Features, Print February 7, 2020

Cover Story: Kyle Emerson – Coming Down and Into His Own

by Dan England

At the end of every show on his first tour as a solo artist, Kyle Emerson found himself exhausted. Emerson supported his first solo record, 2017’s Dorothy Alice, with a lengthy tour and on most nights, the shows felt like grueling workouts more than a concert.

That was, partly, the adjustment he simply had to make as a solo artist after being in a band, Plum, with three lead singers, all whom wrote songs. He had to grow into writing an entire album of songs, something he would do in chunks, as well as perform them live without a break.

In exercising those muscles, he wrote a vulnerable, sad album that reflected the serious life-changing moments he was facing: moving away from home, ending a relationship and losing his grandmother, his first real family death, he said. She watched him when he was young, bought his first guitar and paid for his lessons. He named the album after her. 

“The lyrical content didn’t put me in the most fun headspace every night,” Emerson said in a phone interview for BandWagon. “Especially if I have to do it night in and night out.”

Kyle Emerson comes into his own as a solo artist on Only Coming Down, his most recent full-length. Catch his band live at The Moxi in Greeley on February 20 with The Velveteers. Photos by Luka Booth

Even so, Emerson didn’t shy away from deep lyrics on his November release Only Coming Down, but this time he was conscious of what it would mean to play the songs live nearly every night, and he wrote it partly with that in mind. The result is a livelier, more layered album, one he’s excited to play on his current tour. Among other Colorado stops this month, Emerson plays at The Moxi in downtown Greeley on Thursday, February 20.

“Maybe I wanted more of a driving feel,” Emerson said, “or I fell in love with a beat that kept pushing the song along. Some of these songs led to a different type of connection with the crowd. I definitely sense a bit more of an energy in the room, and it’s way easier to feed off it.”

That energy is apparent on the singles “May You Find Peace,” “Better” and “I Can Change.” The album begs for a road trip so it can jangle around the car on a long stretch of highway with it’s classic, 70s feel, something that Emerson’s love of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen leans on, though a healthy dose of alternative sheen gives it a modern edge.

“I went through a phase of listening to Bruce and Tom Petty,” he said. “I grew up listening to older music and having a record collection that was always the stuff you’d find in old coffee shops – old Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac. It’s just in my DNA at this point.”

Emerson enjoyed recording Only Coming Down as well, saying it was more of a collaborative process with his band. There were certain songs that his guitarist, Miles Eichner, would rearrange to fit his own style, for instance. He says that regardless of the fact that it’s a Kyle Emerson release, it’s actually much more of a band effort, perhaps even a hearkening back to his collaborative days with Plum.

“I think there’s a beauty in hearing one person on a whole record,” Emerson said, “but I did enjoy the best of both worlds on this one.”

Kyle Emerson finds the balance between being a solo artist and working with a band.
Photo by Rett Rogers.

The album was recorded in Colorado, and Emerson calls both Colorado and L.A. his home, splitting time between the two. He will play in Colorado for a good chunk of February and with that time on the road he doesn’t feel the need to choose one home. He also doesn’t feel a need to choose just one style or method for the record. 

“I just know myself a bit more now,” he said, “both what I’m into musically and what I want to say.”

105.5 The Colorado Sound presents Kyle Emerson on Thursday, February 20 at The Moxi Theater in Greeley with special guests The Velveteers.