Interview with Kyle Cox
By Whitney Lerch
Photo by Dean Reinford
Kyle Cox is heading out on tour with Matt Hires later this month and will be making a stop in Pittsburgh, to play CureRock 2017, a benefit show to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer. You can catch the show (and help an incredible cause!) March 30th at Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square. For now, get to know Kyle and his music! Kyle was kind enough to chat about life, his music, basketball and more before hitting the road for tour.
Sound Scene Express: Kyle, you create songs about life and love, with which the listener can truly relate. I have to image the majority of your songs are written about your own life experiences and emotions and despite being relatively young, your music has such a seasoned feel to it. Where do you draw your inspiration for writing?
Kyle Cox: I appreciate that compliment about my songs having a seasoned feel to them. Most of my inspiration for my music has been just through my own life experiences. I know that’s a generic sort of response, but truly the majority of my music is autobiographical. However, the last year and a half to two years, I have been very intentional with my own self awareness, mental health, healing, and processing life experiences rather than just letting what happens, happen, and then moving on. Counseling has been a huge part of my life and has really helped me grow in self awareness and enlightenment, if you will.
SSE: What are your everyday/personal life influences and which artists influence your music the most?
KC: My everyday/personal life influences are most often my wife and my friends. My wife consistently is an inspiration to me with how driven she is, strong, gracious towards me, motivating, challenging, loving, and all of the above. My friends, especially those creative friends, are always an inspiration, pushing me to never settle with my songwriting and always strive to grow and learn.
As far as artists that influence me the most, honestly, most recently it has been standup comedians, screenplay writers, and authors. For some reason I’ve found a whole lot of encouragement and inspiration in those crafts that take at least three to four years to hone in on a project’s completion (such as a screenplay or novel) rather than just musicians who turn out albums every year or two years, max. The dedication to see a single idea come to life that screenplay writers and authors need has been extremely inspiring.
Standup comedy has been inspiring on a different level. I love their ability to say just about anything, challenge the audience, all the while making everyone laugh. The vulnerability and deep self-awareness some of these comedians share is something I’m always striving to do with my music.
SSE: You have such distinct guitar playing, using Travis picking in much of your work. It really adds a special touch to your songs. Is this a style we can expect to continue as a staple to your work? I sure hope so, because I really love it!
KC: I think so! It’s been something I’ve found to work well as the vehicle to deliver my lyrics and something that keeps it interesting for the listener when I’m playing most shows just solo with an acoustic guitar. I do try to continue to develop that skill and am beginning to try to introduce more interesting chords via the jazz lessons I’ve been taking.
SSE: Fields of My Heart is beautifully raw and one of my favorites, not just of yours, but one of my favorites period. Are you able to share where this piece came from?
KC: It’s a pretty dark and heavy story, so brace yourself. First off, I actually wrote this song about four years ago with the intention of maybe putting it on my release The Plan, The Mess, but for whatever reason (and honestly, I’m glad), it didn’t make sense on that record. I kind of set it aside, occasionally playing it when it felt right in the show, but I was never really sure what to do with it. With this new album I’m writing, I finally found a collection of songs that lyrically support the themes within that song, so it WILL be on this next record.
So the song was born out of one of the toughest moments I’ve experienced in life. I had just left (on good terms) my job of five years as a worship leader at a church. The pastor of that church, coworker and friend, during my transition out of my job, suddenly resigned. As cliche as it sounds, he had been having an affair with his assistant, leaving his wife and three kids. Almost exactly a year later, he killed himself. It really fucked me up. I didn’t know what to think about it; my faith, if I even had one, also effected my marriage. While trying to process that tragedy in my life, I wrote “Fields of My Heart” wrestling with every emotion I was going through.
It was one of the darkest moments of my life and still continues to effect me today. But it has also led me active counseling, which has resulted in last year being the healthiest mental year of my life and the closest I’ve ever felt to my wife in our five years of marriage.
SSE: On a lighter note, I know you are big into basketball and a devout Orlando Magic fan, who stays true to your team despite their struggles (which I think speaks volumes to who you are as a person, honestly). Basketball even makes it’s way into your music career, with the sports team inspired “KC” ball cap available on your merch site and the lighthearted game that’s the feature of the “Trusty ‘Ol Pair of Boots” video. How fun was it, making that video and how many takes were needed to nail that final, off the house, shot?!?!
KC: Oh man. The Magic. I love them, and they love to break my heart.
That video was super fun to make! I think it’s a pretty transparent view of Sarah’s and my marriage. Competitive, but goofy and fun. And that final shot…took 72 tries. Over an hour of trying to make that shot. But I think it was worth it!
SSE: SSE: Looking at the tour schedule for you and Matt, it looks like this run is a mix of venues and house shows. House shows are something that I think offer a completely unique and intimate (and probably much better, to be honest) opportunity to experience live music. What’s it like, as an artist, to play these shows, in the living room’s of strangers???? How does it compare to playing venues?
KC: I really love house shows. Of course I love rad venues, and, to be honest, it’s nice to have a good balance of those shows between the house shows. But house shows definitely offer a rad experience.
I think one of the things that’s real cool about them, that I’m not sure the listener at the show realizes, is how much is dependent on them to actually make the experience great. The best house shows I’ve played are the ones that feel like a conversation, a nice give and take between the listeners and myself. Not just me sharing songs at them… make sense? The moments where it feels like we are in one flow, no longer “performer” and “listener” is when it becomes something magical.
SSE: Now, I listen to your work, pretty much daily and think your songwriting is something the entire world should know about. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a total sucker for a good cover. There’s just something about experiencing one artist’s interpretation of someone else’s song. When done right, it’s often one of my favorite parts of any live performance. I know you’re no stranger to covering songs…you’ve even released a couple of singles with your “Under Covers” release, which includes Seven Nation Army and Sympathy for the Devil. As an artist, how do you feel about covering other people’s songs? Is it strange, singing the thoughts and feelings of someone else? Is it easier, than putting your own emotions out there for the world to see and hear? Is it stressful, to think that the writer might hear it and have their own thoughts about your performance?
KC: As strange as it sounds, I honestly don’t enjoy doing covers. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them, in fact there are a lot of amazing covers out there, but it’s always been something that’s a little difficult for me. I think because my songs are so autobiographical, when I’m singing a cover song, it totally disconnects me from being in the moment. I also wonder too if it has something to do with my history as a worship leader, singing other folks’ songs as my job. I realize that these reasons are strictly my own things to work through, more so than covers being a good or bad thing to do.
Obviously I did cover The White Stripes and Rolling Stones, so even I do occasionally find something interesting about it. But they are also covers I have never done live, maybe at two or three shows max.
I also have a weird stigma with covers now too. I find people are doing covers, less because they connect with the song, but more with the idea that it’s a popular song and people will find them via this cover. That mentality goes against every grain in my body, and, frankly, I think is bullshit. However, I honestly would love to have someone help me break my thought process (even cynicism) on covers and give me a challenging and compelling reason to do more covers. I’m willing to admit I’m probably wrong about my thinking on covers.
SSE: Kyle, you’ve been through Pittsburgh with your music in the past and we are thrilled you are coming back later this month! Pittsburgh is a pretty incredible and unique city with tons to offer from museums, to incredible restaurants, microbreweries, distilleries and more. Looking at the tour schedule, it seems like you might have a day off after CureRock. Any plans to take in the city? Anything you’ve enjoyed here in the past, that you’re looking forward to again, this time through?
KC: You know, I’m not sure! I would love to explore the city more in-depth. That really is one of my favorite things about playing shows in different cities, being able to explore the unique cultures each one has to offer. I’m a huge fan of food in general, so hitting up Yelp for the best local grub in town is a habit of mine. Definitely hope to do that in Pittsburgh this time around!
It’s really incredible that you are taking advantage of the opportunity to play CureRock on this tour. I love seeing artists give back and using their incredible talent make a difference in the lives of others. This event and the entire CureRock organization exists only because of the kindness and generosity of the community and artists that support the cause. We hope you enjoy the event as much as I know we will and CureRock would like to thank you, for gracing their stage with your incredible songs. And thanks for taking time out of your day to open up with the us about your music! We’ll see you soon, at Hard Rock Cafe!!
And for all of our readers who are passionate about music and supporting artists, Kyle has a really incredible opportunity for you, as he works on his next full length album! Check out his Patreon campain, where you can get behind the scenes access to song-writing and record making! As a patron, with each step in the album writing process, you will experience it first hand. You’ll hear new songs quite literally hours after he finishes them. You’ll read song lyrics that may never make the final product. You’ll watch live stream Q&A sessions and concerts where you can ask Kyle anything about the record. You’ll be able to tell him which songs you love so far & which ones you don’t. Kyle values transparency very much & plans on sharing it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Support Kyle’s upcoming album here: https://www.patreon.com/kylecox