By Becky Jane Newbold
Free-falling down a 120 foot tall cliff, Trace Bundy’s life flashed before his eyes. “Eventually I stopped falling and took a breath of air. It was amazing to take a breath.”
“I remember seeing the color blue. Lying on my back, I wiggled my fingers and toes,” he told. Everything seemed to be working. The rocky ledge was half way down and his climbing partner was yelling frantically. What went wrong?
A seasoned rock climber, Trace had set out that morning, not with his usual, trusted partner, but with someone he did not know well. Just as Trace stepped off the cliff to rappel down after a full day of climbing, the rope was uncoupled from his partner’s belt.
“He felt horrible and kept trying to find ways to make it up to me,” Trace said. “I did not go rock climbing with him after that.”
It took three months before Trace climbed again and he returned to the same spot, this time with his trusted, experienced, rock-climbing friend.
“The ledge is inset into the rock. I had to take the tip of my foot and pull myself into the ledge. It was impossible for me to land there in a fall,” Trace explained. “God literally placed me on the ledge with only minor injuries.”
Since that day, Trace Bundy’s music breathes the enormity of that experience as he pours
passion into every harmonic strum. With 28 million views on YouTube, seeing is believing how the incident could fuel a fire that manifests itself in his innovative, percussive, harmonics, tapping, looping, two-hands-on-the-fretboard kind of playing.
“I want to live my life with excellence and passion every single day,” Trace said during an interview last month.
On stage at Music City Roots last May, the fan-dubbed “Acoustic Ninja” performance was a testament to his passion and unique gift. A long-practiced ability to separate his hands to play different parts adding odd beats with his hands and elbow, kept the audience in awe.
And it all started due to a bad voice.
“As kids, my brother and I saw a man selling an acoustic for $10. As a 10 year old, I remember thinking, ‘That’s a lot of money.’ But we went in ‘halvsies’ and bought the guitar,” he told.
Trace’s musical style evolved from his first tune. “Our grocery had a rack with guitar magazines. Since my older brother was into heavy metal, I first learned to play Metallica on the acoustic,” he said with a chuckle.
Finger picking patterns of Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and The Beatles influenced Trace but after writing a few songs, he was convinced he would never make it. “I thought I was cursed with a bad voice and could never pursue music as a career,” he said.
Rather than allowing his “bad voice” curse into silencing his music, he was motivated to pour his heart and talent fully into his guitar. Trace’s “curse” was blessing in disguise.
Trace worked harder at playing to avoid his vocals; getting out of the box. “I set goals for myself like, how many times can I move the capo during this song? What if I play the guitar like it was a piano? Or what if I add percussion with my elbow? I was always stretching my boundaries,” he explained.
After high school, Trace Bundy was at a crossroad. To chase the music dream perhaps to contend with a “bad voice,” or build on his other strength: Mathematics.
A few years later, after acquiring a master’s degree in civil engineering, he was approached by a professor. “We’ve seen your work and want you to teach a couple of classes,” the professor told him.
Trace began teaching at the university and it was at that point his music career began to take off. Playing on weekends, Trace told of the sometime awkward scene when the audience contained his students. From a civil engineering professional by day to a laid back musician on stage by night, Trace was all the buzz on campus.
“It became clear my music could be full time when I began turning down musical offers because I was teaching,” he said. I wanted to do the right thing, trusting God.”
“This happens with musicians. When someone decides to pursue music, they try to force the doors open rather than focus on creating good music then waiting for the doors to open,” Trace said.
“Don’t force it. Let it happen naturally, if its going to happen.” A maxim proven successful.
With no lyrics, Trace is not labeled a Christian artist, but is certainly a Christian. Playing in China recently, he was not shut down and prevented from performing because of a Christian “label,” he said. He told the audience, as he does often, of his rock climbing experience. “There were no interpreters, so its hard to know how many people understood.”
Son, Sawyer, and Trace’s wife, Becca, have traveled many miles on tour. “Before Sawyer was a year old he qualified as a ‘United Premier Executive,’” Trace laughed. With ten countries and over 10,000 miles under his belt, er diaper, Sawyer can hardly decide his favorite song.
“Its a tie,” Trace said, “between ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round’ and ‘Adventures in Sawyerland,’” written by Trace for his son (on his latest release “Elephant King” cd/dvd). “When I play the tune, Sawyer runs to a xylophone we have and plays along.”
Integration of music and faith is easy. “I give it to God so He can take it and use it for whatever.”
Music by Trace Bundy includes cds”Elephant King,” “Adapt” and “Missle Bell.” See www.tracebundy.com for performance schedule.