Kyle Park may live in the Texas country world, but he’s not bound by any Texas country genre conventions. Take his new record The Blue Roof Sessions as perfect proof.
The fifth record of the 30-year-old Austinite’s career, The Blue Roof Sessions was recorded in a house that Park leased an hour outside of Austin. Park lived in the blue-roofed house (get it?) with his drummer and engineer, bringing in several different guitarists, bassists and other musicians to craft each song.
The result is his most-rockingest effort yet — an album meant to be played live and played loud. Park shared an exclusive Behind The Scenes video with Wide Open Country and talked about the story behind The Blue Roof Sessions and how complacency is death.
WOC: Obviously the first question is, “Who was the hardest person to live with while recording in the house?”
KP: (Laughs) I was the hardest person to live with, honestly — being that picky producer guy. It was just me, my drummer and the engineer, but we had a great time; by all means it was an experiment and an experience. We ended up doing 19 songs and keeping the 12 that fit the record best. The Blue Roof Sessions definitely had a direction production wise, so I may keep those other songs and re-record them. But they didn’t fit the record. We had a couple of songs with horns players that sounded awesome but it just didn’t fit the record. They would’ve felt weird. It’s the same with one song that was very country that I had to record in a rock n’ roll kind of way, and I just didn’t like it — I’ll save that for another record.
WOC: Why did you decide to record in a house?
KP: Well, technically, leasing a house for a month was less expensive than renting a studio day by day! But you’re always under such pressure in that situation too, and I didn’t want that atmosphere. I wanted to be able to take my time and make sure each song was where we wanted it to be. I wanted big drums, so we chose the biggest room in the house. The production wasn’t that difficult. We used 3 or 4 different guitarists, 3 or 4 different bass players, a banjo player I haven’t used before. The tough part was getting the people out there — and the fact that so many songs were unfinished when we started recording them. We had ideas for the songs, but we were still making them. Some took 20 takes, not because we couldn’t nail it, but because we were experimenting.
WOC: You’re known for producing your own records, which is kind of a dying art when you’ve reached the level of success you have. What is it about producing yourself that makes the songs the best they can be?
KP: I just like it, man! It’s the reason why I write songs and why I perform and why I want to become a better guitar player. I’m not a briefcase musician, or whatever. I’m a diehard musician. I don’t think about retirement — I’m always going to play music. Who knows if I ever become the right fit for a major record label, but if I ever got to the point where I was forced out of producing, that would be awful. It’s one of the best parts of being independent, getting to produce my own stuff. And part of it is proving you can do it. When I first did it I was scared because I didn’t want to waste a good song, but now I look forward to the challenge.
WOC: A lot of producers are known for capturing a certain sound. Are there producers you’d want to work with in the future?
KP: Yes and no. No, just because I feel like every project should be treated differently. A big reason I wanted to do the Blue Roof Sessions is to prove I’m not just a one-trick pony. It’s cool to make a rocking record. Who knows, the next record I do may be very country. I know it works to have a niche and a sound but I don’t like falling into the niche or the mold. It’s like being an actor — you don’t want to just make the same movie over and over. Maybe I like to keep people guessing! But yes too, because I’ve also thought about the possibility of teaming up with somebody like Hayden Nicholas, who I’m good friends with, or Clint Black. That would be a fun record to make.
WOC: Have you thought about producing outside artists?
KP: I’m all about it, but it has to be the right fit. One of the keys to being a great producer is having the right band. It takes great musicians. And great songs, of course!
WOC: This is your edgiest collection of songs to date. Were you in a rock n’ roll head space?
KP: You know, every now and then I write songs based around the band. When we tour, we’re a five-piece band so I really wanted to make a record based around that. It’s not like I sat down and wrote songs all for the record — I chose stuff that was anywhere from two months old to six years old, just whatever fit the record. I don’t know if I was in a rock n’ roll mindset but I was definitely in a “live” mindset when putting this together. The whole record is like a concert, really.
It’s like, I love writing love songs, but you don’t necessarily want to go out and play 10 slow songs in a row. So this was definitely written with that in mind. And I can pick 4 or 5 off the record I would’ve never recorded 10 years ago. I would’ve been scared that my grandma or my hero didn’t like it! But I like all kinds of music. We all do. I like Bob Wills, and I like Bruno Mars, man. Just because the first thing you heard me do is a honky-tonk country song, why should I be restricted to only that?
WOC: I read that you thought this record was a music-first record. Do you think sometimes music comes secondary to lyrics in country music?
KP: I think I was misquoted when I said that, cause it seemed like I didn’t care about the lyrics, and they were second to the lyrics, but all I mean is that — for example, I wrote a song on my last record called “Like Nobody Will”. I feel like that’s one of the best songs I ever wrote. I spent months on that song writing it, and months recording it, getting it perfect. All for it to never become a radio single or get requested. Nobody ever really heard it, and it kills me. I also have songs that are just kind of catchy — like “Leaving Stephenville” — I don’t think it’s a genius song, it’s just about leaving town. But everybody loves that song. It’s a feeling thing. So for this record I thought it would be good to write the music first and see if they feel good, and then spend a bunch of time on the lyrics.
WOC: Why did you decide to cover Billy Squier, and is there any chance you’ll recreate his music video where he dances around in his bedroom?
KP: (Laughs) You’d like that, wouldn’t you? The answer really is just, “Why not?” Why not rent out a house and record 19 songs in 12 days, why not make a rocking record? That song rocks. I think it’s a pretty good song for country music nowadays, too. It has all the right pieces and ingredients for a great song. The only reason it sunk back in the 80s is because of that stupid music video. We did reach out to him to see if he’d be a part of the record but he might not want to bring up bad memories.
WOC: You’ve always embraced heartache lyrically. Is it autobiographical? Do you pull from the past or put yourself in other peoples’ shoes?
KP: It’s all of it man. Definitely some songs are about relationships I’ve been in, or am currently in, or am trying to get out of (laughs). But I’ve been a part of all of those situations. I wrote “What Goes Around Comes Around” about 5 years ago and it was definitely an “up yours” song at the time.
WOC: In your behind the scenes video you shared with us you talk a lot about the song “Never Slow Down”. Do you feel like it’s still a rat race in the music scene, even after making big strides in the Texas country scene?
KP: I think that song is kind of my answer, honestly. On the one hand, I’ve made it. I’m in a tour bus, and I play music every weekend of my life. I get to play music for a living. And I get to drink part-time for a living, it feels like (laughs). But on the other hand, complacency is death. I’ve only just begun. I’ve made five records, but I want to make, I don’t know — 30, 40, 50? I’ve only done the first tenth of what I plan to do. I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished, but I’m not ready to just turn it in at all.
WOC: So, besides a lot of touring, what are you plans for 2016?
KP: I’m sure I’ll get back in the studio and record more. I’ve been doing a lot of writing. A lot of new songs as well as getting back into some older markets in Texas. We’re going out of state a lot more, like Arizona, Montana, Nebraska — I want to go to a lot of towns I haven’t been to in a while and see some old friends. I don’t want to forget where I cam from. It’s called Texas country for a reason! We’re in Texas I guess 65% of the time? It’s amazing we get to do what we get to do.