Bonnie and the Clydes

Photo: Courtesy Bonnie and the Clydes

Photo: Courtesy Bonnie and the Clydes

A soulful country mix that taps into the hearts of fans

By Kyle Kirves

It’s a bright Saturday morning when Bonnie and Taylor Sims, the creative force behind Front Range favorites Bonnie and the Clydes, push through the Main Street entrance to Longmont’s La Vita Bella.

It’s not the time or day you’d expect to have a conversation over coffee with two of the busiest musicians in Colorado. Yet Bonnie, lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, is full of the same exuberance and enthusiasm she brings to live performances.

With a mix of verbal velocity and endearing confidence, she says, “I’m uncomfortable telling venues that we’re ‘great’ live. But I’m honest when I say we put on a crazy high-energy show, dynamically and consistently night after night.” And it’s true. Bonnie is a charged and charging performer, fronting a driven and driving band whose style of soulful country brings audiences to their feet, and sometimes to tears.

“We want people to tap into their emotions at our shows. Music gives us a place where it is completely socially acceptable to stand there and cry. Or jump up and down and scream. Whatever you want to feel, you get to do it to a soundtrack,” she says. “That’s what our shows are about. Sing along or feel along. They can join us in that space.”

Guitarist and collaborator Taylor credits the dedication of the entire band and their musical constitution for that reputation. “At the core we are all committed to the song,” he says. “We have a group of people who aren’t ego driven. They’re always asking how they can make the song better. How can they use their talents to showcase the song rather than the song to showcase their talents.”

Married in 2006, Bonnie and Taylor complement each other, in life and art. Both share a dedication to the craft of music: Bonnie has been onstage since childhood at the encouragement of her bluegrass-devoted father, career musician Mike Cruciger. And Taylor’s distinguished resume includes years of touring as a musician and leading award-winning band Spring Creek.

Since joining forces under the Bonnie and the Clydes banner, the creative output amounts to more than the sum of the parts. Bonnie and Taylor co-write songs for the band but each tune evolves in its own unique way. Sometimes they write independently and sometimes together, but they are each other’s first audience for the song from inception through to presentation to the band.

Each brings a special and complementary skill set to that creative process. Taylor says Bonnie has a great ear for melody and framing, while Bonnie credits Taylor with applying chord theory, structure, and perspective to the songs. Bonnie will work here and there on songs in addition to her role as band promoter and manager, while Taylor writes nearly every day.

But that doesn’t mean songs come easy. Describing the process behind Taylor’s song “Mockingbird,” the two talk about spending more than a year ruminating before finally crafting a fully-baked song. “Taylor was thinking that the chorus was too simple. But it was actually sounding done and ready to go.”

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“Bonnie is the finisher,” Taylor says. “When she says it’s done, it’s done.”

That process paid off. The song, released by Spring Creek originally, took home Americana Song of the Year at the Independent Music Awards in 2011.

With Bonnie and the Clydes’ songs, the band weighs in on early efforts, too, especially pedal steel guitar player Glenn Taylor. “Glenn is a kind of music director for us and provides a lot of great insight,” Taylor says. Bonnie agrees, crediting Glenn with bringing a lot of ideas to songs in order to shape and mold them into a band song. She smiles saying “Glenn will say ‘I like your song, but I’m going to fix it.’”

Both also make sure to show a little love to the rhythm section. Of bassist Ben Berg Wilson and drummer Todd “Peeler” Moore, Bonnie says, “You can see and hear (the lead musicians), but the bass and drums is what you feel.” The last word hangs in the air like an “amen.”

It all comes together in a style of music they brand as “Rocky Mountain Country Soul.” It’s an original blend, equal parts vintage Texas country and classic rock and roll, a healthy dose of bluegrass, and more than just a little crowd-amping theatricality and visual spectacle.

Fans along the Front Range and beyond seek out their performances everywhere, and the duo mentions many venues by name as favorites. The Gold Hill Inn outside Boulder ranks high for the rustic atmosphere and the crowds that fill up the joint at holiday shows on Halloween and New Year’s Eve. “It’s electric. The floor disappears and the whole place just shakes,” Bonnie and Taylor agree.

Shakin’, though, is portable, it turns out – where Bonnie and the Clydes go, so goes the shakin’. With energy, authenticity, originality, and a sense of pride and purpose in being part of the Rocky Mountain music scene, Bonnie and the Clydes bring it with them every single night.

Bonnie & the Clydes are in post-production for two new videos for songs “Hold on Me” and “Came and Went,” with the aid of Scott McCormick and Merne Judson. Their fifth album of music -- recorded at Swing Fingers in Fort Collins -- will be releasing soon digitally and on a limited release vinyl pressing.

Kyle Kirves drinks beer, plays guitar, runs trails, and manages projects – all with varying degrees of success. While not a craftsman himself, he is quite content writing about the Colorado artisans who create such wonderful things and memorable experiences.