When band members are parting ways, they may wallow in regret or they may breathe a sigh of relief. What they tend not to do is go record a debut album.
"I really love playing with these guys and a record is one way to keep that pulse alive," says singer-songwriter and guitarist Pete Kartsounes of the Boulder-based Bluegrass Delta Force.
While Kartsounes' tastes cover the full soul, jazz, roots, and jam-band spectrum, he has a particular passion for bluegrass. In fact, he'd been writing songs in that genre for the past five years, even though he didn't have a band to play them with.
"It's just ironic that I'm finally a part of a really awesome string band and it was right about the same time I decided I was going to leave. Why couldn't it have happened two years ago?"
Kartsounes and his three string band chums — Chris Elliot (banjo), Sam Parks (mandolin), Andrew Bonnis (upright bass) — started out busking together on Boulder's Pearl Street pedestrian mall before moving on to professional gigs earlier this year. But even as the band began to click with its vibrant old-timey energy and keen musicianship, Kartsounes was already liquidating his belongings and preparing for a palate-cleansing move to Kauai.
"I've lived in the same house in Boulder for 12 years," he explains. "And I've written 250, 300 songs. Most of them were in the morning when I was still, or during a lot of rainy days."
Which is not to say Kartsounes is living a life of leisure. He's currently playing solo gigs six nights a week, taking on extra guitar students for bonus cash, and selling everything he owns: sofas, clothes, pool table and car. He'll be heading to the Kauai Valley, a place that over the past few years has stolen his heart the way Colorado once did. The singer-songwriter was introduced to his Hawaiian getaway by a friend he met at his first Dead concert, and she's since invited him to stay indefinitely.
"It's the most natural place in the world and, yeah, songs just come out left and right there," says Kartsounes, who also writes while hiking the Colorado Trail. "I go there to live without distraction. There are no phones, no electricity. People I hang out with there give me my own space, and I write and I share my songs with everybody and I usually come out with a backpack without food and full of songs."
Before moving to Colorado, Kartsounes was living in Flint, Mich., during its dismal depths. With John Denver's Rocky Mountain highs holding more promise than the decaying Motor City's dreams, he secured a weeknight gig in Pagosa Springs for $35 a night. He's been hustling music ever since and will continue to do so after his move west.
Meanwhile, the whole band is bringing songs to the table for an album they expect to release by year's end. And while Kartsounes will be well beyond driving distance, he's hoping to return frequently for tours.
"Once the pulse is there, there will be more demand for us and maybe we can keep it to more of a showcase and festival band," he says. "I'll go anywhere. I just want to play."