Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Earlier this year, guitarist Kyle Lewis did something that many other Nashville musicians aspire to do -- he quit his day job. After several years of paying his dues playing in various bands and teaching guitar lessons on the side, he was ready to take the gamble. And it paid off. (Featured photo by Chelsea Raynea Concert Photography)
His first month was booked solid, and Kyle went out on the road every weekend as a “hired gun” for several touring artists and bands. “I would get back from the road and learn a new batch of tunes for the next weekend, then get home and learn another batch of tunes.” And to make things even more challenging, each of the bands was a different genre. Some of the groups he went on tour with include Dixie Jade (female pop country duo); Chandler Stephens (country artist); Amy Darling (rock artist); Slings and Arrows (indie rock band); and The Band Steele (country).
Making a living as a musician was something Kyle had dreamed about since he was young. He grew up in Ohio, and says he had “a natural curiosity about how instruments worked.” He would pick up an instrument and try to figure out how to play it, starting with drums. His dad taught him some guitar chords when he was ten. Before long, Kyle was also playing the piano and mandolin. In high school, he studied music theory; played in the school’s marching band drum line; and drummed in a rock band he formed with some friends.
After graduation, Kyle tried to convince his bandmates to move to Nashville, but they didn’t share his vision. So he enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University to study classical guitar and music business -- bringing him one step closer to Nashville.
Since graduating from college seven years ago, Kyle has been a member of a handful of bands and has also played as a hired gun or session musician for more artists and bands than he can count. His biggest break came a few years ago when a friend told him about a band that was looking for someone who could play both guitar and keys.
Kyle had heard Them Vibes play a few times, and aspired to be in a band like that. “They’re bringing back the good rock and roll sounds of the 60’s and 70’s while remaining original in their sound.” It’s a sound that Rolling Stone magazine described as “retro rock” in an article about the band’s recent show with Maggie Rose (more on that later). Kyle said there was instant chemistry when he auditioned for the band. “We jammed on some of their tunes and everyone looked around like ‘yep, this is the sound, this is the right fit.’ It was one of those instances where we all just knew.”
Them Vibes has been successful in getting several of their original songs on radio and TV, including ABC’s Nashville; CMT’s Redneck Island and Dude Perfect; and original series shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Kyle says the highlight of his career so far was touring Europe for a month with Them Vibes in 2016. “Europeans love American rock and roll.” They played sold-out shows in Germany, France, Belgium, Slovakia, and Spain. One of the unique aspects of touring Europe was that the venues provided upstairs rooms or apartments for the bands to stay overnight, so the band did not have the hassle or expense of booking hotels. “There was not much time for sightseeing, but we really got a feel for the culture in each town because the locals want to take you to the best places to eat, for coffee, etc. after the show.”
After the European tour, Kyle and the band went into the studio to record the 12-track album Electric Fever (available now on iTunes and other digital platforms) with local producer Bobby Holland. Watch the official music video for the single Who Do You Love.
In addition to their own projects, Them Vibes has been working with singer-songwriter Maggie Rose both in the studio and on the road. Traveling in a tour bus that was retrofitted from an old shuttle they bought from the local Jewish Community Center (Kyle jokes that the bus is their “Holy Roller”), the band has a unique arrangement with Maggie Rose. “We get to open for her and play a set of our original music as Them Vibes, then we back her up for her own show.” They are usually joined by additional members of the “family band,” a close-knit group of musician friends that sing or play for each others' shows.
Recently at the Basement East in Nashville, Kyle played lead guitar at Maggie Rose’s release party for her new album Change The Whole Thing. Kyle adds, “I had the best seat in the house that night! Not only was I on stage next to Maggie Rose, but the energy I could feel from the crowd was amazing…. It’s what we live for.”
Catch Kyle and Them Vibes (with special guests The Daybreaks and Jeremy Lister) at 3rd & Lindsley on Sunday, October 21.
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FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
Kyle has been featured in Vintage Guitar Magazine
Musical influences: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty
Favorite cover song to play on guitar: Since I’ve Been Loving You by Led Zeppelin
Musical idol: Jimmy Page
Kyle also works part-time at The 522 Studio
Photos below by Chelsea Raynea Concert Photography
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