Hometown: Hampton, N.H., but graduating from Worcester’s College of the Holy Cross with a Bachelor’s in music in May.
Think of: A contemporary songwriter with an ear for poetic lyrics, a la Paul Simon.
What caught our eye: Dunbar was chosen as a recipient of the Holy Cross Summer Research Program in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts, a grant that will allow him to travel the country on a musical-research road trip to what he calls “the country’s music meccas.” This is the second time he has received the award, which is open to any Holy Cross student who applies, and was formerly known as the Mellon Grant; Dunbar’s previous grant funded an EP by his band, Black Agnes.
Light bulb moment: “I think there have been a series of light-bulb moments over the last few years,” Dunbar said. “It’s been really nice that doors seem to slowly be opening, in just the right time and in just the right places.” Dunbar was referencing the summer research program, and related how thankful he is for the opportunity, having come to Holy Cross “not being able to read sheet music.”
Biggest thrill: “There have been several,” Dunbar started. “I got to be interviewed by one of my favorite New Hampshire NPR correspondents a month or two ago, Brady Carlson at “All Things Considered,” and that was really exciting. Beyond that, I think really what was great was finding out that I got this grant, because it told me the sort of powers that be recognized what was special about what I did last time.”
Inspired by: “I think I’m inspired, on this project at least, by the idea of travel itself. By the idea, specifically, that place matters,” Dunbar said. “One of the things I’m interested in by really going to these music meccas, the epicenters of American music history, is this idea that we’re going to be right in the thick of these musics that I’ve grown up listening to and on the surface know a lot about, but really don’t know a lot about, I think. So I’m excited and inspired by that idea — and I hope I’ll be inspired, I’m sure I’ll be inspired, to turn that into lyrics.”
Aspires to: “Short-term, I want to share this experience with as many people as I possibly can,” Dunbar said. “I want to actually dedicate myself to this craft that I’ve been slowly getting a little better at over these four years. I want to think about songwriting not just for myself, but I’m very open to the idea of writing for other people. That’s just as exciting for me, so we’ll see what happens.”
For good luck: Dunbar admits he doesn’t have a good luck ritual, but said “It’s kind of just keeping your eyes open and noticing the ironies about life. That’s what really inspires me and gives me something to turn into something to write down basically.”
What people should know: Those interested in keeping up with Dunbar’s travels, which are set to begin the week of May 24, with bandmate and guitarist Collin Garcia, can follow along on the duo’s Tumblr (below).
Coming soon: Dunbar plans to begin writing music when he returns from his trip. In the meantime, you can catch him in Memphis, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Chicago as he looks for inspiration.