INTERVIEW: Kolby Knickerbocker

Photo Credit: Tony Gambino Photography - Bend, OR - www.tonygambinophoto.com

Hi Kolby, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you! I’ve been well. Releasing new music is always super exciting for me, so the last couple of weeks have been great.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single, “Over and over”?

Of course. The inspiration for “Over and Over” came out of the relationship with my wife. The song is a special dedication to her. I wrote it as a melody to remind her that my love for her will not waiver no matter how hard life gets. I may say the wrong things, but my dedication to our relationship will not dwindle.

The larger theme in the song is about dedication and commitment. I realized that, in both life and love, I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t have to hit the ball every time at bat. Life is hard, and relationships take work, lots of it. I may not say the right thing every time or at all, but if I show up every day and dedicate myself to someone or something bigger than me, I will have succeeded. Showing up for someone, over and over, is half the battle. Showing up for someone, knowing that you will probably fail, is doubly hard. But in showing up, I’m demonstrating with my actions what is important to me: family, partnership, kids.

This song is very special to me as I think of my daughter and son when I hear the lyrics. Knowing that they will one day feel the emotion that I have for their mother, my wife, and knowing that they will one day be able to hear the dedication that we had as a couple is very personal and special to me. 

Did any event, in particular, inspire you to write this song?

There wasn’t a particular event that inspired this song but a culmination of everyday life events. I think with the pandemic hitting everyone; life got harder in almost every arena for me.

At the end of most days, I was, and still am, pretty exhausted. That feeling, along with the musical melody, really set the tone and narrative of the song. The song’s first lines sum the whole thing up: “It’s been a long day. It’s been a long year. It’s been a long life, and I’m still loving you.”

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

Of course! The title track “Over and Over” is off the full EP, which will be released on April 2. I have a second single from the EP (“Prayer”) dropping on March 10. I’m stoked for that release as well.

Why naming the album after this song in particular?

That’s a great question.

I named the album after this song for a couple of reasons: 1) I thought this song was the strongest song on the EP 🙂 and 2) because of the double meaning I feel around being a musician and being dedicated to a life-long relationship. I must show up to both of those aspects of my life, over and over, no matter how hard it gets.

Being a songwriter can be draining, with long nights and lots of hard work, and doesn’t always have a clear reciprocity for my work. But I always come back to it because it is something I love to do. It is endlessly challenging and endlessly fulfilling, so I will come back to writing songs and being a musician Over and Over, no matter how challenging. I often say musicians are some of the most stubborn and driven people on the planet; you have to be to succeed in this industry!

I have the honor of being paid as a songwriter and a musician and being good enough to warrant a fan-base that actively listens to my music, though even if I didn’t have all of that, it would still be a beautiful hobby of mine.

In a way, the album name and the title track have a double meaning behind them. In both love, relationships, and being a songwriter, you have to be dedicated to succeed.

How was the recording and writing process?

I wanted this song to feel natural and intimate. I recorded the vocals and main acoustic guitar in one live take to allow for subtle changes in time, for the music to push and pull with the lyrics’ emotion. You can kind of feel this slight change in tempo if you listen closely. That’s an intentional choice to allow for some organic movement in the piece.

I also chose to mix the vocals and main guitar more intimately than I usually would; to let the listener feel like I was right there in the room with them, singing this song.

The choir parts in the song were the most interesting to record. I wanted to record an authentic gospel choir, but, alas, I didn’t have any connection to a gospel choir (or the budget!). So I recorded a four-part harmony with fifteen separate vocal parts, recorded individually, to recreate the gospel choir effect. I had no idea how this would turn out as I was recording, but the result was very pleasing! I enjoy the space that the choir sound gives the song and power behind the vocals.

This song’s writing process came in a few different pieces, as do most of my songs. The little turn-around guitar “hook” you hear in the chorus was the first piece to come. That guitar riff gave the whole piece a very familiar/comforting feeling for me and set the tone for the music’s lyrics and energy.

I also tend to write my music late at night, which makes many of my songs softer and more intimate, as it is in the wee hours of the night; this song was no exception.

The late-night playing of the guitar riff let the lyrics put words to the emotion I was feeling. Once I had the narrative’s core down, the rest of the song fell into place quite nicely.

What made you want to go for a raw and gospel-driven approach with this album?

Another great question.

A lot, actually almost all, of the sounds I have in my songs comes from a need to capture an emotion. I didn’t set out to make this song, or the album, gospel feeling at all. When I recorded the chorus’ first take in “Over and Over,” it didn’t have the power that I felt in the emotion. I wanted the lyrics in the chorus to shatter walls, to shout at the listener to “Listen up!” but a single voice wasn’t cutting it. I think I played around with a few different instruments before attempting the “choir” sound. Once I heard the idea in my head, I was like, “yep; gospel choir is what it needs.” Although it took a lot of work, I was pleased with the sound in the end.

I’m always trying to capture the “essence” of the songs that I write. This is what drove the “raw” approach to this album as well. I wanted to let the song’s emotions come through, with raw lyrics, vocals, and instrumentation that helped those first two elements. My production approach is reductionist; only add instruments/sounds if they elevate the song’s emotion. This approach helped guide the rawness that I wanted to capture in this EP both lyrically and from a musical standpoint.

In the end, I was pleased with the raw power that I felt in these songs.

What role does Bend play in your music?

Although I don’t write about nature explicitly, I think Bend’s raw beauty helps shape my music and overall personality.

I love the stillness of nature and primal sounds that come with being in solitude outdoors. It’s sort of becoming my songwriting mantra (for better and for worse) to think, “Does this song improve the silence?”. Meaning, if I’m listening to the wind in the trees or a stream trickle by, would this song playing in the background improve what I’m feeling? It’s a great question to ask as a songwriter because, like 90% of the time, the answer is no; this sound/song would not improve the silence.

So while Bend doesn’t factor into my music specifically, the raw beauty found in Bend helps to cleanse my sonic palette and just give me a space to hear what silence sounds like. From there, I have a better perspective of what sounds/songs are essential and what I want to record.

How has James Blunt and Ben Howard play in your music?

Both of those artists have aspects that I enjoy and pull from. Ben Howard has a great organic approach to his music, lyrics, guitar style, and production; just all fantastic. I enjoy the natural feeling on his “Every Kingdom” album, and there’s a real rawness to his lyrics that I strive for and admire.

I’ve recently taken to James Blunt and admire his new work and the energy he brings to his songs. As a self-produced songwriter, it’s challenging to find ways to make a song impactful and powerful. James Blunt does this very tastefully, and I take notes when I hear a technique that I think could work in a piece.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The inspiration and lyrics for these songs come from my everyday life. I’ve been trying lately to bring songs to everyday feelings and occurrences and craft songs from little things in life, not just from the extraordinary.

The inspiration for these songs came from little day-to-day things in my life that forced me to pause. “Over and Over” was inspired by the relationship with my wife. “Everything I Am” is a song about watching my daughter grow. “Prayer” is about feeling the keenness of time passing. “Grace” was inspired by a teen suicide in my town.

All of these daily events inspired these songs. I hope to bring more extraordinary feelings to even smaller occurrences in life: the beauty of a morning sun, the love of family, the playfulness in my kids. These little things in life that everyone can relate to but are often overlooked.

What else is happening next in Kolby Knickerbocker’s world?

Oh geez…after this release, I’m hoping I can get a full two days of sleep, just me in a dark room, snoozing away! I’m partially joking but having kids is no easy task.

I’m always writing songs, though, and have a few more that I’m working on for later this year or early 2022.

I’m super excited about the remixes I’m doing with “Over and Over” and “Everything I Am” with a few very talented producers for this batch of songs. It’s great to let other producers have their artistic way with my songs. These remixes for these songs have brought some fantastic light into entirely new perspectives on these songs and their lyrics; they feel like completely different songs in the hands of these talented producers! I’ll be releasing those remixes in June-ish of 2021.

I’m also working on a “mixtape” of production ideas, musical explorations, new songs, etc. I’m enjoying this process as an album can have so much pressure behind it, whereas a mixtape is just like, “Here’s my creativity; what’s going on in my head.” There’s a lot less pressure from myself to make it “perfect.”

Otherwise, I’m always trying to enjoy life and to let every moment be precious and beautiful.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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