And there's some sort of really sad, sweet ballads.  I'm hoping that people will be entertained and feel moved at some point and think that they want to go hang out in the South for a while.  [southern accent] It's "southern" without the prejudice, lemme tell you! I'm an open-minded southern girl.

Eugene: [laughs] I know you are! Your childhood music inspirations included country singers like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash… how do you tribute these legends in "Longing For A Place Already Gone"?

Laura Bell: Even in the title itself; it's longing for music already gone or longing for a place in my past already gone or memories.  The album is very much a "throw-back," influenced by Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.  Every decade from the 1940s and up is somehow represented on the album.  "Just Me" is Merle Haggard, deep south.  "I'll Make The Money" is essentially a really rockabilly tune, which is very Elvis.  All the songs are original tunes.  I wrote or co-wrote most of them. A few my producer wrote; and the ones he wrote were from almost 25 years ago! It was what was appealing to me, the old stuff. "Dancing With Myself," which is the Billy Idol tune, is the only song I covered on the album.

Eugene: I was just going to ask about him (your co-producer), Larson Paine.  How did he come into the picture?

Laura Bell: I actually met Larson on Larchmont in Los Angeles. He was eating and he stopped me because I was massaging my larynx.  I was doing a show and trying to loosen up my throat.  He had sort of this southern vibe about eating alone and talking to people. And it was funny because I had just having eaten with Larry O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin.  I had just eaten Greek with them and we were talking about Legally Blonde… but it wasn't official, this was before I did the workshop.  Then I walk out onto the street and that's where I met Larson.  I ended up sitting down and talking with him… and he came to see the show I was doing and he said: "Oh my god! I want to write for you!" Then we started writing together and we totally hit it off. We had the same sense… I said: "I don't want to do commercial country.  I don't want to do that pop country.  I want to do more of a throw-back because that's what I like to write and that's what I feel connected to."  If it happens to get on the radio? Great. But I'm not going play to making it a hit.  If it is, it is. I just want the songs to be appealing and fun and heart-wrenching. 

Eugene: That's so faithful.

Laura Bell: If I'm going do this, I'm going to do it right and I want it to be a representation of me.  And the next album I do is going to be different because I'm going to change.  I already did that thing where I had a band – and I had a great time with a band – but it was almost like pandering to get a record label deal.  This way, if I did the album myself, and I produced it myself with my own label, it was going to be done the way I wanted to do it.  If people like it or don't like it, it doesn't matter; I got something that means something to me.  I feel like that's a way people can change the way music is – to be guided by someone they believe in and trust.  Larson and I really believed in each other.  It was like brother/sister, father/daughter, we were laughing and yelling, that's how it is when you make an album! Essentially the trust was there and I got something great.

Eugene: You say this music means a lot to you... what side of Laura Bell is revealed on the album?

Laura Bell: There's lots of sides.  The CD doesn't really create a mood.  It creates more of a journey.  It starts out with a simple bluegrass tune, sort of melancholy and sad, like "Lovin' and Lyin'," then it's sexy and there's some funny songs in there where I'm talking, like "Designated Drunk."  There's a humor side, a sexy side, but there's also a pretty sad side, the country side.  It's the backwards side of me!

Eugene: It sounds like it's going to be quite a treat and congratulations on putting it all together! Switching gears to your Broadway career, I watched an old video of you from the Broadway Beat archives, where you're discussing your role in Ruthless!  You had such poise at a young age.  Where did you get that "show business etiquette"?

Laura Bell: Oh my god! [laughs] I guess it's more from the people around me.  It's freaky to watch those videos…  I recently saw something…You know, it was on your website! And I was like: "I am a freaky 35 year-old woman stuck in a 10 year-old body!" It was really, really trippy.  One thing I can say is that as I've gotten older, I've gotten younger.  I've grown up but I've kind of immatured (but matured!) but I've allowed myself to be a kid.  When I was a kid, I was so much of a professional and carried myself that way.  It was crazy.

Eugene: It was funny.

Laura Bell: It's hilarious! [laughs]

Eugene: [laughs] Tell me what its like to create an original role, like Amber (Hairspray) and Elle (Legally Blonde)…

Laura Bell: For me, it's the best part.  Being a creative person.  It's so much more rewarding when you find things on your own, to live whatever the writers are writing or to display what the director is looking for.  You are the thing that everybody uses to get the story out.  There's a responsibility to the story, but there's also the sense of fun you have. When everybody else leaves, you get to continue to create. For me, there's no other way! I really like creating from the ground up.

Eugene: On that subject, you were the original understudy for the role of Glinda in Wicked. Would you ever like to ride the bubble again?

Laura Bell: Sure! Sure! I think I would rather want to create something new, but I really did enjoy doing that show.  It was a really fun show to do.

Eugene: You kept some very fine company in the 2007 Best Actress in a Musical category.  What zipped through your mind when the Tony nominations were read?

Laura Bell: I literally was like, Oh my god… Oh my god… "Oh my god, oh my god you guys!" Really I swear I was shocked and excited and that little 10 year-old in me went crazy. I was jumping around my house screaming. I was really surprised because it was such a big year for women on Broadway and I thought for sure: "Oh, maybe another time I'll get my chance."  But it's amazing the work that I did was actually acknowledged in that way.  I think, ultimately you know in your heart how much work you've done.  You know what you're doing, if you're being honest on stage or not.  That's all you being you.  But when you acknowledges it – especially with a Tony Award nomination – you just can't help with the guilty pleasure!

Eugene: I hope you get the pleasure again.  Describe one of your most unforgettable on-stage moments.

Laura Bell: When I lost my shoe in San Francisco during "So Much Better!" [laughs] I kicked my leg up and my shoe flew out into the audience.  And I was like: "Well, I got one shoe on!" So I took off the other shoe, threw it off-stage, and I finished the number in bare feet.  It was hair-raising, it was so much fun.  Oh! And when I lost my wig during "The Bend and Snap."  I had to put it back on: "So much for being legally blonde, I'm legally bald!" Orfeh was trying to help – it was so funny – Leslie Kritzer looked at me like she had seen the Ghost of Elle Woods.  We couldn't speak! Each time I had to bend and snap, I had to hold my hair.  I always tend to remember the funny moments.  When I lost my shoe (even though it was funny) there was something motivating about it, I just ended in this spastic emotional way.  I tend to remember the more extreme moments.

Eugene: It's been a great asset for your success today, but was there ever a time you wished you weren't blonde? Were you bullied or were you ever a victim of "blonde abuse"?

Laura Bell: I don't think I was bullied.  If I was bullied, I fought back or turned the other cheek.  I have been put in a box, I guess: "Oh you're blonde, you can't play brunette."  And I'm always like: "You know what? I'm going to prove you wrong, I'm going to make my hair brown."  And there's been occasions where I've gone brown and got parts! I'm not above doing that! I hope after this, I can get a role where it won't be: "Oh, you can't play any role other than a blonde."  I'm proud of being a blonde. I'd be proud of being a brunette or a red-head.  I don't think it matters.

Eugene: How much longer are you strutting your stuff at the Palace Theatre?

Laura Bell: I'm here through February.  [southern accent] I gotta file, thank you.

Eugene: Well congratulations on your album and your musical endeavors and your concert coming up. Have yourself a great summer!

Laura Bell Bundy makes her Birdland debut celebrating the release of her debut country album entitled "Longing for a Place Already Gone" on Mondays July 23 & 30 and August 20.  There is a $25 cover/$10 food/drink minimum.  The concert series at Birdland (315 West 44th Street, NYC) is presented by Jim Caruso's Cast Party and TheaterMania.com.  For reservations call Birdland at 212-581-3080 or BirdlandJazz.com.  For more information on Bundy, visit LauraBellBundy.com.

Photos: "Longing for a Place Already Gone" (courtesy LauraBellBundy.com); Laura Bell Bundy (2007) by Walter McBride; Laura Bell Bundy as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2007) by Joan Marcus; Laura Bell Bundy at BroadwayWorld.com's On Ice Holiday Concert (2006) by Walter McBride

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Eugene Lovendusky Eugene Lovendusky graduated summa cum laude from SFSU with a BA in Writing for Electronic Media and a minor in Drama. Raised in the SF (read more...)

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