A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Kyle Park does “Whatever It Takes”
The rising Texas country star not only sings, plays guitar and writes songs, he also produced his latest album, “Make or Break Me,” on his own label
Besides providing an ideal opportunity for an amorous two-step, the song effectively sums up the Texas country singer/songwriter/guitarist’s philosophy as an independent musician.
“The more I can do the better. Honestly, that’s the key about being an independent musician and not being part of a big machine. You know, it’s a lot of my decisions and a lot of my ideas and … I have to support them with the effort as well,” the 26-year-old rising regional star said in an interview last week from the road somewhere near Wichita Falls, Texas.
“I recall being in Lubbock a long time ago — well, this was probably four or five years ago — and I drove from Austin to Lubbock, made enough money to pay the band, paid my gas, paid the hotel and I even made some money on the side, and I thought, ‘Well, playing music live is so much fun, I’d rather just do this and make enough money to get by the rest of my life than go force myself to have a job when I’m not happy but making money.’ You know, it’s good to do what you love.”
The industrious Austin native plays about 150 shows a year, and since January, he has teamed with fellow Texas country-rocker Cody Johnson for their “Dancin’ and Drinkin’ at Johnson Park Tour.” The 20-plus city tour is wrapping up on the north side of the Red River, with dates Friday at the Tumbleweed Dancehall in Stillwater and Saturday at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Bricktown.
“We couldn’t just keep it in Texas. We had to come see ya,” Park said with a laugh. “Every time we come there, it’s better and better. I love Texas so much and I don’t think I’ll ever leave as far as where I’ll live, but I don’t want to only play in Texas.”
Johnson and Park are close friends and devised the tour so they would have more chances to play together. They already have co-written a new song, “No Woman of Mine,” that they’ve started playing together.
“It’s been a blast because … he’s full of energy and I’m full of energy and both our bands are as well,” Park said. “At the end, we’ve been getting together Cody and I for an acoustic set, so the end really isn’t even an encore. It’s an actual third set to the show.”
For Park, the tour is supporting his third full-length album, “Make or Break Me,” which he released in September. The album includes six new songs, along with four cuts from his “Spring 2010” EP and five from “Fall 2010” EP. Both EPs reached the Billboard country charts, and the LP’s title track zipped to No. 3 on the Texas Music Chart.
“We have a new single out called ‘Leavin’ Stephenville,’ which is tracking faster than ‘Make or Break Me’ did previously, which is exciting. The more stuff we have on the radio, obviously the better,” said Park, who is now based in San Marcos but in the process of moving back to Austin.
The success of his new album is particularly exciting considering the stake Park has in it. He not only wrote or co-wrote all 15 tracks, he also produced the album on his own label, with distribution through Fort Worth-based Winding Road Music.
As he sings, “Whatever It Takes.”
“I plan to be an independent musician for a long time and own my own stuff and be my own boss; then again, in the future, I might decide to hire some high-price producer. I just didn’t know. So “I thought that if there was ever a time for me to be a producer it’d be now,” he said.
“I mean, I’m writing my own songs, a lot of these songs I go over with the band and we work ‘em up and I have ideas for them. And that was a big part of the EP process was to only be producing four and five songs at a time, compared to producing 12 songs my first time at it. I probably would’ve been overwhelmed.”
He already is planning to produce his next album, and has been writing practically nonstop while on the road, even using his cell phone’s voice recorder to make notes about song ideas when he is driving.
“The plan is hopefully to put out a new record this year. I don’t know when it would be at all, but I’ve already been writing a lot of songs. Hopefully, I can get into the studio in a couple of months and then have something out by the end of this year,” he said. “It’s a mixture of strike while the iron is hot and always wanting to do new things.”
His desire to keep trying something can be heard in the music. His album ranges from Western swing numbers like “Leavin’ Stephenville” to rock tracks like “Prove It to You” to country waltzes like “Any Day or Night.”
“I have influences all across the board, from pop to jazz to Western swing and rock ‘n’ roll and traditional country as well. I would never want to pigeonhole myself and just record one type of song over and over and over. That’d just be one long song,” he said.
Fans can hear his adventuresome love of variety in his live shows, too.
“We’ve been known to cover some crazy stuff every once in awhile that the crowd wouldn’t think that we’d do,” he said. “A time or two (we’ve) even covered like Muse songs. I mean, they’re anything but the music that we play, but just the fact that we learned it and tried it one day was fun.”
“Dancin’ and Drinkin’ at Johnson Park Tour”
Featuring: Kyle Park and Cody Johnson.
When: 11 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Where: Tumbleweed Dance Hall, Lakeview and Country Club roads, Stillwater.
When: 11 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan.