By Kate Willis
Kate, Colin and Roger chatted to Kyle Park and his wife Brandi ahead of his only UK gig at The Islington on 31st October.Kyle was here with his wife before heading to Italy with his wife’s family to visit their family winery.
CL: Is this the first time to play the UK?
KP: Yes, Ma’am. First time being here. I’ve played in Europe before, in Germany, Switzerland at The Casino, in Base and France at Disneyland Paris and at a festival.
I’ve been to Munich and we played in a place called Four Corners, owned by an American named Bill …something. He owns the place and was really inviting to us Texans. I think he was from Chicago originally and married a German woman. So yes, this is our first time in the UK.
CL: Have you managed some sightseeing?
KP: Yes. We’ve been here since Tuesday. We’ve seen the top five or ten things you are supposed to see; Big Ben, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London. We’ve had some good food. We saw St Paul’s cathedral.
BP: I wanted to see the cool stuff.
KP: We stayed at Trafalgar Square.
BP: We stayed there, right on the river by the London Eye.
KP: We had all of the sights outside our window. Next time we will go see all the quirky stuff
CL: According to my research you started playing guitar at fourteen?
KP: Yes, Ma’am
CL: Who were your heroes at that time?
KP: It was all the guys on the radio in the 90s, like Clint Black, George Strait and Garth Brooks, more Clint Black and George Strait than anyone. I was also a big Chris LeDoux fan.
CL: Mark Chesnutt?
KP: Yep and Tracy Lawrence. All those guys are my favorites. Tracy Bird. Yeah. Oh, I love those guys. They were killing it in the 90’s. Not to answer a question that you haven’t asked but I often get asked ‘What am I listening to now?’ I usually find myself going back more than I find myself going forwards. Merle Haggard had thirty or forty albums out there there will be one that I haven’t heard yet – always. George Jones the same, Buck Owens the same. All those guys. I’ve heard all the George Strait, I’ve heard all of the Clint Black. From Merle I go to Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.
CL: That’s one of the positives of streaming you get music or artists suggested to you that you may not know. The negative side of it is that not enough money is paid to the artists or songwriters.
KP: The truth is….
CL: It’s a double sided coin, isn’t it?
KP: Only for musicians! Take Blockbuster Video or Uber, Uber, for example, the truth is, especially in America, Uber is so much easier, it is a better system than a taxi is. It only sucks for taxi drivers. Everybody else thinks it’s great. Blockbuster Video and Netflix. Netflix is better and only sucks for Blockbuster. So streaming music only sucks for the musician and the songwriter, especially the songwriter. The real fans will come see you play live. That’s the key, because I think that maybe twenty or so years ago it was different. You would tour to promote your record and now it’s the opposite. You have to make a record to promote your tour. You can’t do it the other way.
CL: That’s why we’re seeing so many artists now which is fantastic. We can now go to a country or Americana gig every week sometimes a gig every day. We could have gone to four gigs tonight, all American artists.
KP: You picked the right one, by the way! I’m just happy to go to Europe and have the fans understand what I’m saying. That’s what I am excited about, France is going to be tough though.
CL: Do you know any French?
KP: Just the kissin’.
CL: I read that you were played on the radio at around seventeen?
KP: Yes, ma’am. I think actually earlier than that. I had an EP hmmm, maybe I was seventeen, I was still in high school. Yeah. I made a five song disc and my uncle gave it to a radio DJ he saw in a restaurant one day. Two weeks later he called up the radio station and said ‘Hey, did you play you that CD I gave you?” The DJ said, ‘No. I forgot, I’ll play it right now’ He played a random song. He liked it and his listeners liked it. I was asleep in my bed one morning and I’m radio. And that was, I mean, that was possibly the beginning of me being really being excited about being a musician. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I thought I could do this for the rest of my life. Before that I thought I can attempt this rather than it being a dream.
CL: When and why did you make the decision to actually produce your own music rather use a producer?
KP: It was the third record I made. It was called ‘Make or Break Me’. The first two albums I made my manager produced it. My manager has been here several times. He played for us. He played piano for Asleep at the Wheel for over ten years. John Michael.
CL: I’ve seen Ray Benson and Asleep At The Wheel play a few times. He was a key note speaker at The Americana UK conference in January this year then played a set. They also played at The Long Road Festival in September. I love Western Swing.
KP: I’m a huge Ray Benson fan, a huge Asleep At The Wheel fan. I love Western Swing. John Micheal hasn’t been in that band for about ten years or so but he was in the band from I think twenty one to thirty three years old playing boogie woogie, left hand piano.
CL: So If I want to interview Ray I talk to John Micheal?
KP: Yes, he will tell you all the dirt! Ha Ha He knows that stuff that Ray won’t tell you.John Michael plays for George Strait now and has for the past ten years or so. He’s been managing me for about fifteen now. I found him just because he was entrepreneurial at twenty four. I was seventeen and didn’t know anybody. We became best friends and grew up together. He produced my first two records then I produced my third. I made that record in sections. I had two E.Ps. A four song and a five song E.P. I came out to preface the album and had six more songs to add to the previous ten and so had a sixteen song album in stages. That gave me the power and courage to try it again. This time I produced more than four songs at a time. It was easier to digest four or five songs at a time as a first time producer, but it was to try to tackle twelve songs. But now it’s different, I enjoy it, it’s just a different challenge
CL: Are you now at the point where you have tens of songs to choose from to put on an album?
KP: These days it’s ‘what one song do I want to record’. It’s true. The last record I did ‘bass ’ackwards’. Instead of releasing a record and then releasing song, after song etc I
I recorded three songs at a time. I pick my strongest one, release it to radio and put it on the streaming services. Then do it again and again. So far I’ve had three songs come out and I’ve got nine songs finished. The fourth time I do it I’ve got an album to put together. Or I have the one song plus the other seven or eight that I didn’t want to record.
It’s a kind of backwards mentality. But again, I hear people saying that they’re never going to make an album again. We’ll just do single, single, single. That’s a pop mentality I do not think that it is country music mentality.
CL: That’s more the younger generation. They don’t have the memory of playing an LP and waiting until the end.
BP: They get bored after a couple of songs and fast forward.
KP: A big part of me believes that I’ll never do that because I believe that as a writer, every album is like a chapter in my life musically and that’s what I like. But then again, I also think as a business man. My album ‘The Blue Room’ sessions, my fifth album of six was not perceived the way I wanted it to be. It was too rock and roll and too edgy for my fans. I said ‘Man, if I knew they felt that way I wouldn’t have recorded fourteen damn songs’. I could have recorded one or two, seen the reaction then recorded them in a different fashion and made them more country.
CL: A lot of artists now put out EPs first and see the reaction.
KP: It’s not because you’re broke or you do not have enough songs. It’s because you are testing the water.
KP: A lot of the commercial artists bring out an E.P then follow it up with an album with the same five songs on and if you’re a UK customer you may get a special deluxe UK album with one extra song on. If you’re a big fan you may easily buy the same songs three times as well as streaming it.
CL: There are some interesting marketing ideas about at the moment. The last Shane Smith album was basically four EPs. Or Cody’s recently released album could easily have been a double album. But, although they were sold separately if you bought them both the total price was the same a normal priced album so it wasn’t and out and out marketing ploy.
KP: In 2010 when I did the EP idea, I’m not going to lie I knew exactly I’d be making double sales and I was excited about that. If they buy the first one and then they buy the record, they buy it twice. But that wasn’t why I did it. The reason why I did it was simply that instead of bringing out an album every year or two, if I put out four or five songs every six months it is triple the exposure, triple the advertising, triple the interviews. Now, the problem with this is that it is triple the interviews, triple the advertising, triple the media! Ha! There is a lot of work involved. But you know what? It’s not a problem it’s something that I am doing.
CL: That leads me on to our next question are you recording new songs? Are you working on your next album?
KP: Always. I’ve recorded three songs recently. One of them is about how we met; ‘Every Day Kind of Love’. The video is our actual wedding.
CL: It’s a lovely video.
KP: Thank you. The video is of where we met ten years ago. I’ve done three songs, that was one. Another song I wrote for her (Brandi) and the third I wrote three years ago with Terry McBride (McBride and The Ride). He’s a great writer. I know that they will all be on the record but I have only chosen one right now. I’m in the studio soon making another batch of three songs to pick a single and do it all again.
CL: What’s your preference? Being in the studio recording or being out on the road?
KP: That’s not a fair question! They are both so different and they are both so great. I love the road. I love everything about performing but I hate being gone so much, especially being married now and hoping to start a family soon. That’s the tougher part. Re the studio, I’m not that good at playing the guitar in the studio. I think I’m a good guitar player, but I’m not like David Grissom good. He’s a really incredible guitar player. And singing? Whilst I enjoy singing, its work. Producing, I really, really enjoy it. I’m more nervous producing than I am performing. With performing, I know what I am going to do but producing I’m like ‘I hope I’m not wasting my time or wasting money. There’s always the what ifs. There are those performing, but I’m over those, if you don’t like me, I think, well there is a show tomorrow. You know, it’s going to be fine. I don’t let any bad reviews get me down. A good review doesn’t pick me up that much either.
CL: I think that’s the hardest thing about being a musician. You’ve wanted to play, sing, write music your whole life and not wanted to be anything else. You’ve got to kill yourself to get successful and be out on the road singing and selling your music. Then when you’re successful you’re out on the road promoting, media playing shows etc but further afield away from you families.
KP: It is. I mean, it’s just art, music is art. If you’re an artist you are trying to promote your opinion. So, I think of the music as a literal art. There is great art out there by artists that are not famous. Sometimes it’s not all about the talent it’s being in right in the right place at the right time. It’s the right songs at the right time, it’s the right piece of art at the right time. Do you guys know Jason Allen? If it was about being talented he’d be the most famous person I know because Jason is so very talented. He can play guitar and he can rip it, he sings and he writes. He just wasn’t in the right place at the right time somewhere down the road. There are guys out there that aren’t as talented as Jason Allen but are way more successful than I am and you can only be jealous or envious or congratulatory. They are your only options.
CL: You’ve got to go onstage soon so a couple more questions. What’s your proudest achievement so far?
BP: Brownie points, come on? Laughter…
CL: Your career not your life. You call it ‘Brownie points’ as well?
KP: Brandi points… ha ha..
CL: I thought that the saying ‘Brownie Points’ was an English saying.
KP: We have that too. It means you have done something good.
CL: Yes, but where does the saying come from? Historically in the UK it meant that you got a badge on your sleeve for doing good deeds. From the junior Girl Guides who are called Brownies. (Apparently in 1900s it became universally known as doing a good deed)
CL: So, the proudest moment of your career?
KP: I mean I can name several. First of all being able to come to Europe and perform is a milestone, it’s a marker of what I am able to do. I’ve opened up for George Strait directly, he’s one of my heroes. It was just me and him. It wasn’t fifty people playing on stage. Just me and him. It was his drum set, my drum set. His name, my name in front of six thousand people. It wasn’t that big of a crowd for him. That was really cool. That was special.
CL: You used to play with his band didn’t you?
KP: Yeah, I did that when I was younger. Again, that was being in the right place at the right time. It was an opportunity. It wasn’t because I was all that. Producing my first record, that was huge for me. Just giving me the courage to do that. All of these things are flashing by me so it’s really hard to choose. At this moment it is about singing a song that I wrote that really reminds me of my Dad who passed away when I was a kid. That’s big for me. Writing a song about my life, that’s pretty amazing. When I was seventeen years old and writing songs I didn’t think about writing songs for my wife. I just writing a songs for people. I wasn’t writing about me. I’ve got dozens of love songs and hardly any of them are about me. They’re just about like, if I were the character in the song, how would I feel? That’s just that’s being a writer. I’m not that much of a poet, am I? Yeah. I heard someone say there are there are poets and there are constructors and I know I fall in the constructors side of the category. I mean, there are times where songs fall out and I get lucky, but usually it’s me having an idea and really working on it and working it out from the top to the bottom.
CL: You don’t have a dream, then wake up and play it?
KP: No, I’m not Willie Nelson or Kris Kristofferson. I’m not those guys. Those guys are really good. And I’m not I’m….. Brandi does disagree sometimes but I believe that there is much said about God given talent. But there’s also a lot more to say about hard work. The most talented people still work really hard at that. The most talented musician I know is still putting in tens of thousands of hours of practice. Yeah, he’s a prodigy and God gave that to him before he even picked it up. But at the same time, to be that good, you can’t just, you know it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m not a Joe Bonamassa on guitar, but I can play guitar better than the guy that played at college.
CL: There is a saying ‘The harder you work, the luckier you get’
KP: That’s right. I really believe that. You have to work your ass off. When I was sixteen I heard ‘that guy is a better singer than me’, ‘that guy is a better writer then me’ and ‘that guy is a better guitar player than me’. I cannot be that guy. I do not have the God given talent. But, nobody can tell me how hard I can work. I can work as hard as anybody and you cannot take that from me.
CL: It seems to come from your father. I don’t think you forgot where you came from. His passing may have instilled that hard work ethic in you. So he’s obviously a very, very big influence.
KP: It’s shaped me for sure. I mean, just not only did he shape me, but losing him shaped me as well. It forced me to grow up faster. And you know what? If he’d lived would I have been by myself in my room playing guitar for fifty five minutes of every hour when I was a kid? Or would I have been out fishing with my Dad or fixing a car? With my Dad learning to drive? But instead my mom was a single parent, she was trying to make ends meet for two boys. Once my brother had his driving license he was gone. So I was at home at fourteen and fifteen and that’s all I did – play guitar for every hour. I can remember playing for 55 minutes, then saying I cannot stand this damn guitar. Then five minutes later I’d pick it back up and start again.
CL: Well I think it’s time we left you to prepare. Thank you both very much for your time
KP: Thank you it was a pleaure.