Gwen Bunn will be performing at The Apache Cafe
8 p.m. Dec. 27
64 Third St. N.W. Atlanta
$12 at the door. $10 in advance
Gwen Bunn is a mere wisp of a woman at 5’1” and 115 pounds, but her jazzy, soulful voice grabs, cajoles and oozes into every corner of a room when she’s performing.
From her musical space carved out of the attic in her DeKalb County home, singer, songwriter and producer Bunn creates lyrics and beats. She produced, along with THC, "Collard Greens," a hit single from hip hop artist Schoolboy Q, featuring Kendrick Lamar.
She’s considered one of the Atlanta musical talents to watch.
A year or so ago, she won a segment of the “Wild Out Wednesday” talent competition on BET’s 106 & Park. And on Friday she will perform at 8 p.m. at Atlanta’s Apache Cafe, where she plans to play a few songs from her second CD, “MelodyDungeon,” which she plans to release in 2014. She was also featured on saxaphonist Darryl Reeves’ CD “Mercury.”
Bunn’s new CD is aptly named after her label, “Melody Dungeon”, which blazes in neon lights above her head in her creative space.
Bunn, 21, who usually sports a massive ‘do,’ is trying to get in touch with James Watson, a former high school music and math teacher, whom she finally tracks down in Amsterdam. She wants to let him know that she’s starting to make moves in the very competitive music business. She credits him with pulling her head back in the boat when other distractions threatened her focus on school.
“Man,” said Bunn, who released “The Verdict” in 2009. “I’m been trying to get in touch with you. I’m doing this music.”
“He had so much energy,” she said, mimicking his accent.
“He was super amped. ‘This is the best news’, ” she said he told her. “It is so funny.”
Her parents divorced when she was three, but both had an influence, perhaps unknowningly, on her artistically.
“My mother (Jacqueline, a lawyer) was making up songs for me when I was little,” said Bunn, as she sits shoeless with mismatched socks, in the chilly Melody Dungeon unperturbed by the sounds of birds cooing from somewhere in the rafters. Some of the songs were just the staccato repetitions of sounds. Others, were like raps.
She also used to dig into the vast music collection of her father, novelist Curtis Bunn, which included artists such as Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye and Christopher Wallace, best known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls, Big Pun.
“I never really spoke about wanting to make music a career,” she said. “Dad was trying to train me up to be a (basket)baller and mom thought I was just failing on all levels because my grades were so bad, and that’s what it was for a while. So I kept my vision to myself until I was ready to show them what I could do.”
And don’t forget church.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said said, (Yeah is a word she uses a lot). “More than that. I’m embedded, for sure. You’ve got to understand that’s where I come from. I had a lot of opportunities in church doing programs for King’s Day…being in the choir. Yeah, for sure. The OG’s, the people who have been there for years, they know me. The new people may not know me because I’ve been out doing things.”
Bunn was feeling a bit under the weather but agreed to answer questions - a few in person - and some via email.
Tell us about the new project
It’s almost like telling my story as well as a love story…It’s about the music. If you’re not listening for the words, you’re going to feel it melodically. If you’re listening to the words, there are a couple of messages out there. It’s the most ambitious (project) to date.
How is it stretching you?
I’ve been sitting on it for a minute. I just wanted to make sure I had grown in all aspects of my artistry as far as a singer, producer and writer. I feel like, technically, my first project “The Verdict” was just me trying to get stuff off my chest. Everything I’ve done has been experimental. I had never made any of this stuff in my life. I have never really written a song before in my life, for real. Not a good one. Then one day it just sparked.
But it received critical acclaim.
Yeah. If I take my time with this next project it is going to change my life.
Some might describe your sound as neo-soul, a term that doesn’t sit well with a lot of artists. But what do you call it?
What was it like working with Kendrick Lamar?
Didn’t work with him on a personal level. But having him on a record I produced is tight.
Who do you want to work with?
The Neptunes. Fred Hammond. Kid Cudi. Snoop. Charlie Wilson.
What is about Gwen Bunn that most people don’t know?
My music will definitely fool you, because my personality is closer to a rapper. I don’t take things too seriously.
You admit to having some issues in high school. What were they are how did music pull you through?
I was a trouble maker since preschool…I just liked to act out, and talk , make noise, be creative. I had energy and I didn’t know where else to put it, I guess. But a lot of times the schools I attended had creative outlets, so that helped for sure.
Follow Gwen on Twitter @gwenbunn
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Credit: Mark McKay, Channel 2 Action News