Clare Doyle interviews musician & composer Kyle Eastwood

Kyle Eastwood

Kyle Eastwood is the eldest son of actor and director Clint Eastwood. The soundtrack of Kyle’s childhood was jazz and he credits his father with introducing him to the joys of the bass line.  His father had started going to the Monterey Jazz Festival when it began in 1958 and he took the children along with him. Kyle remembers doing his homework to the sounds of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Miles Davis. An accomplished performer, he also composes.  He wrote the music for several Clint Eastwood’s films, including ‘Flags of our Fathers’, ‘Million Dollar Baby ‘ and ‘Invictus’.  Kyle has recorded four albums: ‘From there to Here (1998), Paris Blue’ (2004), ‘Now’ (2006) and ‘Metropolitain (2009).

At the Marciac Jazz Festival 2010, Kyle Eastwood endeared himself immediately to concert-goers by speaking in good French.  (When not living in the USA or being on tour, he spends half the year in France and has a home in Paris.) While there were excellent solos of great virtuosity, the Eastwood combo, with Kyle on bass, held together wonderfully, offering a variety of moods – smoky late night Jazz, cool spare complex pieces, funkier rocking numbers.  My own favourite was a piece called ‘Marrakesh’ which features on Kyle’s second album, ‘Paris Blue’.  In the interview situation Kyle Eastwood himself is perfectly at home, a man at ease, charming and confident.

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Reading about you, and how you recorded ‘Metropolitain’ in Paris for example, it strikes me that collaborating with others is extremely important to you.

I like working with other people, it means you find things you didn’t know were there, the ideas flow differently . . .  Making music involves others, so you’re better getting them involved from the beginning.  And I do work with certain people over and over [for example Michael Stevens] because we learn from each other, and understand  best how to work together.  I’m always learning.

Does it help to be called Graeme?

Well, I guess it does!  Two of the band are called Graeme, [Graeme Flowers-  trumpet, and Graeme Blevins – saxophone] and we play really well together, so maybe there’s something in a name!

You write film music.   Does that change the way you compose, when it’s for a visual medium?

When I’ve written for my Dad’s films I have the advantage of seeing the script, and reading it through.  I guess that helps.  Sometimes I write for the picture, but more often, I build a theme based on the character in the movie.

If I saw you in two years time, and asked how things were and you said ‘great’, what would that look like?

Things are going pretty well now, we’re touring, we go to great places, and people seem to like what we’re doing.  In two years?  Well, as long as I have music, and people want to come and hear us, that would be pretty good.

One of the advantages of having a famous father is that you get to meet people that you might not otherwise.  Is there anyone that you have always wanted to play with that so far you haven’t?

It has been an advantage, I’ve met some of the greats.  For instance I played with Kenny Barron last year which was excellent.  Who would I really like to play with?  Well people like Mc Coy Tyner, or of course Stevie Wonder!

I see you’re playing several dates in Japan at the end of the year. John Zorn, who played here last night, said that he found that the Japanese scene was extremely open to mixtures of genres and styles.  Do you find that also?

Yes, Japan is a very good place to try new things.  But France also has a really strong Jazz tradition. There are the festivals but I’ve also noticed that on the radio here Jazz is very well represented. And throughout the country there are so many venues, clubs and concert halls.  Somehow here Jazz isn’t so restricted, which it can be in the USA, the French audiences appear very open and enthusiastic.  In fact I’d say that for most of Europe. I really love touring everywhere in Europe.

Given your background, I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to ask you any question that you haven’t been asked a hundred times before.  What I want to know is, did he make you wear a poncho?

[He laughs.]  You’ve done pretty well! And no, there was no dress code in our house!  But you know, I used to quite like wearing ponchos anyway!

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© Clare Doyle  2010