Vail Valley music: String Cheese keyboardist spreads his wings
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –The String Cheese Incident may be reuniting soon, but the band’s keyboardist, Kyle Hollingsworth,who brings his own band to the Vail Valley Saturday, isn’t too impatient.
Hollingsworth, who plays with his solo band in Avon tonight, said he’s having a good time doing his own thing, which allows him to play smaller, more intimate venues than he gets to with Colorado-based jam overlords, who are returning with a three-night run at Red Rocks in July after a three-year hiatus.
“Overall, playing in small rooms has been a lot of fun,” Hollingsworth said, “because the crowd is right there, giving back what you’re giving them, versus sometimes on the Red Rocks stage, it sometimes gets a little diffused.”
Hollingsworth has one caveat, however: he likes those rooms to be full of people.
“I’ve been on tour on this album all across the United States and I really do like the smaller rooms. Honestly, I like the smaller rooms when they’re really full,” Hollingsworth said. “So when you play Detroit on a Tuesday and there’s 80 people there, it’s different than playing San Francisco on a Saturday – the rooms are very similar, but the vibe is so much more pumping.”
Hollingsworth is used to playing for all kinds of crowds, though. Besides String Cheese and his solo bands, he plays with a group that includes rapper Speech of Arrested Development and Vail Valley regular DJ Logic. Furthermore, Hollingsworth toured briefly with indie rockers The Fiery Furnaces, which he said was even more of a departure from his work in String Cheese – and that was the point.
“With Speech and Logic, the muse was taking me in that direction a little bit because I’ve always been such a huge fan of Arrested Development,” Hollingsworth said. “With Fiery Furnaces, I was completely trying to get out of the hippie scene and see what other kind of music is out there and see what kind of crowds were out there. There were very different crowds for Fiery Furnaces – we played very smoky, dark bars where people would just stand and stare at you.”
Hollingsworth, who studied jazz piano in college, said playing outside of his comfort zone with the Furnaces was a valuable learning experience.
“For me, it was also musically challenging to listen to music in a completely different way, to turn my head sideways,” Hollingsworth said. “I was like, ‘Wow, do people really write songs like this? This is so intriguing.’ Totally musical, but not the way I think. It was like a music lesson for me. It was really good for my brain.”
Hollingsworth incorporated his varied musical experiences into his latest solo album, titled “Then There’s Now.” Compared with his previous solo effort, which was mostly instrumental and contained several songs that he wrote with String Cheese, the new disc is more vocal-driven and intricately layered with a plethora of sounds. Hollingsworth did quite a bit of tweaking to this album in his home studio after the basic tracks were laid down.
“This time, it was a lot more of laying the tracks down for a day or maybe three days and then taking everything home and working on it for months and months in my basement – in the dark dungeon,” he said.
Hollingsworth has been spending plenty of time out of the house on tour, too, and he said he his band is really crystallizing – even though he has to shoulder a lot more responsibility than he does in the String Cheese Incident. Hollingsworth said being the bandleader has its ups and downs.
“It’s a lot more work. It’s great most of the time, like 80 percent of the time, but the other 20 percent I wish I had some feedback from people who aren’t necessarily working for me,” Hollingsworth said. “I have a great band. In fact, over the last six months it’s actually become more of a band than I’ve ever had in any other situation, any other side project I’ve done, because I think they really are communing. … But a lot of times they’re looking to me for guidance, so I’m kind of missing that back and forth that comes from playing with your brothers for so long.”
Hollingsworth will be back with his brothers in July, but if you don’t already have tickets to the event at Red Rocks, you’re out of luck – it’s sold out. Luckily, Hollingsworth will be right down the road Saturday night, in a small room that’s hopefully “really full.”
Aaron Butzen is a freelance writer based in Denver. Check out more of his work at http://www.butzenmedia.com.