On his new album Don't Forget Where You Come From, Kyle Park really doesn't care what you think. "If no one liked this record, I wouldn't care," Park tells Wide Open Country. "Because it's me."
Well, let's slow down just a second. Because Park's carefree attitude isn't to say people aren't already responding well. He released four singles ahead of the album, and the title track is already poised to become his most popular song yet.
Even if people didn't like the songs, that's not why he made this record, which just came out today (June 1).
Lost in the Lyrics
Park's focus on this album was pretty simple. "This is a lyrically driven record," he says. "Country music is and always has been about the lyrics. That's what makes country music so great."
And that's a big part of why his single "Don't Forget Where You Come From" is resonating so much with fans. "It's one of my favorite songs I've ever written," Park says. "I lost my dad when I was young and I think about him every time I sing that."
For a long time, Park avoided telling the part of his story when he lost his dad. "I didn't want people to be like, 'Aw I like him because he lost his dad,' or whatever," Park says. "But as I got older, I realized personal connection is everything. People like to hear about that."
Especially in country music, where it's traditionally ok to be very specific -- and to be sad.
Kyle Park makes that personal connection several times throughout the record. In "Over and Over Again," he uses the classic country trope of rodeo riding to draw parallels between his own experiences as an artist pounding the pavement and building a career the hard way. On "God Made A Farmer," Park adapts influence from a Paul Harvey speech.
"It's a 35-year-old speech but I didn't hear it until 2014 during a Super Bowl commercial," Park says. "I heard it and thought, 'Oh my God, that's the most jaw-dropping, give-me-chills speech I've ever heard.' And it reminded me of listening to Paul Harvey when I was younger with my dad."
Back to Country
Kyle Park's last album, 2015's The Blue Roof Sessions, focused on Park's guitar-driven rock n' roll inclinations. "In my opinion it wasn't country," he says. "I mean it was country because it was me, but it was me stretching my rock n' roll limits."
That album also featured songs collected over the previous 10 years, most of which didn't fit his prior country albums. But Don't Forget Where You Come From returns the favor, even including a song that didn't fit on The Blue Roof Sessions.
"We actually recorded 'Beer Can' for Blue Roof," Park says. "And I rocked it. But I realized it's not a rock song and it didn't fit. It was a country song." Closing out the 10-song Don't Forget Where You Come From, the new version of "Beer Can" is sure to be a sing-along live country favorite.
Park also includes a classic Merle Haggard cover, "If We Can Make It Through December." He relates the story of a 90-year-old man who approached him one night after he played the song live. The man told Park it was his favorite song of all time because it reminded him of growing up as a child. December was the toughest month for them, because they were so poor they sometimes didn't have enough money to pay for heat.
That's the kind of connection music makes when it's done right, and the kind of connection that keeps Park writing records like Don't Forget Where You Come From.