Interview | Catching Up With Kyle Hollingsworth

Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboardist of the String Cheese Incident, has been dedicating himself to his craft for over 30 years, which is made apparent by his refined taste, musical palette, and urge to constantly create under any circumstances, including a broken wrist.

Aside from SCI, Kyle has been performing with his own group, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, for over a decade now, releasing his first solo album in 2004.

Always progressing and experimenting, Kyle features different artists on each album and tour.

With his fourth KHB release in the works, Kyle is hitting the road for a few midwest dates with The Nth Power before returning to his home state of Colorado for a few more shows.

Kyle was kind enough to talk with us prior to his Chicago show at Martyrs’ Thursday, February 9th with The Nth Power & Fareed Haque. CLICK HERE for tickets and show info.

TV: Thanks for talking with us today, I know you’ve been busy. How were the shows this past weekend?

KH: No problem! Yeah, I just got back from a really cool festival called Gem & Jam out in Tuscon, AZ, which was a blast. I got to see Mike Gordon’s band and they were excellent. I've never seen them before.

I did a set with KHB, and then another set with Trancident (me, Kang, Jason,  & Travis of String Cheese Incident). That was really cool, but it was cold man, like 38 degrees. The sets went really well, though.

TV: Are you still recovering from the wrist injury?

KH: Yeah, I broke my wrist a little while ago, and got about a week left.  Luckily, the sets haven’t been very long... I hurt it the day before the String Cheese NYE run, which was 9 sets, and was in a lot of pain. Management was like “maybe we should cancel,” but I said “nah, I got this.”

TV: We’ve been listening to SCI for a while, and hear a wide range of styles in your playing. Who are some of your early influences or favorite keyboard players?

KH: Growing up, I was inspired by Bill Payne (Little Feat), Keith Godchaux, (Grateful Dead), then went to school for music and listened to a lot of jazz and Herbie Hancock. That was kind of my world, and it keeps evolving.

TV: I can definitely hear that in your playing, and it’s a never ending process.  Any new acts you’re diggin’ lately?

KH: As far of songwriting, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ben Folds. He released a live album with Ben Folds Five a few years ago, and I randomly got a hold of it. I never really listened to much Ben Folds, so I’ve kind of been going backwards and checking his stuff out.

TV: We are looking forward to the upcoming show this Thursday at Martyrs’ in Chicago. Have you played there before?

KH: Yeah, I played there about 4 or 5 years ago with KHB, which had Dave Watts and Garrett Sayers from The Motet in the band, and that was a blast.

TV: How do you go about writing for Kyle Hollingsworth Band versus String Cheese Incident?

KH: Well, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately.  String Cheese came out with the SCI Sound Lab, so I’ve been sneaking in there every couple months to record with my solo project. The way I write for that is I’ll get the vibe or basic sense of how I want the tune to go, and I’ll find something with a similar feel and send a few tracks to the guys in the band.

If I have a Radiohead-type vibe in mind, I’ll send them a few Radiohead songs, or Vampire Weekend, so they kind of study up on the feel, and I bring them in and we’ll spend like 3-4 hours hashing out the arrangements. If I have a Phish-like idea, I’ll call up the guys and say “listen to Phish for like an hour before you get here,” and we’ll get that vibe. So, I never really write in one style.

It’s really great for me because String Cheese spends so much time on the road, not really recording right now, so when I’m back, I spew out as much as I can. So some of these songs may become String Cheese songs in the future, but right now, I have to record them with this killer side project, and we’ll see what happens.

TV: If you got somethin’ in you, you gotta get it out while it’s still fresh.

KH: Exactly! If I wait for String Cheese, it could be like 10 months, and I might hate that song or idea by that time!

TV: Any examples of tunes that turned into String Cheese songs?

KH: “Rosie” was written in my side project with Dave & Garrett from The Motet. “Let’s Go Outside” was an out-take on my second disc which never made it on the album, and “Can’t Wait Another Day” is another recent one.

TV: Colorado really seems like a creative hub for SCI. Everyone in SCI seems to be hustling really hard out there musically, not only with their main bands, but side projects, and one-off shows. And having a venue like Red Rocks can't hurt.

KH: Yeah, Red Rocks is probably one of the best venues in the world. It’s definitely up there in my top venues. I also really been enjoying the Electric Forest venue, Summer Camp Music Festival, and a few others lately. I’m really looking forward to get back to Chicago on Thursday though! We’re also hitting Kalamazoo on Friday, and Traverse City, Michigan before coming back to Colorado.

TV: The bill is great for the Chicago show. Have you ever played with The Nth Power?

KH: I actually haven’t played with them, I’m a big fan though. We’ve played High Sierra Music Festival and a few other festivals with them, but never together. Hopefully, we’ll get some collaborations going.

TV: Fareed Haque is gonna be there too, that would be a great collaboration.

KH: What! I didn’t even know that! Fareed’s a great friend of mine, I actually put on a beer cruise out of Miami called The LeBrewski Cruise, and he was one of the guests on that. We hang a lot when we get the chance.

TV: How do you go about the sit-in process? Would you say that it is mostly pre-planned or random?

KH: It varies a little bit. Sometimes it takes some planning, and we’ll pick a song and go back and forth a few weeks in advance. Other times, it can be sporadic. I like to work with musicians who are willing to let loose and have the ability and desire to explore with us musically, versus someone who might need exact forms or direction.

For example, when we get someone like Fareed, it’s almost like we’re sitting in with him! One time we asked Fred Wesley from James Brown’s band to sit it, and he goes “first things first, you guys are sitting in with me!” He was a really cool guy.

TV: Do you have any other upcoming plans, or anything you want to let the fans know about this show?

KH: I’ll be playing a couple new songs this weekend, we’ve been writing songs in clusters, and have about 10 songs of material for a new album. We’re not quite there yet, but hopefully soon! I’ll be playing some other KHB material, as well as some tunes out of the Cheese catalog. I’m lucking out this run and get to share the The Nth Power rig with a B3, clav, everything you need.

Make sure you grab tickets to this excellent double bill, Kyle Hollingsworth Band takes the stage at 9pm sharp!

Photo courtesy of Kristine Condon Photography


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