Texas has a flavor of country music all its own. It’s tradition in pride and loyalty by fans is special by all means. When a Texas FFA girl introduced me to Kyle Park’s music while visiting her in Austin in 2010, I was forever a fan. Eight years later, I finally made the trip to Fort Worth to see Kyle in concert and better yet, interview him on how he has evolved as an artist in his music, his journey across the Lone Star state and beyond.
Walking back stage at Billy Bob’s Texas was like stepping back in time to see all the great country music artists who had performed on stage including Kyle Park. Kyle told the audience during his show how much it meant to him to have his name on the wall back stage. We sat down to talk about his start in music, song writing process, his advice and exciting plans for the year ahead.
Q. Take me back to the beginning of your career, tell me how you found your love and talent for music and decided to make it a career aspiration?
A. “I took guitar lessons when I was about 9 or 10. It was like two lessons; I didn’t like guitar. My dad passed away when I was 12, then when I was 14 I picked up the guitar again. It was maybe out of boredom because I lived in the country with no driver’s license, so I was stuck at the house. The first song I played was a Chris LeDoux song called ‘Seventeen’. I played it for my cousin and he said it was really cool, that I should learn to play guitar, so I did. I loved music, but there were no musicians in my family. I think my love for country music came out of the challenge. It was so hard at first; I remember playing for 56 minutes out of every hour for 8 hours a day for 6 to 8 months.”
“I think my love for country music came out of the challenge. It was so hard at first; I remember playing for 56 minutes out of every hour for 8 hours a day for 6 to 8 months.”
“When I was 16 I got the guts to play in front of a garage band full of my buddies. I loved singing, but I was scared to sing and someone say that wasn’t very good. When they said I was good and asked me to sing another one, it relaxed me and I started writing my own songs. When I was 17, I did nothing but guitar playing and singing. I took my guitar to the cafeteria at school and played parties. When I was 20 I put my band together and here we are 12 years later.”
Q. Who’s your biggest musical influence?
A. “My biggest influences are George Strait, Clint Black, Mark Chesnutt and 90’s country guys. Chris LeDoux is a big influence because his style is unique. I also find out their influences are Merle Haggard, and I love him too. Then I find out Merle’s influences are Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and I love them too. It’s funny how with my influences, I like their influences and they like their influences.”
Kyle went from playing his influences’ songs to opening up for them!
Q. What was the inspiration for your latest project? What does it mean to you to share the message of “Don’t Forget Where You Come From”?
A. “That song is autobiographical to me because I did loose my dad when I was young. He didn’t work in the oil field; he was a plumber. I didn’t want to be a plumber, but if music hadn’t worked out for me, I know I would have been back at home taking over the plumbing company for my dad. That song reminds me of him so much. When we wrote the lines ‘Pray out loud, makes us proud, and don’t forget where you come from,’ we thought this is something we will tell my kids. It’s important to not do things your parents wouldn’t approve of. For me, in my music career and in this new album especially, I haven’t forgotten where I come from. This current record is absolutely me, and this song is the definition of the record.”
“In my music career and in this new album especially, I haven’t forgotten where I come from. This current record is absolutely me, and this song is the definition of the record.”
Q. What do you enjoy or look forward to most about writing and recording? Tell me more about the process and how The Blue Roof Sessions was different for you?
A. “That album was totally different, sometimes I feel it wasn’t received how I wanted it to be. I can understand why, because it’s my fifth album now and people had an expectation of what I would sound like because of the previous four albums. The Blue Roof Sessions intentionally wasn’t like that. As an artist, I wanted to do something different. Why would an actor make the same movie over and over? As a writer and producer as well, half those songs I had for years. I wrote the song ‘Work on Love’ so long ago, but just never found the right album to put it on. When I committed to making an edgy record, I had all these ideas of songs that would work so well. Just like ‘Don’t Forget Where You Come From’ or ‘What the Heaven’ wouldn’t have fit The Blue Roof Sessions record.”
“As an artist, I wanted to do something different… It was cool to stretch my artistic talent and do something different.”
“With that album we didn’t have a recording studio. We had a house, I leased a mansion on Lake Travis, and for one month I lived there from Sunday through Wednesday and was on the road Thursday through Saturday. I would get home on Sunday and work on songs to record Monday. Half the songs were written in the last ten years, the other half were written that month. We recorded 19 songs and I kept 12 that fit the project the best. I wanted it to sound cohesive. It was an old school sound with the big room and drums and echo vocals. So much of country music has rock in it… It was cool to stretch my artistic talent and do something different. I may never do something like that again and it may be the most rock music I ever make.”
Q. What is it like to play new music for a crowd and see how they receive it?
“Usually I will play a song live before the album comes out. It’s always the best feeling to have a brand new song, like right now our new song is ‘Ain’t Nobody Hotter,’ it’s not even on the radio yet. I’ll watch the crowd sing it when I know they haven’t heard it before, but they learned it in the last two minutes. It makes me feel good about what we’re doing and as a writer it’s the coolest thing. I’ll watch people sing every single word to ‘Don’t Forget Where You Come From.’ It takes a lot of time to remember the words to a song. It’s not like you can just hear it once, you may know the chorus, but to know every word you have to listen to a song 10 to 15 times. You have to like a song a lot to know every word and that is the absolute number one honor of being a writer.”
“You have to like a song a lot to know every word and that is the absolute number one honor of being a writer.”
Q. What is a memorable experience for you in your music career and how has it impacted you?
A. “My agent asked me yesterday, ‘When was you’re defining moment that you’ve made it?’ It wasn’t a big show; I was 21 years old on stage in Lubbock at The Blue Light Live. We had a pretty good crowd, it wasn’t sold out, but I made enough money to pay everyone in the band what I would, plus a little bonus. We had our own bed in our own room that night because a lot of times we would bunk up. I sold some merchandise and paid for my gas. We drove from Austin to Lubbock, it was a long way to drive and I still made money that night. I made like 300 bucks, but I thought man this is it. I’d rather chase this dream, be on stage playing music and watch people sing along, than any 9 to 5 job sitting behind a desk and being miserable. I was serious before then, but that was the moment when I thought I can do this forever.”
Throwback to the first Kyle Park song I heard and loved:
Q. What advice would you give to someone who may have a dream in music, but is struggling with taking the steps to make it a reality?
A. “Take every gig you can and play as much as you can because you never know when that one person that can make a difference is out there listening. It doesn’t have to be a record label; it could be someone like you spreading the word in Cincinnati. It takes that one person to get the ball rolling sometimes. For me in college it was a big deal, I would play at every fraternity and sorority party, every bar that was available to me. It didn’t matter the money, I would play two in one day if I could.”
“Don’t forget where you come from. There’s never been a time I thought music wasn’t for me.”
“Besides that, don’t forget where you come from. There’s never been a time I thought music wasn’t for me, but maybe I wasn’t doing the right thing or following the right path in my music career. Maybe I shouldn’t do this record, or song or hire this person. You always have doubts, but don’t forget where you come from. For me, it’s passion for music. It hasn’t been about the fame and money; it comes along with success.”
Q. How are your Texas fans different from when you travel to other states?
A. “Texas is definitely loyal and there are a lot of them. When we go from Midland to Fort Worth to Austin to the Valley to Houston, that’s like seven states in the Northeast. We can drive 7 hours everyday and still be in the state. We were in Wichita, Kansas a few weeks ago and there aren’t better fans, they love country music and to be there. Texas has so many artists and venues to play in. That’s why we’re great, but at the same time if you go somewhere like Kansas or Montana where they don’t get that many concerts, they really take it seriously and love it. It’s cool to be from Texas, playing Texas style music and be so from from home.”
Q. Can you tell me some of your exciting plans for 2018? What long-term goals do you have for your career?
A. “I want the album to come out right now, I’m so excited about it. I wish we didn’t have to wait for so long. I think it will be June 1st. We are touring constantly, and I hope we will play a little more out of state this year than we have. We want to go more north and west as far as we can. By spreading the word, it will be a bigger year than last year. We will play more and reach more fans.”
“On the new album I have a song called ‘So God Made a Farmer.’ I played at the Texas FFA Convention years ago for 10,000 kids. It was one of the coolest gigs I’ve ever played. I still have some people tell me it was the best show they ever saw 8 years ago when they were 15 years old. In 2013, I was watching the super bowl and there was a commercial with Paul Harvey. I had known Paul Harvey my entire life, but I thought it was the most incredible speech. His delivery was everything, but also every word he says. So I thought I have to write that song someday. I held onto that idea until last year, I finally wrote the song, ‘So God Made A Farmer.’ Anyone who had family in farming, I think it will be their theme song. The chorus is,
‘That’s why God made a farmer, To keep us between the rows. To work hard and love harder, and you’ll reap what you sow. So when you say grace for the food on your plates, Pray a little longer,’Cause that’s why God made a farmer.’
I will never forget my interview with Kyle Park. His musical advice to take a chance on love, know when to move on and to never forget your upbringing, has touched the lives of those across the Lone Star State and beyond. Kyle Park’s music can help you celebrate all the ups and downs in life, reminding you it is a great thing to be alive and you can make your dreams happen!
To listen to more of Kyle’s music and stay up to date on his new album and tour visit:
Photo Credit to https://www.facebook.com/kyleparkmusic/photos/
One more of my favorite songs!