Kyle Hollingsworth is a practice-makes-perfect kind of musician. Hollingsworth is the keyboard player for longtime Colorado-based jam band stalwarts String Cheese Incident, and also has a handful of solo releases under his own name. He’s a lifelong student of the instrument, and what started as a typical scenario of “kid being pushed by parents into piano lessons,” which included the guilt to practice whenever a piano was in sight, grew into a love affair with piano and keyboards. He eventually studied music in higher education, and later landed full-time work as a professional musician.
Hollingsworth and his band will perform Sunday at the Animas City Theatre. Liver Down the River, a local jam-psychedelic-funk-grass band, will be opening the show.
His musical education continued in his post college years, into the early days of String Cheese Incident, and continues today.
“For the first few years with Cheese, I’d be on tour in this old ski bus from Crested Butte, and as soon as the bus would stop I’d put my backpack on and go find a university and a piano,” said Hollingsworth. “I’d sit down and practice for two or three hours before the show, every single day.”
“The mothership” is what Hollingsworth calls the String Cheese Incident, his endlessly touring full-time band and musical outlet. Outside of his life with Cheese, he’s furthering his musical knowledge by studying classical music and working on becoming a better songwriter. His fourth record, “50,” was released earlier this year.
Hollingsworth is a monster on the keyboards; he’s fun to watch, and his records are an apt representation of music from a dude well-versed in the world of Colorado jam-grass and festival music. A fondness of The Grateful Dead is obvious. Extended jams dip into new-grass territory, while acid-jazz, electronic music, and funk have a groovy punch. It’s clear Hollingsworth is also a fan of Brian Eno and The Talking Heads, and digging deep into his albums reveals plenty of art-rock experimentation.
Hollingsworth also keeps great company, with Andy Hall from The Infamous Stringdusters, members of The Motet, or DJ Logic sitting in on some of the “50” tracks. He’s got a solid lineup with The Kyle Hollingsworth Band, and with one foot in the world of The String Cheese Incident, and the other in his solo world, he remains cognizant of what band would be the proper avenue for his songs.
“I just released a new song that I was going to put on my solo disc, but I pulled it back. It’s very Cheese-esque. When I put it together for my project, I said this needs to be brought to the mothership. So, I put it aside,” said Hollingsworth. “There’s certain songs (where) I say, ‘This is a Vampire Weekend rip-off, so I should do it solo.’ Or, ‘This is an eighties song; I should do it with my group.’ So, I explore a little outside the realm of the Cheese world with my project.”
Hollingsworth’s other artistic pursuit is home-brewing. He’s produced beers with many breweries around the country, including Ska Brewing from Durango. As a musician who works in many genres, he connects some obvious dots between home beer-making and improvisational-driven music.
“I like playing with ingredients and see(ing) what happens in the end. It’s almost how I play music,” said Hollingsworth. “You improvise on stage, improvise in your brewing. Sometimes it can be the best brew ever or the worst solo you’ve ever taken. When you’ve been in the moment, you’re just kind of going for it.”