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Published: 2012/09/25
by Dean Budnick

Kyle Hollingsworth: SCI Takes it OTR (Ten Years On)

DB- The night before, you backed Keller during his late night set. Obviously he’s sat in with you over the years and you’ve recorded together but that was a long night of music, did you guys rehearse with him prior to the gig?

KH- We practiced in Boulder before we left. We did a couple days with him, worked up the tunes and recorded it so we all could hear and remember how it went. We did fifteen songs we already knew and eight songs we didn’t know. So we didn’t have to learn too many new tunes but it’s always fun playing with him. He’s good at directing us. Sometimes we’ll go off on a tangent and jam too much and he’s like, “Alright boys, reel it in.” He’ll direct us and make it more of a Keller show, which is great.

DB- In terms of inviting guests on stage with String Cheese, does that tend to happen spontaneously or do you typically set it up in advance?

KH- Both but a lot of times it’s done in advance. For instance Bruce Horsnby and Steve Winwood are done in advance.

DB- In other instances when you bring on guests for a song or two, will you work that out at soundcheck?

KH- No, usually because they’re doing their soundcheck. It usually happens when we’re doing a mid-winter festival which we do every year. They’ll do their opening set first and then they’ll meet us backstage and we have a whole separate rig set up so we take some time to make sure it’s going to sound okay. It’s a different vibe with people like Keller or Karl Denson, they can just jump up. But the people we’re less familiar with we want to take a little time to make it sound good.

DB- Aside from the musicians you’ve mentioned, what are some of your personal highlights in terms of guests?

KH- Del McCoury, it was great to really see how it’s done. Not only his set because his set was amazing but him sitting in us was really neat and he can direct the band really well too. Warren Haynes sat in with us a couple years ago and I also played with Warren on the Phil thing too. He’s a great vocalist and guitar player. We played with Bob Weir and that was a lot of fun. John Popper is someone who’s a great person to sit in and he played harmonica on a bluegrass tune which I was so psyched to hear. It kind of took him out of his element and put us in a new space. It was cool to play with Angelique Kidjo, someone we don’t normally play with and the audience doesn’t really know. It was also fun to play with Michelle Shocked. Whenever we can bring in a new element to what we do, that’s exciting to me.

DB- How did the Michelle Shocked appearance come about? If I recall correctly, she didn’t open for you that night.

KH- It was 4th of July. She was in town playing in Boulder and drove up to see us. She was a fan of the band and I was really honored. She came backstage between sets and we played a song backstage and she came and sang with us just out of the blue [Editor’s note: Shocked added vocals to “Blackberry Blossom”].

DB- What about Tenacious D? Had you worked out in advance that Jack Black would sing on “Tom Sawyer”?

KH- What happened was we were backstage and Jack Black said he didn’t know any of our songs. So we told him, “We do this Rush tune,” and he said, “I know that one.” So he started singing with us backstage and didn’t know any of the lyrics [Laughs]. So we went out, did our set, came back and said, “Are you ready, do you have the lyrics?” And he said, “I can pull it off,” and it was an adventure but it was a lot of fun. We were like. “Oh my God, hold on, hopefully he’ll follow us.” When he sang the line, “Catch the spirit, the catch the spit,” he spit into the air and caught it with his hand. He was like, “Did you guys see that, that was so cool.” But he pulled it off really well. Just meeting him was a trip too.

DB- Jumping back to your Winter Carnival tour, you ended it with a performance outside at the Telluride Ski Resort. Was that a big physical challenge? What was the weather like that day?

KH- Colorado is known for having wonderfully sunny days so it was in the 50’s or low 60’s. It wasn’t that bad. Also, we had just skied into the gig. We started up top because Warren Miller was shooting a film on us. I’m not a huge skier and the rest of the band members are great skiers so I’m in it somewhat but they only shoot my skiing scenes from the waist up. Of course they have Billy jumping off giant cliffs. So we skied down because Warren Miller wanted to catch us skiing into the gig. We skied to the stage, took off our boots and went on.

DB- Let’s talk about the band’s On The Road series. Was the decision to go ahead with that a long and protracted one or was it a no brainer for you guys?

KH- It was certainly not a no-brainer. It was more of a management idea at first and then the band slowly came around. To me, it’s such a personal thing. When you put out an album you want to put out your best work but there’s some okay stuff and even some mediocre stuff on there. Eventually we said “A lot of it is already out there, the tapers have it in circulation.” But then we said, “Wait, but now we’re actually selling it.” It took a while, We did eventually come to the conclusion that we’d give it a shot for the spring tour and the response was really good.

DB- And it’s going to continue?

KH- I would assume it’s going to continue. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t but it’s still on a trial basis. I’m not sure management would agree with that or not (Laughs)

DB- To what extent do you guys go back and listen to older shows?

KH- We try to get one or two full shows to listen to as a band a tour to criticize and say, “This is working, this isn’t quite working.” It’s more of a learning tool for us.

DB- When you came on our radio show the other week you mentioned that the Ryman Auditorium show [4/18/02] was probably your favorite from the spring OTR series.

KH- I like the Ryman, it was a great room. It also had one of my favorite moments. There was a really good “BAM!” that day because we got the audience involved. I felt the band was really hitting the groove from that show through the next three shows.

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