By Darleen Dixon

(LSM Jan/Feb 2012/vol. 5 – Issue 1)

It’s a chilly Gruene afternoon in early December, and Kyle Park is keyed up. Sporting a Waylon Jennings T-shirt and with dishwater blonde hair poking out from under a ball cap, he’s talking a mile a minute between gulps of iced tea. He’s got a sort of hangdog look about him, broken by sparkling blue eyes and a baby face in spite of the ever-present stubble.

It’s Park’s performance tonight in Temple that’s got him on edge, being that it will be his first with his new guitar player. Understandable, as the picker being replaced had been there his entire professional career — nearly six years. He says he and the new guitarist might just rewrite all the dual guitar parts. “I don’t even wanna think about it!” he says, laughing. “It’s gonna take a year to get clean with him. We played, I dunno, 500 shows together [with Karl Schwoch] and it took at least half of those to where I didn’t have to look over to my left anymore and think, ‘is he gonna hit that double lick with me?’”

A personal connection with his new bandmate is just as important to Park as the playing, because of all the time they’ll spend together. Gigging half the week, sometimes more, the band is with each other pretty much 24/7 at those times: onstage, in the bus, during meals. “In November I was home four nights,” he says. “We’re all brothers, and we’re all family.”

The singer-songwriter is a Leander (northwest of Austin) transplant living in San Marcos with plans to move to New Braunfels soon. Park’s parents played a part in his influences that range from classic country to heavy metal. His dad loves country music; Kyle was raised listening to it, but soon found his own way. “Even before Texas music was a scene, I was trying to find the guys around [to see live].” The rock came in because “I thought, ‘well, if I’m gonna play guitar, I gotta know some rock music.’”

Park released his debut album, Big Time, in 2007, and followed it up with Anywhere in Texas in 2009. He then issued a pair of EPs in 2010: The Spring EP and The Fall EP. Both served as previews for his third full-length album, Make or Break Me, which came out in late September. He recently shot a video for the album’s second single, “Leavin’ Stephenville,” which is due out early this year.

“I’ve never really released a song about Texas before,” he says. “But the truth is, it’s not even about Texas. I mean, it is, but if you were livin’ in Stephenville, Arkansas, or Stephenville, Lousiana, or Stephenville, Missouri … I never mention Texas. If you weren’t from here, you wouldn’t know all the Texas [references]. Like, I mention I pass the city limits sign for Stephenville. Well, there’s a bar we play at called City Limits in town. I’m passin’ that sign; that’s the bar we always play.”

Park wrote or co-wrote all of the 15 songs on Make or Break Me. He takes his writing very seriously, but admits that his busy gig schedule (which currently has him touring with Cody Johnson through March 3) makes finding time to sit down and write a challenge. But he’s learning to adapt by chipping away at songs-in-progress every chance he gets.

“I’ve got a song in my head I’ve been writing for two months,” he says. “I’ve got the chorus, and yesterday I wrote a bridge, in like, 30 minutes. It’s like a bunch of little houses, you build on all of ’em at separate times.”