As a part of String Cheese Incident, one of the most successful fusion bands in history, he has sold out countless theaters and stadiums. With his solo project, he has released two highly successful albums, and in his spare time, he is an avid home brewer of beer. Kyle Hollingsworth is one of the most multi-talented American key-board players and his annual event, called Kyle’s Brew Fest, is happening this Saturday, August 9 at the Liquor Mart in Boulder, from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.
303 Magazine will be giving away ONE PAIR of tickets to Kyle’s Brew Fest this weekend. Visit 303 Magazine’s Twitter and Instagram to enter for a chance to win.
We talked with Kyle about his new album Speed of Life, his brew fest this weekend, and his feelings about collaboration, risk-taking, and creativity.
303: I heard that right now you are all the way up in Alaska, how is that going?
Kyle Hollingsworth: Yes I am in Anchorage today, and it is going very well so far. I flew over Anchorage and went to see some glaciers. We saw them crashing down into the water and such. It’s exciting to have a gig up here and be able to play outdoors in Alaska with my solo project.
Is it still cold there this time of year?
No, it is about 65 degrees during the day but really sunny, so it feels sort of like Colorado heat with the radiant sun. We are excited to see when the sun goes down, which will probably be close to ten thirty or eleven at night. I am hoping for maybe some late night hiking!
Let’s talk your new album, Speed of Life. When I listened to it earlier, I got the feel that it is like a smorgasbord of styles. Did you purposely intend for such a diverse album or did that sound come about more organically?
Well that diversity works usually for me, my last two solo albums were that way too. I think String Cheese overall has a pretty diverse sound too. We can move between bluegrass to Bollywood to dub-step, so I think we all come to it with these different influences in our life.
So on this album I kept writing even though I was like, “Well this sounds like a 1970’s television show car chase,” like with Racer X. Then you have this totally pop LCD Soundsystem meets something else kind of in the middle, called Happening Now. I think it speaks to the breadth of how my life has been changing over the last few years. My last album was five years ago, so within that time a lot of things happened — String Cheese took a break, and I had another daughter. And the album also shows all of my influences, I am influenced by so much right now. I’ll hear something and just be like, I want to do something like that!
I also heard you were recording some of the album during Boulder’s catastrophic flood. How did recording during that circumstance affect the outcome?
I think it just one of the many hurdles I went through over the last five years or so.
I was just looking out watching the rain pour down and feeling like there was so much change happening around me.
Do you have a personal favorite genre to play? Or one that you feel most comfortable playing?
The instrumental funk stuff is where my roots are, I would say. Things like Racer X and Pack It Up I have been playing for awhile, so there is what my forte is. In the last few years I’ve been doing more of the singing-songwriting types, like Beautiful People or Here We Go. So that is where I’m leaning to recently. It is true that my main strength is instrumental funk, but I have been trying to break out and explore. Really I’m just constantly evolving as a musician and a songwriter.
There is an all-star cast on this new album, with members of the Motet, Elephant Revival and of course SCI. Did you have songs ready for them, or what is more studio improvisation?
The main core of the album is basically my solo project and band, which does overlap with the Motet. A lot of the song formation did come together from our song improvisation, but I definitely did come to the table with some finished songs.
Some of the other special guests, like for example I sent Bonnie over this pop song Happening Now, and she loved it and wanted to sing on it, so that is how she got involved in the project. Happening Now is so different from Elephant Revival’s sound, it was cool that she wanted to step outside her comfort zone and get involved on that one. I think the collaboration is part of the whole story, from beer to music creation – it is all about bringing different influences in and getting the best result you can.
Do you have any dream collaborations or future collaborations you are looking forward to?
Good question. There are so many. I am really enjoying Ben Folds work recently, it would be cool to work with him. Like I said I’m leaning toward singer/song-writer stuff these days so anybody in that genre would be someone I would want to work with. Not that I’m less inclined to work with people who aren’t. I mean a cool one would be to do a collaboration with Herbie Hancock, or Bonnie Raitt.
Kyle’s Brew Fest is next Saturday, what can everyone expect for this year?
This year is my fourth year doing Brew Fest, and this year I wanted to make it different. In conjunction with the new CD release, I have three separate tracks that came out with three national beers that you can buy everywhere in the United States. One with Stone IPA, called Collective Distortion and I put Racer X with it. Then Hoopla has another track, which Hoopla is a local Boulder beer, and the last one is with Cigar City. All of them you can buy nationally, and scan their bottles and receive a free correlating download off of Speed of Life.
So the idea was to have these things called Hop Tracks, that all culminate together into a charity beer festival. All of the beers will be on tap next weekend as well as thirty five others. So that is kind of the hook, cause my whole secondary passion is brewing and the creativity through brewing, and how brewing and music kind of overlap in my mind.
In what ways do they overlap?
In a lot of ways, to me. When I’m brewing at least, once I get the basics under my fingers, once I’ve rehearsed the basics, like with music, then you can kind of riff and explore or improvise. Like when you are working on a recipe with beer like I do, some of the best things are the mistakes you make. You’ll be like, “Oh lets put in some wild cherry with this beer.” Well it might be great or it might be bad, you never know. Just like when I jump into a solo from a live performance, it can either be the best solo ever, or the worst beer you ever made. For me its about taking a chance, but making sure all of the elements are balance. To make sure you are taking the right risks, but still keeping everything mixed together well.
So those are the connections I make, and when I do my brew festivals I bring it all together. Sometimes I brew on stage while performing. Sometime I’ll bring up all the brewers onstage and we will do a panel or talk on improvisation and how they improvise with their craft, and how I improvise with my craft. You know most of the guys from the Motet will be there playing with me and I think some of the guys from Mountain Standard Time, so we are kind of pulling together a collaboration that is happening in full circle.
Anyways, there will be a lot of music and a lot of collaborative beers I’ve made there, like one I made with Epic Brewing as well. It is going to be great. What to expect though? There will be dancing, a lot of dancing, hula hooping, great beer and not too hot hopefully. We will see.
What makes it even more beautiful as an event is that is it all benefits a charity, Conscious Alliance. Did you hand-pick them as a beneficiary?
Conscious Alliance has been involved with String Cheese for at least ten or eleven years, so it seemed like a natural fit when I started doing some events outside of String Cheese. They help impoverished people throughout the nation, specifically the Lakota tribe in Wyoming by bringing them food and supplies. For me, it was something close to my heart, so it seemed like a perfect connection.
Contributing to charity makes it that much better to drink delicious beer and listen to good music.
And for me its so crazy, and I don’t want to toot our own horn, but it is like a thirty dollar ticket and you get a pint glass and can have as many pint fills as you want from the thirty different beers there. You’ll see my band and other music and it is just like – this is the event for next Saturday! This is where you need to be!
So then what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Well next week is Brew Fest which is big, and then I start a pretty serious month and a half run of going from the east coast to mid west to west coast playing concerts and assorted festivals, so I will be pretty busy and I’m pretty excited about it.