Kyle Nachtigal Is Living the Singer/Songwriter Dream

Kyle Nachtigal Is Living the Singer/Songwriter Dream
Venues & Businesses
Von Jakob Vineyard

Who: Kyle Nachtigal
What: original rock, blues
When: 2016-10-15
Since February, eclectic singer/songwriter Kyle Nachtigal has had a breakout year, playing coffeehou
Thomas Henry Horan
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Since February, eclectic singer/songwriter Kyle Nachtigal has had a breakout year, playing coffeehouses and vineyards and nightclubs from Kansas City to Atlanta to Milwaukee to Saint Louis to Eureka Springs to Birmingham. He returns Saturday, October 15 to Von Jakob Orchard in Alto Pass.

Nachtigal is based in Nashville, a city that can either make or break an aspiring performer. It seems to have made Nachtigal. Onstage, he has the kind of confidence— and skill to back it up— that wins over audiences. He’s had the chance to jam with the best, and learned to hold his own. He knows he’s good. Now, on the road, he focuses on making it good for the audience.

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Nightlife recently sat down with this thoughtful and talented young man for an interview just before a show at J.P.’s in Paducah.

Do you come from a musical family?

Not exactly. My parents don’t play or sing, but I was deeply influenced by their musical tastes. While I grew up, they listened to the Beatles, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Sheryl Crow. My dad is a huge fan of Dave Matthews.

When I was little, I wanted to be a Backstreet Boy. Then, in high school, I wanted to be a heavy-metal guitar shredder. Everything my parents didn’t listen to. But now that I’m in my twenties, I realize how much closer to them I’ve returned, musically.

What were your other musical influences?

The Beatles are the closest thing I have to a religion. I’ve been trying to lay the template of their early success over my own career at this point. The hard work, the hard audiences, the determination. These are my Hamburg years. I’m working on developing myself into someone who can engage a multitude of different audiences. Not just build a fan base, but learn how to earn anyone’s attention.

What are your non-musical influences?

I read a lot. Lots of history, politics. I’ve been reading Barack Obama’s books. Not just what he writes, but how he writes it. The eloquence. The way he expresses himself in his ideas.

Speaking of your writing process, what comes first for you— the words, or the music?

The music comes first. The lyrics come to me slowly, over time. As it develops, the melody, the musical phrasing, will begin to suggest certain words and ideas. I’m pretty disciplined about spending a long time with a song and allowing it to mature.

You graduated from Belmont University in Nashville. Why there?

It’s in Nashville, of course. I mainly wanted to play guitar, get really good at it, and their guitar program is excellent. For one, thing, there’s a lot of pressure at a school like that. I was used to being the hotshot guitarist at my high school, then I come to Nashville, and suddenly I’m rubbing elbows with people who are a lot better than I am. It was humbling, for sure. I had to rise to that level. But that’s also when the songwriting started.

No label?

Not yet. But I’m starting to think maybe I don’t want one. I’m not in a hurry right now. I feel like I have been in such a hurry. But this year, I’ve been making a living playing live. Ironically, nowadays, you make more money touring than selling records, anyway. And all these out-of-Nashville gigs are great, because of the challenge of getting strangers to like me. I want to make sure I sound as good live as I do in the studio.

What is your definition of success?

I’ve been telling myself for the last decade that I wanted to be self-supporting purely as a musician. Now, I feel like I’ve made it to that level, and I have to start thinking about what the next level means to me. For now, I’m developing a bigger grassroots following so I will be better able to maintain control over my brand and my music. I definitely want the live experience to be the essence of my music and my career.

The crowd in J.P.’s tonight is as eclectic as Nachtigal’s music. A wedding rehearsal party, several tables of homecoming-night dates, tourists, local characters. Nachtigal greets them all like an old friend who happened to stop by and serenade them. He mixes up original songs with original takes on old classics. There’s Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” transformed by Kyle into a thoughtful, soul-searching ballad. A new fan loves it and shouts, “Play ‘Man in the Mirror’!”

“I don’t know that one. Yet. I’ll have to learn it for when I come back,” Nachtigal promises. Then he slips into “Fly Me to the Moon.” Then a Justin Bieber tune, one reminiscent of the undiscovered Bieber, busquing on the streetcorners with his acoustic and his hair and his smile. Then an Amy Winehouse ballad. Then a Kyle Nachtigal original. The right amount of strumming, the right amount of picking, the right amount of tapping, the right amount of bass string, the right amount of hollow-body slapping. A warm, engaging voice. A twinkle in the eyes. A tasteful set for diners in a tasteful southern bistro. Nachtigal singing for his supper, and ours, too. He’s smooth, he’s self-assured, he’s reassuring. An old pro at twenty-five.

who: Kyle Nachtigal

what: original rock, blues

where: Von Jakob Orchard


when: Saturday, October 15