Out of the Comfort Zone with Kyle Hollingsworth’s soleside
On the brink of a potential final String Cheese Incident tour, keyboardist/vocalist Kyle Hollingsworth has a new project that began to take shape in the summer of 2006. The origins of soleside read like a classic jamband tale featuring Arrested Development songwriter/vocalist Speech, veteran SCI guest musician and multi-project force-of-nature DJ Logic, bassist Garrett Sayers from the Motet and Damien Hines on drums. Jambands.com sat down with Hollingsworth as he prepared for the soleside debut gigs in Colorado on May 17-19 before heading out on the road for what proves to be an emotional SCI summer run. To his credit, Hollingsworth had not been asked some of the more difficult String Cheese Incident questions at the time of this interview and he chose to be frank and honest about what is still a sensitive subject for all those involved. As for soleside, is it a step out of the keyboardist’s comfort zone? Perhaps but as Hollingsworth asserts, “It’s always a good time to step out of your comfort zone.”
RR: How did the idea for soleside develop?
KH: Actually, it began in Boulder. I saw in the paper that Arrested Development was playing at the Pearl Street Mall. I’d always been a fan of Arrested Development. I went down there one late night. After the show, I walked up to Speech and said, “I’ve been a big fan for a long time. Would you ever consider doing some co-writing?” He said, “Yeah, definitely. I’ve heard of String Cheese.” I was surprised because it was a totally different culture. I assumed he’d never heard of String Cheese being that it is a jamband scene. I invited him to come down and sit in with us in Atlanta when String Cheese was down there. That went pretty well and was a lot of fun. I’ve been in contact with him and I said, “It would be great to have a DJ on the project, as well.” It seemed that DJ Logic was the logical fit, the logical choice. The three of us started an e-mail chain coming up with some ideas for a project and how it would go, what we would do and we’re still figuring that out this week. (laughs) We’re still kind of inventing ourselves.
RR: How did you think of combining DJ Logic with Speech?
KH: We’ve never played together but we’ve had a history with Logic through String Cheese. Over the last few years, he sat in with us on numerous times. I always wanted to work with him; I’ve always enjoyed his side projects. I originally was going to do something with him and when I found that Speech was interested, it seemed like all of the pieces were coming together. Arrested Development has very funk-oriented grooves and DJ Logic is very strong in that area, as well. I’ve always felt that that was my strong suit.
RR: Is the timing on a parallel path to the wrap-up of String Cheese’s touring?
KH: No, not exactlynot that at all, actually. I saw Arrested Development last summer and that was kind of brewing in my head for a while. On the fall tour, we hadn’t officially gone there with our thoughts with String Cheese so it was something that I planned to do in the spring before any of this happened.
RR: And DJ Logic is in between projects i.e. working with John Popper. He does so many things with so many musicians. Amazing.
KH: (laughs) Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. Two weeks after we decided that it was a good idea, he comes through town with John Popper. I said, “I didn’t know you were doing that!” I was trying to be original but (laughter)the things we need for the project are Speech’s lyrics. Speech’s lyrics are very much from the heart. He raps from a space of being with nature and a spiritual beinghe speaks more to me than some of the more gangster-rap stuff out there. He has a real message.
RR: What material will you be playing? Will there be new songs and how will it be written? The three of you are based in three different locations, right?
KH: Good question. Exactly. I think we’ll start off with just the three of us doing some writing in Colorado. Some things are already on the burner. I think we’ll supplement with some Arrested Development tunes, some of my solo jazz funk tunes, some from Neither Odd or Even and some improvisation. It’s a full band with a drummer and bassist, as well. Great players from the Boulder, Colorado areaGarrett [Sayers] from the Motet on guitar and bass and Damien Hines on drums. It’s a really slamming rhythm section with what I imagine to be 40% vocal tunes and 60% instrumental/jam improvisation.
RR: You’ve played with DJ Logic in the past. Will the improv be fairly spontaneous or will there be structure to the jams?
KH: (laughs) Funny you should ask that because I’m contemplating that myself. I would like to have a structure where you go through some tunes and work out where DJ and I do the intro together, the drums kick in with a little bit of structure but once we get into the middle of the tune, I imagine we’ll open it up. Maybe, do some breakdown with him, do some breakdown with the drums. (pauses) It’s new territory. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to be sure but it’s good to be challenged.
RR: Is it a good time to step out of that comfort zone?
KH: It’s always a good time to step out of your comfort zone.
RR: You have the three debut soleside Colorado gigs. Where will it go from there?
KH: We’ll see how it feels. From thereI imagine, we’ll continue doing some work. I start summer tour with String Cheese pretty soon and so, we’ll try to do some stuff sporadically throughout the summer or wait until fall.
RR: Is there a possibility of a soleside record?
KH: I’m hoping so. My record producer, Kevin Morristhe Director of Music at SCI Fidelity Recordsis very interested in getting us into the studio and I’m really excited to do that, actually.
RR: It has been three years since the release of your solo album, Neither Odd or Even. Do you have any plans for future solo work?
KH: Yes. I’m actually slowly building some songs in my basement studio. I’m trying to figure out how many I need to make another CD. (laughs) Will I need 8? Will I need 12? I’m hoping to bring to soleside some of the songs that I’ve been writing for my solo project, as well. I’ll work with soleside first before I say I’ll make another solo disc. We’ll see.
RR: Is your current solo material a continuation of your past instrumental exploration that you recorded for Neither Odd or Even?
KH: The songs I’ve been writing are more vocal-oriented. There’s some funk stuff but more in the singer-songwriter vocal genre.
RR: How did you come up with the name soleside?
KH: That’s a really good question. (laughs) It was on a list.
RR: (laughter) A dumb question. Nevermind. It’s a great name, by the way.
KH: (laughs) String Cheese Incidentwhat am I supposed to say about that? Where did that name come from? My stock answer for that is “I’m the new guy; they haven’t told me, yet.” Everyone has their own version of how to explain that question.
RR: When we spoke for our feature last year, String Cheese was about to do some dates with Bob Weir and RatDog. How did that go?
KH: It was so amazing. I was really blown away by the band. I had not seen him since 1999; it had been quite a long time. The band was slammin’ and Bob was in great form. We would switch. We would go on first, sometimes; he would go on first, sometimes. I would look forward to the nights where we would go on first. It’s not as hot a spot as being the closer but I was excited to go out and watch Bob play. And watch Jeff Chimenti, his keyboard player. I also got to sit in on a couple of tunes like “Samson and Delilah.” It was a blast.
RR: Speaking of collaborations, do any recent guest spots come to mind?
KH: At the Winter Carnival, Chris Thile from How to Grow a Band, sat in [with SCI] and we ended up doing Devo’s “Whip It.” It was a bluegrass version with Thile on acoustic mandolin. That was quite fun“Whip It.” (laughs) And, thenOHone of my favorite bands of all-time, Polyphonic Spree opened for us and we did “Ride Captain Ride” with them in our set. Blues Image wrote that song. We had the choir up there [Hollingsworth sings the famous chorus from the song] and it was really good.
RR: We spoke in our last feature about the many band collaborations on the traveling 2005 BIG Summer Classic. Other than the return to Horning’s Hideout this year, String Cheese is also hosting its own three-day version of the BIG Summer Classic featuring many acts. Any thoughts on that August event?
KH: I’m just getting my mind around that. I’m excited because this is something that we’ve been wanting to do for a long timeto have a camp out. We’ve been doing it for a while on the west coast up at Horning’s Hideout and this is something we’ve been pushing management to figure out a way to make it happen. This place called Camp Zoe where a band called The Schwag has its festival every year and it looks like a great location.
RR: Had any SCI band members been out there?
KH: I believe [Michael] Travis had been out there with his band and Billy [Nershi], as well. We just kind of took their word for it that it was an amazing location.
RR: Would you like to talk about String Cheese?
RR: What’s your stock answer so we can get that out of the way, first?
KH: (laughter) Presently we have no plans for touring after the summer of 2007.
RR: I’m sure your feelings have changed since this isn’t just a typical tour like if I was talking to you in May 2005, instead of 2007. How is your mindset right now?
KH: That’s a really good question. This is the first time I’ve done this. I suppose I’ll be doing these so you get my first answer. I’m going to live these last few months completely on the edge. I’m hoping just to go for it. In typical Kyle fashion, I will still be interested in bringing new material in and trying to make each show glow, make it magic andI haven’t really thought about that, yet. It’s going to be a little sad, for sure. I just feel energetic. I just think after all of these years, it’s important to go out playing well and putting the energy out there.
RR: Will there be more musical freedom since this is the last tour? String Cheese has always covered so much musical ground but now, you could take it even further on a final passage, if that’s possible.
KH: Right. It’s hard to say. I’m just going to see how it goes day by daytry to live every day to the fullest while I’m playing. For me, we still have rehearsals, still need to try to bring high energy to what’s happening and make sure we come out with new material for the summer, new fun covers so it’s still electric for us, as well.
RR: Did the side projects have any affect on String Cheese or is this final tour the point the band was going to reach, regardless of outside work?
KH: No. I think String Cheese was and is a growing organism. We can take in a lot of information, a lot of music and make it part of our sound. I don’t think the side projects took away [from SCI]. In some ways, it did the opposite. I think Travis doing Zilla and EOTOhe was getting a little frustrated with just being behind a kit, not playing creatively. Now, he’s playing bass in EOTO; he wants to get behind an instrument. For him, he was able to come back feeling refreshed after touring with these other bands. “O.K. I’m in String Cheese and I’m solid and this is what I’m doing in String Cheese. This is my talent I’m bringing to String Cheese; I’m part of a larger whole.” And the same way with Bill playing bluegrass so when you come back in, you’re focused on what makes us strong.
RR: Where do you see yourself further down the road?
KH: I hope to continually grow as a musician but that’s partially why I’m doing this new projectto put myself out on a limb. The growth is important to me so I’m hoping that will continue. I am going to miss String Cheese. There is definitely a little bit of comfort that comes with String Cheese. I can write a song, we’ll all try it together and most likely it’ll be played out in front of people. Now, it’s kind of me in my basement. (laughs) “Is this good? I don’t know.” I miss my buddies, my best friends. There’s that. I will keep going on. I just can’t stop playing music. I love music.
_Randy Ray stores his work at www.rmrcompany.blogspot.com