If you go hear Pete Kartsounes at the Laughing Goat Thursday, you’ll get a taste of some overwhelmingly heartfelt music.
Kartsounes covers many genres — acoustic rock, folk, bluegrass, blues — but it all carries the same sentimentality. And though that’s always been the case, it was only relatively recent that he found another outlet for his empathy.
“I’ve been playing music for a living for 17 years, and after 13 years I was like, ‘What am I doing? It’s always me, me, me,’” Kartsounes said. “I’d see these people doing selfless things and I’d think, ‘I wanna be like that guy or that woman.’”
So in 2007, he and John Peláez founded Hike4Cancer, a Boulder-based nonprofit that helps support families of children with cancer. Every year, Kartsounes and Hike4Cancer supporters make the 500-mile trek on the Colorado Trail between Denver and Durango. This year, however, the hike will be divided into smaller segments to encourage more participation — and to allow Kartsounes keep up with his music career.
“I’d be [hiking and] thinking, ‘There are shows I could be playing right on the other side of those mountains,’” Kartsounes said. “It’s a work in progress but I’ve learned to not be so attached to, ‘Let’s raise tons of money.’ It’s about building a community. Doing something selfless is beautiful.”
As selfless as it is, Kartsounes has found the trips inspirational when he writes his music. Sometime in 2012, he’s hoping to release an album, Songs From the Trail.
“I’ve written 25 songs on the trail over four years of Hike4Cancer,” he said. “Those songs came from nature, from being in nature. Those songs mean a lot to me”
He’s found a lot of songwriting fuel in a the totally different, but equally remote Kalalau Valley of Hawaii, where he spends a few months every year writing and playing. After some time in a modernized region of the island, Kartsounes then hikes to the valley where the water comes from fresh springs and the people grow their own food.
“I’m getting ready to bail to Hawaii and hide from life for a while,” he said. “Every winter I spend time in Hawaii just to get away from coldness. [Kalalau Valley] is the most magical place on the most magical island in the world. For me it’s Utopia. It’s bliss.”
Before you go thinking Kartsounes is just another bleeding-heart singer/songwriter, give his music a listen and you’ll definitely hear talent. In 2009 and 2011, he was a finalist in the Telluride Troubadore Contest, and just recently he was on the road with Greensky Bluegrass guitarist Dave Bruzza.
Kartsounes is playing around the area for a little while before he disappears to Hawaii, including Thursday’s show and a performance at the Fox Theatre in January. He’s excited to play the Fox, but the Laughing Goat offers him something different to look forward to.
“Boulder’s been lacking a listening room, and Laughing Goat’s a listening room,” he said. “And as a singer/songwriter, that’s what I love the most. I can put on an intimate show.”
Catch him at the Goat tonight, Jan. 7 at the Fox, or any of the Colorado dates in between before he disappears to Hawaii.
What: Pete Kartsounes
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse, 1709 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-440-4628