Kyle Hollingsworth: SCI Takes it OTR (Ten Years On)
DB- How do you define a great show?
KH- First of all if the band is grooving in a way that’s danceable- if the rhythm section, the bass and drums are connected and all the parts are locked really well. Then once you get to that level which is more often than not, there’s that’s second level where you start thinking of what the other person will play before he starts playing it. You’ll move to a groove right when someone else is thinking it, a kind of ESP thing. Above that if we’re all being really musical and have really good melodic ideas. When they all come together, for me that’s a great show.
DB- To your mind how often do you guys hit it like that?
KH- I’d say we hit it 47 percent of the time. That’s when we absolutely hit in and all three factors are coming in. But other nights there can be pieces of any one of those three. There can be really melodic nights without much groove or really groovy nights without much melodic stuff going on. So when all three come together that is more rare.
DB- Do you find that the percentage continues to get higher?
KH- Yes, I think the band’s gotten better and I think my perspective of what is good has changed. My bar has gotten higher as well for sure.
DB- On the radio show [Jam Nation] you also mentioned that recently you have been writing on guitar. How long have you been doing that and what has the impact been?
KH- About eight months. It allows for different chord structures, different rhythms I wouldn’t normally play, different progressions. When you’ve played the piano for so long you kind of sit down and automatically play something your brain knows how to play. With the guitar I have to force myself to think of things differently. I actually wrote a tune recently that I sent to Michelle Shocked. I don’t know if she’ll have a chance to look at it but I wrote it on guitar and sent her the music.
DB- Have any of those songs come out with String Cheese yet?
KH- Nothing’s come out, it’s been home studio stuff.
DB- What about at the show you just played with Dave Watts and Ross Martin as Remarkable Elba Kramer? Did you play any of the new stuff that night?
KH- Yeah we did one of my new tunes “Public Crusade.”
DB- Do you think we’ll see some of the others on the SCI fall tour?
KH- We’re definitely going to have some new tunes for this tour, we’re super excited. I’ve been writing some other tunes on piano, and organ and clav so we’ll bring out some of those. But everybody’s been writing. And Travis’s first song is coming to the forefront, so we’re getting psyched.
DB- In terms of your own songs, do you have a favorite that you play with String Cheese? Or one that you’re most proud of?
KH- I would have to say “BAM!” I was going on this Mike Clark tour with members of the Headhunters and I wrote it for that funkier Herbie, Headhunters kind of vibe. I wrote it for that Mike Clark tour but I never got to play it and I brought it into the Cheese. I did so much rehearsing for that gig that it was fun to apply it and put it into the song. It’s fun to play and it opens my ears to play outside of traditional chord changes.
DB- You’ve told me that you’ve been listening to the OTR shows because you’re closing in on pre-production for the next String Cheese album. What sort of approach or philosophy do you guys have going in?
KH- The philosophy is being created day by day. One of things I think is important is to bring a live feel to the album. I want it to be connected, to feel like a live show would. So it’s still up in the air because we could get into the studio and realize we’ve bit off too much. But some of the thoughts are to connect songs with snippets of melodies or maybe live show jams or with spoken word, different things to make it a full piece. That’s what we have going into it but we’re going to come out with something different I’m sure.
DB- And you’ll work with an outside producer once again?
KH- Yes, we’re getting closer but we don’t know exactly who.
DB- What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your last studio album?
KH- One of the strengths I hope to bring into the new project is to make a warm-sounding record. Steve Berlin did a great job of capturing the sound of the instruments. Around the Wheel was way too digital. But on Outside Inside Steve was into making everything super analog and catching us live. The first song on the album is the first take, first day. In my opinion there’s tons of mess-ups all over it but he went with the one with the best feel and that’s what I want to apply to our new album. It’s also very segmented though and I want this one to be more connected
DB- In terms of that dichotomy between say feel and precision, I heard you were reading Effortless Mastery a book that certainly comes down on the feel side. Have you taken much of that to heart?
KH- Yes, very much so. It’s a very Zen approach to playing music. There’s an exercise where you sit at the piano and just relax and play one note for twenty minutes. The person who recommended that to me was Bela Fleck. I think he’s a great melodic master so I asked him to recommend some books and that’s one. I spent some time with it and its definitely had some impact