On any given Thursday evening, you might be lured into Brick West Brewing Company by the layered sound of a full band and the promise of a craft beer, only to realize with surprise that it’s a solo musician churning out multi-layered upbeat songs. How is he managing? Surely there’s some pre-recorded backtracks he plays alongside. Nope, musician Kyle Richard performs every single piece live, with the use of a looping pedal to record layers of the music and play on top of them.
“Looping is always risky because if you do mess up, it’s on repeat. That’s also what is so cool about it. It adds a wow factor to my performances because if people are really paying attention to what I’m doing they see that there’s no backing tracks or anything like that.” says Kyle.
”I like to play a lot of different genres, but in terms of the music that I have written I would say it mostly all comes from a place of strong emotion whether that’s happy, sad, or everything in between.”
Kyle’s music is heartfelt and highly approachable. It would likely fall in a pop or alternative category but is certainly its own unique sound. “I am very inspired by Ed Sheeran for his incredible ability to write, sing, and play. I also love John Mayer, Chris Stapleton, Lady Gaga, and the list would be way too long if i kept going! I appreciate so many different musicians and singers.”
He was drawn to music, particularly the guitar, from an early age. At the suggestion of his parents, he began with piano at age six and got his first guitar at seven.
“I always loved music and remember begging my parents for a guitar, but I was encouraged by my mom to start out learning piano first, so I agreed to do a year of piano before getting a guitar,” Kyle says.
There was a bit of music in his family but mainly on a hobby level. “My siblings and mom all sing a little and my brother plays guitar, but they are all in the medical field. My mom is a nurse, dad is a physician, brother is in med school, sister is a nurse—I’m definitely the black sheep of the family.”
The idea to perform professionally occurred to Kyle as a matter of chance—he was visiting a friend at a bar in Chelan, Washington, called The Vogue.
“I saw a sign that said, ‘Live Music Tonight’. When I walked in and asked who was playing, the owner said that the band just canceled, so I offered up the idea that I could play a set.… He gave me a chance and it ended up being the night when I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Kyle has been performing as a full-time professional musician for the past five years and has quickly become a staple in the Spokane music community. “I love collaborating with other musicians, it’s amazing how many talented musicians the Spokane area has to offer! If you scroll through my Instagram page, there’s collaborations with countless different local artists.”
Spokane is home to a plethora of live music venues and Kyle has likely played a high percentage of them. When asked about his favorite live music venues in the area, Kyle responds that every Wednesday from May to September, he and Fizi host a music night at Trailbreaker Cider in Liberty Lake. They often have other musicians play sets before them and then open the stage for a jam night or let people up to sing along with them.
Every Thursday, they play down at Brickwest Brewing for various events/fundraisers throughout the summer.
“There are so many great spots in the area and plenty of opportunities for musicians,” Kyle says. “If they work hard and really just go for it, they could have a gig almost every night of the week, especially in the summer!”
Kyle will be returning as the primary musician at the 2nd Manito Park Art Festival on Saturday June 11th. He’ll be playing from noon to 6 p.m. and talks about his process when selecting a setlist.
“I go into all of my gigs with pretty much one goal in mind: how can I make sure everyone involved has as much fun as possible and leave inspired? I try to pick songs that will fit the vibe of whatever event I am doing. I will have a giant QR code that people can scan and see a list of around 180 songs that they can then request electronically, and it’ll show up on my phone.”
Kyle typically offers a mix of cover songs and originals during a performance. “The way I see it is that playing covers will only make me better as a musician and allow some people who wouldn’t pay attention otherwise to then turn and really listen when I do go into an original tune. I had a mentor early on who told me that the Beatles started out playing covers.” says Kyle.
He does eventually have ambitions to tour featuring only his original music when the time is right. Kyle has a mindful and focused approach to creating new music. “The most important thing is to stay in the moment, put your phone away, and hammer it out. I find that whenever I’m inspired to write a song, the inspiration only lasts so long so it’s very important for me to just lock myself in the studio and finish it all in the moment or it often won’t ever be completed. In general, I try to only write songs that mean something to me, or when I’m feeling a certain way, I use songwriting sort of like therapy.”
In addition to live performances, Kyle owns a music studio that he opens to the Spokane music community. “It’s a great space for recording and creating. The whole idea behind the room is that everything is wired and ready to rock and roll so that nothing gets in the way of the creative process.”
“When ideas are flowing, moving around chords and plugging in mics/keyboards or other gear is the last thing you want to be doing,” he adds. “I often collaborate with other artists and sometimes record them and help them out with videos for their social media pages. I find that the more you collaborate, the more reach you have, plus helping other musicians out feels good and being nice to people is probably the number one rule for being successful as a musician.”
When he’s not performing or recording, Kyle can be found snowboarding, golfing, or hiking with his best friend Fender. You can find more information on Kyle and a list of his shows on his website and best support him, and other local musicians, simply by attending live performances.
Molly is a Spokane photographer who is also on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Manito. She loves supporting both Manito Park and local artists. She has been privileged to help establish Manito Parks first Art Festival.