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The Many Talents of Ted Nunes

Mar 23, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

The Songwriter

April 2017
Story by Jordan Venema
Photo courtesy of Victor Trejo

Most musicians start young. They usually grow up around music, and maybe had parents who could play multiple instruments, or perhaps they could hold a guitar before they learned to walk. Most musicians start young, but then not everybody marches to the same beat.

Visalia native Ted Nunes, 40, began playing music later in life, but he’s made up for lost time. According to the prolific singer-songwriter and front man for local band Richfield, the trick is to write music daily.

“I started playing music at 18, and have been writing ever since I got a guitar,” he explains. “And I wasn’t trying to write the perfect song every time. If you write a song every day, then out of a month you’ll have a couple good ones. Just keep writing and writing and writing.”

It wasn’t that Nunes didn’t like music; he just had other areas of interest growing up. “At the time, I was playing sports and I was athletic, so that was the focus,” he says. “It’s funny because when I look back on it, there were telltale signs that I was interested in music too, from being 6 years old and putting on concerts in the bedroom with my brothers and sisters (I was Peter Criss playing the drums). And I have memories of putting on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and listening to it over and over and over again, nonstop for probably five hours.”

There were other signs that suggested Nunes would branch out beyond sports. “I started writing poetry in high school,” he says, and he had close friends who also played music. “I had just never thought about learning the guitar.” 

Nunes began listening to The Grateful Dead, which led to musicians like Jimmy Hendrix and the Allman Brothers, but it was “through the Grateful Dead that I discovered all the singer-songwriters like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan,” he says. It wasn’t until he first experienced live music that things began to click for Nunes, when he realized, “Oh, I get it now. The local musicians are the musicians of tomorrow.” 

From that moment, says Nunes, “it just kind of made sense to start writing songs.” The love of music and writing poetry culminated with his first guitar, and by his 21st year, Nunes was writing songs almost daily. He played his first concert “backing up a buddy at the old Jail House” – now Jack and Charlie’s – “mostly playing old cover songs.”

Nunes may have started playing covers – and he still does, though it “goes in waves” – but he’s added a repertoire of original songs. In fact, he laughs, “now I’ve got so many songs that I’ll play for a couple hours, originals and covers, that over the years I’ve probably forgotten more songs than I can play live. It’s an occupational hazard, I guess.”

While he continues to write and play music, Nunes also recently turned to another artistic outlet: acting. 

“I’ve actually started doing theater. I’m currently playing Will Rogers in ‘Will Rogers Follies’ with the Good Company Players,” says Nunes. “I was at a point, March of last year, that I was writing and I wanted a little bit of a break, a mental shift, and I thought maybe it’s a good time to try some theater.

“So I’ve made the connection between music and theater,” he continues. “I always loved acting and art, and I always watch people when they act, and I’m always dissecting and analyzing it. So getting up there now on stage doesn’t feel awkward.” 

In fact, Nunes was surprised to find similarities between acting and performing music.  “Like when playing a solo,” says Nunes, “you have to disconnect a little bit. You have to mentally go into space and feel the pulse of what’s happening. When you’re on stage with other actors, you do the exact same thing.”

After his performance as Will Rogers, Nunes will perform in “Stage Door,” which opens April 27 at Fresno’s 2nd Space Theatre. Nunes describes it as “a really cool show set in the 1930s about aspiring young actresses living in a boarding house. I play one of the producers who comes in and either saves or puts a wrench in everybody’s plans.”

Though Nunes has been getting his kicks on stage as an actor, he admits he’s getting the itch to start writing again. “I actually recorded about 12 songs with the band before I started doing theater. I haven’t released it yet, and I’ve just been sitting on it,” he says, though he’s considering putting something together.

If you don’t catch Nunes on stage, you can still find him behind his guitar every Wednesday and Sunday night from 9 to 11 pm at Goldstein’s in Fresno’s Power District.

“It’s become like a regular gig for me, even though I’ve taken a little bit of a break,” he says.

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