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Solstice update, part 2 of 2 

In 2020, I would like to balance the “work” side of my musical life (booking, rehearsing, learning and arranging cover songs, etc…) with the “creative” side. I would very much like to open myself up to collaboration, since I do happen to cross paths with many fine musicians. Some conversations have already been happening. 

I started 2019 with several song ideas and an overall concept in mind for a new solo album. It did not come to pass the way I had hoped. For much of the year, indecision and self-doubt left me with some songs that I disliked and other ideas that I liked but couldn’t fully form. I also had problems with microphones, instruments, and other recording gear that took me a while to address. However, I made major progress in the last month or so by picking one of my favorite ideas and seeing it through to completion. I ended up recording and mixing a song called “Turn the Light Off,” which is really about the creative process itself. Sonically, it’s somewhere between my acoustic albums and (io). I don’t know exactly what it will become, but I hope to continue with this approach and see where the cards fall. I have accepted that I need to slow down and let the music be what it will be. 

The next Civil Engineers EP is recorded and scheduled for release in the spring or early summer of 2020. It contains songs that have been tried and tested in a live setting, so recording was actually pretty easy. It hasn’t even been mixed yet and it already sounds great. 

Driveway Thriftdwellers have a wealth of song ideas and some complete songs (including one of my own that I’m really excited about called “Leave the Light On” – more on this later) waiting to be fleshed out and recorded. Collaboration seems to come easily to this band. It’s the only group I’ve been in where 5 people can sit in a room and come up with lyrics and melodies together without it feeling like too many cooks in the kitchen. I look forward to hearing what our third full-length album will sound like. 

The Big Payback is also starting to compile new material and explore the possibilities of collaboration with our current lineup. We’ve already got some new songs since our last album. We’ve also been emailing around song and lyric ideas, which is a new way of working for us. Adapt and grow. Our 10-Year show was also recorded for a live release in the coming year. 

Thanks again for reading and supporting. I’m off to Colorado for some family time. See you in 2020!

Solstice update, part 1 of 2 

2019 is just about in the books! Here’s a recap of what this year looked like for me. Of course, when extreme introverts take time to reflect, we tend to get a bit long-winded. Skim as you will. 

I tallied them up, and I played 116 gigs in 5 states this year. Some personal highlights were: 

The Big Payback’s 10-Year celebration at the High Noon Saloon in November. We’re proud of our 10 years together, and we really wanted to do this right. New original music, re-arranging old music, promotion, planning, and rehearsing. It felt like a lot was on the line for this show, so I can’t even explain how amazing it felt to play to a fully packed room. To everyone who made it out to the show, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. 

In August, Driveway Thriftdwellers finally made it up to Mile of Music in Appleton. I had heard so many great things about this multi-day, multi-venue festival that I was almost prepared to be disappointed. But it’s as amazing as everyone says it is! We’ve never felt so welcomed. We played some very nice stages, but strangely the highlight was when we crammed our 5-piece band into a tiny corner next to an escalator in the city center (I think) and played an impromptu semi-acoustic set to an unsuspecting but receptive crowd of shoppers, employees, and a very nice security guard. 

The Civil Engineers played a killer set at PeopleFest. I kind of needed a show like this at the time. I had just come off a gig where everything felt a little “off” (room didn’t sound great, I didn’t play great, audience reaction was lukewarm, etc…) and that has a way of spiraling into “WTF am I doing with my life?” pretty quickly. TCE’s set at PeopleFest melted all that away. Surrounded by friends onstage and off, I was quickly able to lose myself in the music and remember why I do this in the first place. We also had some snazzy new t-shirts for this show. 

Five Points Jazz Collective released our live album in June. The CD release party was at our home base, the Mason Lounge, and was also part of the Isthmus Jazz Festival. I’ve now been playing trombone/euphonium and guarding the men’s room of the Mason more or less every Tuesday for 7 years. I am proud that we have recorded and now released a live album that is a testament to the vibe of the Mason and the kinship of our little Tuesday night family. I should also mention that I wrote a tune for the group this year and have been really happy with the results. 

It turns out I only played one solo show this year. I think the main reason is this: like many creative types, the act of self-promotion does not come naturally to me. It’s always easier to rely on the established booking machinery of my more active bands, especially when things get busy in the summer months. I am learning how to manage my time and my life in a way that will put me in a position to book more solo shows in the future, something I very much want to do.  

It’s now been 7 years since I started making a living solely through performing and teaching music. It is not easy. It’s a constant expenditure of creative energy, which sounds easy on the surface, but it can be exhausting and confusing. Everyone I make music with is constantly having to juggle decisions when it comes to booking. Are we making enough money for this show? Are we asking for too much money? How much time/money should we put into promo and advertising? Is it worth playing a show for lower pay if it puts us in a better position long term? Are we playing too much in one market? Not enough? It’s a balancing act and every band deals with it differently. I’m sure business owners and entrepreneurs know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that really I’m doing all this because I love everything about music. Fortunately, all these questions melt away for me as soon as I’m on a stage. 

This was definitely a year of personal growth. I’ve discovered the benefits of therapy and have been dealing with depression with a sense of intention and acceptance. Even realizing that it’s OK to feel down sometimes. I’m very fortunate to have a loving and supportive partner in Elizabeth, as well as a whole network of friends and family who have my back. 

In terms of recorded output, I only released one album this year (Five Points). But there is much more new music on the horizon! Some of it already recorded and awaiting the final polish. Part 2 of this update will focus on what’s ahead in 2020. 

Thank you for reading. Peace and stillness.


Kyle Rightley
Solo acoustic show
Fisher King Winery
Saturday, July 6 
5-7 pm
Free show, all ages

January update 

Warm wishes for 2019, everyone! 

My big long term project for this year is a new solo album. I've been writing bits and pieces for it since the autumn, and now I'm trying to clear some time and space to really sink into the process over the coming months. I have a working title and a vision for the album that is slowly coming into focus, but I'm not quite ready to share that just yet. Mostly because it's still early in the process and things might change. 

But I will give you periodic updates! Possibly in video form.

In the meantime, I've got my gig calendar more or less up to date. I'm really excited for Driveway Thriftdwellers' self-titled vinyl release next weekend. This is the first time I've been on vinyl! We'll be at Anodyne Coffee in Milwaukee next Friday, January 18. Details here

Later in the month, The Civil Engineers will be hitting the road with Wurk for a mini-tour. Hopefully we'll fare better than the poor dude in the poster:

I also just finished a composition for Five Points Jazz Collective called Start Somewhere. Stop by the Mason Lounge on a Tuesday evening and perhaps you'll hear it! 

That's all for now. Cheerio!

Next solo show 

Hi friends,

It's been a crazy busy summer between The Big Payback's two RESPECT shows (one was at the Majestic Theater in Madison, and a similar event is happening in Michigan this weekend), Driveway Thriftdwellers finishing up our new album, and tons of shows between all my bands. 

I'm happy to announce a solo acoustic show! I'll be providing brunch music at Porter, a unique coffee shop and restaurant in the historic train depot on West Washington Ave. Their menu looks amazing, by the way. I hope you can make it!

Kyle Rightley @ Porter
Saturday, August 25
10 am - 1 pm

Upcoming Gigs