Seven years ago, a student found himself at one of life’s crossroads. His options: to pursue his dream of playing country-western music, or to hold a steady course in completing a degree at Texas State.
Kyle Park chose the former, keeping his heart in the right place when it came to the music that he writes and performs.
The musician first picked up a guitar at the age of 14 with the hope that playing music would add a little spice to his rural Texas life in Leander. What started out as a pastime quickly turned into a lifelong passion for Park.
“I’m the kind of guy that if I start something, then I want to do everything I can to be good at it,” he said.
At 15, he had written his first song and started to land gigs at hole-in-the-wall bars in his hometown.
Because of his young age, Park had to be accompanied by an of-age friend to his first show just to enter the bar for the scheduled free set, the musician said.
He continued to play gigs at these local hangouts throughout high school. Park’s early love for performing eventually resulted in the decision to hang up the cleats on his days as a high school baseball player.
Like many musicians before him, Park had become infatuated with a dream of living in the dim light of dive bars. He never turned down a gig in his first five years of performing. This passion is what led him to San Marcos in 2003.
Two years into his college career, Park formed a band around him and decided to risk the odds by following in the footsteps of guitar-playing idols like George Straight and Johnny Cash.
“It was hard because my parents pushed for me to stay in school until I finished. But I didn’t want to turn down a gig Thursday night because there was an exam Friday morning, and I didn’t want to fail the exam because I was out playing a show the night before,” said Park. “In the end, you have to choose one and see how good you are at it. I would hate to do something and be miserable.”
Park said one night in Lubbock convinced him that his music career could work when he was handed $800 at closing time.
“There was enough to pay the band, afford gas, feed ourselves and have a little extra to keep in our pocket. I love what I’m doing, so I’ll do it as long as I can, or at least until my arms get cut off,” Park said.
Three albums and a few years shy of a decade later, the Texas-raised musician has made several strides in his career, including a jump to the number three spot on the Texas Music Chart with his single “Make Or Break Me,” producing his latest album and playing alongside Clint Black, Ryan Bingham, Reckless Kelly and other popular country artists.
“Kyle is an extremely hard worker who is dedicated to perfecting his craft and setting high goals,” said John Whitby, who plays piano with Park. “He knows he has seen success but realizes there’s still a long way to go.”
Park’s success can be traced back to his work ethic and creative commitment to writing songs. He said that what matters most when trying to make it as a musician is getting out on stage often and accomplishing as much as possible with few resources.
“You can’t just go out there and ask a country song-writer in Nashville to put together an album for you from the get-go,” Park said. “Why would they give it to you when they can make some money by selling it to George Strait?”
Park said he also owes his success in part to his band-mates, with whom he plays at every gig three or four nights a week.
“I love the guys, and I wouldn’t be near as successful or happy without them,” Park said. “We’re a family. I mean, it’s hard to get gigs without a band, and it’s hard to get a band without gigs.”
Presently, Park spends about 250 days of the year on the road. As entertaining as the lifestyle can be, it can also grow tiresome, Park said. Studio time must always be accounted for, as well as the need to be creative between the long stints on the road.
“There are times when you want to be home,” Park said. “But if you can’t deal with it then you’re in the wrong business. It’s necessary to love it.”
Park is working on releasing a new album, and said he would like to play it nationally and beyond.
“I love what I do. It’s not because I’m the best. It’s because I enjoy it. There has been a lot of hard work put into our careers, and that’s what it’ll always take unless you want to sell your soul and have that number one hit,” he said. “I don’t believe fame is a determination of success.”