Kyle Hollingsworth: Then There's Now

By: Andrew Bruss

Kyle Hollingsworth by Tobin Voggesser
It's been two years and counting since The String Cheese Incident went on hiatus, and in that time, its members have taken to the road, as well as the recording studio. But keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth has taken it easy. He's toured with The Kyle Hollingsworth Band, but for the most part, starting a family seems to have taken priority over launching an intensive solo career.

Then There's Now (released September 15 on SCI Fidelity) is Hollingsworth's second solo record and his first since SCI went on hiatus. From start to finish, Hollingsworth's latest studio effort provides the listener with a snapshot into the mind of an artist mid-transition. Although reunion rumors are running rampant following SCI's headlining performance at Rothbury, this past summer, JamBase spoke with Hollingsworth the day after his album's release, and rather than talk about The Cheese, Hollingsworth went to great depths to discuss his new outlook on life, namely living in the now.

JamBase: The press release I got from your publicist says you've been "more prolific than ever." Does not having bandmates with opposing artistic ideas make it easier for you to produce studio material? Are you more productive as a solo artist?

Kyle Hollingsworth: That's a good question, but not necessarily. In some ways it's harder not having as many people to bounce ideas off of. What's happened in the last year or two, well, first of all, I became a dad. There are always big changes in life that inspire me to be more creative and write in some way. Also, I've been writing and playing with Speech from Arrested Development. Speech, DJ Logic, and I had a project where we'd been throwing ideas around. So, the new album is the way it is because of the influences I've had over the last couple of years.

JamBase: That being said, do you feel like you're more productive with opposing viewpoints and ideas? It seems as though you - as you said - like having people to bounce ideas off of, so is it fair to assume you don't want a band of hired guns that do what they're told?

Kyle Hollingsworth by Dave Flieshman
Hollingsworth: Exactly. This first tour I did I was letting my band know that it wasn't a hired gun situation. The guys I had on the road, and who played on the album, they already had a vested interest in performing the songs well and working on the arrangements and making the production come across well. So, what you do is try and find a way to ensure they get something out of it as well, so it isn't a hired gun situation. Whether it's the arrangement of tunes or the solo opportunities, I agree that it's important to have a band of four or five people, versus four separate musicians onstage.

In the age of iTunes, do you think people will appreciate Then There's Now as a whole, or are people going to skip around? And on the other side of that coin, do they have to appreciate the album as a whole or can they skip around?

Every album I make is very thoughtfully produced, and the song order is thought about for months, and changes. I want to make an album as a form of art. I'm not interested in making single songs. I'm always going to make albums that flow from start to finish. It's up to the listener if they're going to jump around.

Do you think String Cheese fans will dig this album? And if you aren't into String Cheese, is Then There's Now something you can sink your teeth into?

Definitely. It's a very accessible CD. That being said, I think String Cheese people will like it. It's got a Kyle-signature sound. One song might have a little bit of jamming going on, and even the vocal oriented tunes run from hip hop to Afrobeat to funk. So it's got all the genres in there that you'd recognize on a String Cheese album, and hopefully the new fans that are hearing it for the first time will dig it. I think it's accessible to everybody.

I know you and Mickey Hart of The Dead performed at the Democratic National Convention last summer. With art imitating life, do you feel like the current artistic climate is reflective of what's been going on with two wars, the first black president, and everything else that's been making headlines? Or do you feel it's been bland and not an accurate representation of the world we're in right now?

Kyle Hollingsworth
I do think musicians are influenced by the world around us, and I think it's been that way for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. So, whether it's musically or lyrically, artists definitely reflect the times.

Everyone experiences life in their own way and sees the world differently. What does Then There's Now reflect? Does it represent your take on the world?

It comes down to the name, Then There's Now. The title, for me, defines the album. It has multiple meanings. It's a joke, because, then there's now: Post-String Cheese. What the hell am I doing? And this is where I am right now. And then there's the spiritual, "Then There's Now." This is the moment I'm in right now. It's about me trying to be in the moment. My new life experiences have made me want to be, and relish, the time that exists right now, every moment and every day. It's kind of cliché, but that's what happens when you become a dad [laughs]. Lyrically, with everything I'm doing on the album, there's an ark, from a pedestrian's view of the freaks on the sidewalk, to an end with a super introspective song. So, there's a theme running through the whole idea of living in the moment.

Continue reading for more on Kyle Hollingsworth...

How has being a father changed the way you express yourself as an artist?

I tend to be a lot more tired when I'm trying to be creative [laughs]. But seriously, I sort of touched on this in the last answer. The fact that I think I'm living more in the moment, and there's this whole other life in my family, it makes me feel more complete... as a unit.

When you say living in the moment, that's opposed to the hustle and bustle of being on tour or what?

Kyle Hollingsworth by George Weiss
For me what it means is sometimes I might be thinking, "What am I doing next week? What am I doing after that?" or, "What I did last week really sucked. I should have done that better." People spend most of their time living in where you were or where you're going to be and less literally where you are at that moment. And you're only in the present for one moment. That's what I'm talking about.

String Cheese played its last show before the hiatus a few summers back at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (read the review here), but then you guys played a headlining set at Rothbury this summer (read the Rothbury review here). What is the current status of The String Cheese Incident?

We played Rothbury this summer and that was sort of a test run to see if we could all hang out together again and it went really well. We had a month of rehearsal beforehand, all the way through into Rothbury, and we're all super-psyched. We haven't made any decisions yet. We're kind of playing it by ear, but we're feeling good about where we are.

Editor's Note: Since this interview, SCI's Michael Travis confirmed plans for the band to play shows in 2010. You can read more here.

Understanding that no decisions have been made, if you had to analyze the vibe, would you say your bandmates are interested in getting back on the horse?

Kyle Hollingsworth by George Weiss
I'd say we're all moving in that direction. I can't say when, but we're moving in that direction.

I'm sure a lot of practice went into...

Hollingsworth: ...into one two-hour set.

Exactly. But seeing as that practice seemed to be a test as to whether or not you guys could hang out comfortably, is that to say you guys were getting sick of each other before the hiatus?

I think it's fair to say every band that plays together for 14 years needs a break from their bandmates. Whatever. It's like being married to four different people, trying to make it all work.

But it seems like the break has done what it needs to do.

Absolutely. It's been super-healthy

What would you want listeners to know about Then There's Now before they went and picked it up at a record store?

Well, to go in, if you're a String Cheese fan, go in with open ears and an open mind and know you'll get a lot more than you expected. For a new fan, again, go in with open ears, and expect the unexpected. Each song could change; a funk tune could be followed by a hip hop tune, followed by an Afrobeat tune, so jump in with both feet.

What would you want people to know about Kyle Hollingsworth the performer before they went out and purchased a concert ticket?

Kyle Hollingsworth by Tobin Voggesser
Live performance for me is beyond what you hear on a CD. The CD is in the now, and on Then There's Now that's what you'll hear on the CD. But as for a live performance, what's more important for me is to take risks. You'll hear an expansion on what you hear on the CD. I try to jump off the cliff more and see what happens. I experiment onstage. I've got such great musicians with me, I feel like we can go anywhere, anytime. We can call out songs midway through a jam and find our way there. We can go in and out of different genres. So, expect a special treat from the live performance.

So, is it fair to say that if a listener is looking to get the definitive Kyle Hollingsworth Experience, it's live, not on a CD?

If you want the full experience, come to a concert. But if you liked my last disc, you'll like this one.

Is there anything you'd want JamBase readers to know about the world of Kyle Hollingsworth that we haven't discussed?

Sure, I'd like to talk for two seconds about my home brewing. I make my own beer. I'm doing this tour where I try to incorporate my love of beer with music. I'm not making Coors or Budweiser. I'm trying to go across the country to microbreweries and do special shows along the way. So, you could come to a sound check and taste some local beers. I started the whole thing with a brewery called Mountain Sun. I brewed a beer with the head brewer called Hoppingsworth IPA, and we were able to make it, and we just released it at the Fox Theatre at the CD release party. So, people got to drink my beer while catching my show.

That's the definitive Kyle Hollingsworth Experience right there.

[Laughs] Exactly. Hoppingsworth will be available at all the pubs, and hopefully we can keep it coming.

Kyle Hollingsworth just began the second leg of a major tour; dates available here.

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