“Jazz Monthly Feature Interview” Kyle Eastwood
Smitty: I must say it is my wonderful pleasure to finally welcome to JazzMonthly.com a great bass player. You have got to hear his latest new record. It is fantastic. It is called NOW, and after listening to this record, I call it the Eastwood sound. He has such a supersonic boom, and when you talk about fresh air in this format, you must include this cat. Please welcome the spectacular and amazing Mr. Kyle Eastwood. Kyle, how ya doin’?
Kyle Eastwood (KE): Good, man. Thank you very much.
Smitty: All right. Man, let me ask you, where did you get that groove? That is a fantastic groove you’ve got there, dude.
KE: (Laughs.) Just a lotta practice, really. (Both laugh.) I’ve always been into music, so it’s something I started when I was young playing the piano and then picking up a little guitar and bass when I was a teenager and playing bass full-time ever since I was about 18 or so.
Smitty: Yeah, man, and the practice pays off, doesn’t it? Well, I must tell you, man, when I first got this record….this is a true story….when I first got this record, I put it on in my car when I was on my way home and I will tell you, I made two trips around the block before I could get out of the car.
Smitty: It was that good, and I’ll tell ya, my rearview mirror had a groove on. (Both laugh.) Hey, that’s part of my litmus for a good record! Wow. Well, talk to me a little bit about….I know you say you’ve been playing since you were very young, but you grew up in a very musical household and you were listening to some great records as you were coming up, so I’m sure that was a great influence on your career today.
KE: Yeah, well, both my parents are big jazz fans so I grew up with all of this great music….the earliest memories of music have been of jazz, and then blues and stuff like that, that’s what my parents were listening to and then I grew up near the Monterey area in California and my parents have been going to the Monterey Jazz Festival for years. My father (Clint Eastwood) actually was at the very first one in ’58 and they started taking me along….I think I was about seven or so the first time I went. So I got a chance to see a lot of live jazz as well as hearing music around the house a lot, I think that’s what really gave me my interest in wanting to play an instrument and then the music, really.
Smitty: Yeah, and what a great festival. You were listening to some legendary players at that festival.
KE: Yeah, I think the first or second time I went I saw Count Basie when he was still alive and with the band, and Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, people like that.
Smitty: You’re a very fortunate young man. I was thinking as I was listening to your new record, this is a very fresh approach to music, I think, because you’ve got some great sounds, some great melodies, and this is not your everyday jazz record. I mean, there are some very out of the box things happening with this record. In fact, when I listened to the title track, it sounds like maybe two or three different songs that you could’ve easily developed from this song, you know? Because it’s got that kind of vibe and I’m lovin’ it.
KE: Yeah, well, I like a lotta different kinds of music. I mean, growing up with jazz and then I got a lot into a lot of old rock and roll and Motown music, funk and soul music, so, yeah, I think all that music kind of had its influences in the stuff I like to listen to and like to play and the way I write music, so I think I tried to represent all the things I like when I compose.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely, man, and it shows in the record, it really does, and it’s tight. I mean, it’s not this all over the place kind of thing. I mean, it’s very well arranged.
KE: Thank you.
Smitty: And your sister is a musician (Alison Eastwood).
KE: Yeah, she’s done some singing, she’s singing a little bit. She’s actually… mainly she’s an actress and she just started directing a film just a few days ago.
Smitty: Well, that’s incredible. Wow. So it’s just a busy time all around, isn’t it? (Laughs.)
KE: Yeah, well, I think I’m gonna do the music….I’m doing the music for her film in a couple months when she’s done shooting it, so….
Smitty: How cool is that! Nice.
KE: I’m keeping busy with that and doing some film music here and there, and then touring and playing with the band.
Smitty: Yeah, and you’ve done some scoring for your Dad as well.
KE: Yeah, well, I did some of the music for Flags of Our Fathers and then I did all the music for Letters From Iwo Jima, which just came out so, yeah, I’ve been happy with that.
Smitty: That’s fantastic, man. So how did that happen? Did you just walk in the kitchen and say “Hey, Dad, I got some really cool stuff for your next film.” (Laughs.)
KE: Well, he had written a theme, one of the main themes for Flags of Our Fathers and so I kinda worked with him on that and then did some other arrangements for some of the score, and he decided to make this other picture kinda back-to-back from that one so, yeah, he just asked me if I would just continue on and do the score for that one.
Smitty: That’s really cool, man, and that says a lot about his confidence in your musicianship too, you know?
KE: Yeah, it was fun. I mean, it was the first time I’d actually done all the score for a film. I mean, I’d written some music and played on film scores and stuff and then written a few pieces here and there, but it was the first time I’d done the entire score myself, so it was interesting.
Smitty: Yeah, now, did your Dad teach you much about the bass or was that something you picked up on your own?
KE: Well, I think the very first thing I ever played on piano was the left hand part. He was showing me left hand parts to some blues….kinda like some boogie-woogie things when I was really young. So that’s probably the first time I ever played kind of a bass line, I guess. I had played piano for a while and then I had a lot of friends who were musicians in high school and they always needed a bass player, so I just kinda picked up the electric bass and started playing it myself with no teacher.
Smitty: (Laughs.) That’s pretty cool. Well, you’ve come a long way, my friend, and it’s fantastic. Talk to me about this band, man. I love this band. Wow! Ben (Cullum), he loves to sing, doesn’t he? I can tell by just listening to him, he loves to sing.
KE: Yeah, he’s a great musician. I met his brother, you know, Jamie Cullum, when I was living in London for a little while a couple of years ago, and so I met Ben through Jamie and became friends and Ben would come down and sit in at a couple of my gigs here and there around London sometimes, but when I was getting some songs together for NOW and starting to compose for it, I just thought it would be a good idea if we got together and would write some stuff, some of the lyrics for the album, and so he was down for doing it, so it just worked out.
Smitty: Yeah, he’s got some serious pipes, my friend.
KE: Yeah, he’s good. He’s a great singer.
Smitty: Yeah, I really love his work with “I Can’t Remember.” That’s a very nice tune.
KE: Oh, thank you, man.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s just got that nice vibe where you can just kick it and have a good time.
KE: Yeah, it came out really well. It’s a really good song. You know, he likes to say he’s a singer. He’s actually a really good musician. He’s actually a good bass player himself. He plays in a band, I think, in London. He’s written songs for his brother as well.
Smitty: Incredible. You’ve got some great people around you and that’s a beautiful thing.
KE: Yeah, they’re mostly guys out of London, actually, the guys I’m playing with, and they’re all really good players.
Smitty: Yeah, and when I heard the first track that I was telling you about earlier, what a great song to open this great album, you know? It’s just got that great introductory vibe to it.
KE: Oh, thanks, man.
Smitty: Yeah, I just love those bass lines, man, oh! I mean, if you can’t dance to that, there’s something wrong with ya. (Both laugh.) You know what I mean?
KE: Oh, thank you. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Yeah, man, that is a kickin’ track. And when I heard the last track, “How Ya’ll Doin’?” I said, oh, this must be a Texas song here, you know?
Smitty: But, boy, when you hear it, it reminds you of that retro scene when you used to go into the clubs and there’d be a DJ and every now and then he’d say something like “Let’s do it.”
Smitty: And this kickin’ track’s playing, you know?
KE: Yeah, actually that song originally just started out with a kind of a jam in the studio and we were just kinda doing this thing and we ended up working it into a tune after a bit, so I thought it would be fun to put it on the album.
Smitty: Yeah, and you’ve got a very nice sax player too, man.
KE: Yeah, Dave (O’Higgins), man, he’s great.
KE: They’re all really great players.
Smitty: And with all of you cats, the arrangement fits so well with these players.
KE: Yeah, all the guys on the record, I’ve been playing with them for the last like two or three years almost, so we’ve really developed a group sound pretty well together right now, so it’s come together really well and it’s represented well on the record.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely. Now, you toured the last part of ’06 in The States and then you were off to Europe and Paris and all of that….
KE: Yeah, well, I live in Paris, actually, so we play quite a bit in Europe anyway and, yeah, we were over here for a little bit and then we were back there for a bit and then we went to Japan for a week and a half and we’ve had most of December off.
Smitty: Right, and it was well deserved down time and it’s great that the whole world is getting to hear these great tracks.
KE: Oh, thank you. I’m happy with the way it’s come out.
Smitty: Very cool. Now, talk about that whole scene in Europe when you’re touring there. What’s that like, the audiences and that kind of thing, because in The States we don’t get to see that scene over there very much.
KE: Yeah, well, the audiences are good. Especially….France has got great jazz audiences and we were pretty busy in the summer over there ‘cause there are a lotta festivals in July and August around Europe and there are some really nice clubs. There’s just a lot of appreciation for jazz or for a lotta different kinds of music, generally.
Smitty: Yeah, and that’s a great feeling for the band when you know you’ve got that kind of love when you’re doing your thing.
KE: Oh, definitely. Yeah, I mean, no matter how good the band’s playing if the audience is really into it, it’s always great. It raises the bar a little bit.
Smitty: Yes, it does. All right, now, I’m not gonna let ya off the hook, man. I cut you some slack, but you’ve got to tell me about “Nasty Girl.” (Laughs.)
KE: Well, that was a song I co-composed with my trumpet player, Graeme Flowers (both laugh), so talk to him. There’s a story about that and it was just kind of a joke we had about to be a magnet for these nasty girls.
Smitty: (Laughs.) I’m sorry to put you on the spot, man, but when I saw that and I listened to that song, I said, oh, I can’t pass this one up. (Both laugh.) But it’s a great track.
KE: Oh, thanks.
Smitty: Yeah, man.
KE: It has a Brecker Brothers kind of thing to it, yeah.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s got that horn thing working. And speaking of that, man, I love the brass sound of this album. I mean, it’s got such a groove and it’s got that reach out in the audience and grab you kind of thing working.
KE: Yeah, well, we’ve all been playing together for a while and they’ve been playing with each other in different groups as well for a while, so they’re pretty tight.
Smitty: Yeah, I really love the way that they play together.
Smitty: So, now, the record came out in October, right? It was released in October? (October 10, 2006)
KE: Yeah, I believe so. It came out in October here and it came out I think a few weeks earlier in Europe or in Japan.
Smitty: Yeah, well, it’s got a great sonic vibe. Now, you dedicated the record to your grandma.
Smitty: And you did “Ballad - Song for Ruth” on here and I love the piano lines. It’s a beautiful opening and then it closes out with a very nice retrospective sax line at the end of the song. I think it’s a very retrospective type of song in that you automatically go into this reflection kind of mode.
KE: Yeah, I was really happy with the way that song turned out, actually. It’s one of my favorites, actually, on the album.
Smitty: Well, I’m sure she would be very proud of you and would be bragging about her grandson’s great musicianship as well.
KE: Yeah, well, I started writing the song, actually, a while back and then she actually passed away last year, being early in the year, so I thought it was nice to have the song for her and dedicate the album to her.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s nice, man. I love the album cover as well, very nicely done, and this is one that I think that has some serious longevity, man. I love this project. It’s really nice.
KE: Oh, thank you.
Smitty: Talk about those instruments of yours. You’re using variety of bass guitars.
KE: Oh, well, the main two electrics that I use are actually custom guitars that I kinda helped design that I had a guy named Roger Geffen, who was working who was working at the Gibson custom shop….but he made them for me, so they’re actually kinda two custom five-string bass guitars, and one’s a fretted, one’s a fretless, and those are my main guitars. And I have a couple of uprights. I have an old German bass that’s something like 60 or 70 years old, and that I use for recording and I don’t really take that one much on the road with me anymore just because it’s such a pain to travel with a big full-size upright, so I kinda had one made….kinda traveler acoustic bass which is like a full-size one but it’s kinda with the bottom sawed off a bit so it’s a little bit easier for traveling. It’s a little more like the height of a cello kind of deal.
Smitty: Yeah, wow. When you’re recording a record or you’re about to do some recording, are you pretty much pre-determined about what instruments you’re going to use or is that more of an exploration kind of thing with you?
KE: Well, it depends. I mean, it depends on what the style or the groove of the song, you know. I think this sort of dictates whether I use the upright or the electric. You know, obviously things more like swing stuff I end up using the upright or, I mean, I like playing funk stuff on the upright as well like what’s the last song? “How Ya’ll Doin’?” is a kind of like a funky thing on acoustic bass, you know? But, yeah, I guess it just depends on what the song sorta calls for, you know, like…
Smitty: Yeah, you’re certainly an accomplished songwriter and that’s obvious from this great record. Talk about what’s important to you when it comes to a great song.
KE: Well, I mean, I think obviously a nice melody and then chord changes and then a nice groove. Some songs are obviously more sorta jam-like and more just kind of groove-oriented and some songs are more about the compositional side of writing a nice melody or nice chord changes or something like that, so I try and find a balance between the two.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely.
KE: Like with kind of a nice groove with a nice melody and something that features all the instruments. Sometimes it just features whoever is playing, whether it’s a saxophone and piano and bass and just has this overall sound.
Smitty: Yeah. Now, you’ve hooked up with the Rendezvous cats (Rendezvous Entertainment).
KE: Yeah, they’ve been working the album for me here in The States and they’re good guys.
Smitty: Yeah, and love what they’re doing over there. Speaking of Rendezvous, the last few projects out of that camp have been very fresh and new, including your project. It’s something we need, you know? And it’s nice to see some getting out of the box and doing something different, I’m loving that.
KE: Yeah, and I think it’s a good thing. I mean, it’s good for the music, good for everybody.
Smitty: Yeah, you’ve got some great support over there, a lotta great people over there at Rendezvous. Enjoy working with them.
Smitty: Absolutely. Kyle, I must thank you, first of all, for this great record and for spending a little time with The Smitty and talking about your career.
KE: No problem. Thank you for the support.
Smitty: Yes indeed. And look forward to catching you on the road. Didn’t get to catch you on tour here last time.
KE: I think we’ve got some dates coming up quite a bit in June, it looks like, in The States.
Smitty: Oh, very cool.
KE: There might be some stuff earlier than that, but I’ve kinda got it in the works right now.
Smitty: Excellent, well, that’s great to know, man.
KE: You can go check it out on the Web site. My Web site should have stuff on there soon.
Smitty: Yeah, give me your Web site.
KE: It’s just www.kyleeastwood.com.
Smitty: All right. I’ve been there, man, and it’s a great Web site, you’ve got a lotta information there, and very well designed too.
KE: Oh, thanks.
Smitty: Yeah, lots of great information and you can listen to some songs from the new record and that’s always cool. All right, well, Kyle, thanks again, my friend. It has been a pleasure talking with you.
KE: Oh, my pleasure.
Smitty: And we certainly look forward to seeing you on the road and hearing more about this great new record, and do me a favor and tell that great bunch of guys that you have in your band that they are some bad boys.
KE: (Laughs.) I will do so. I’m gonna be seeing them in a few days, actually. I’m heading back. We’ve got a gig in London on the 31st, so I’ll be seeing them shortly. I’ll let them know.
Smitty: All right, we’ve been talking with the fantastic “Mr. Groove”, Kyle Eastwood. His latest record is called NOW as in right now. You must pick this one up. And it is available in stores now and you must catch the live show because I’ve heard that it’s kickin’ and, Kyle, thanks again, my friend, and all the best to you in 2007 and beyond, my friend.
KE: All right, Smitty, thank you, man, you too.
Baldwin “Smitty” Smith
For More Information Visit www.kyleeastwood.com and www.rendezvousmusic.com
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