By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
Kris Collett makes his winter Killington debut this Friday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at Outback Pizza. I first saw Collett when he sang at the Paramount Theatre back in August as part of the 802: U2 All Star Band Tribute to U2’s “Joshua Tree,” album. He sang “Red Hill Mining Town” and that’s when I discovered his amazing voice. At the Outback, he’ll be doing his acoustic show. I had the pleasure of speaking with him to learn more about him and his music.
Collett describes his show as “bluesy rock,” but he mixes in modern covers and classic rock, as well. His first choice is to do his own music, which he says he gets a great response to.
The only music he experienced in his youth was when he was 8 years old and took a few piano lessons, but he never pursued it. Collett grew up in Clarendon and graduated from Mill River High School. One day he told his daughter to not give up on her dreams. It was then he realized that he had always wanted to play guitar, but had never done it. It’s a passion of his that he wanted to pursue, and he knew that he had to lead by example. He said, “I couldn’t really tell her to follow her dream without never trying mine. So I picked up the guitar and started playing.”
It was just six years ago that he started his music profession. He said, “At that point, I picked it up pretty quick.” A month in, he was doing open mics; and a few months later he was asked to join his first band, Loose Change. They practiced for about a year and then started playing gigs. He did about 30 gigs with them before the band broke up. Then he moved on.
His first-ever solo gig was at Center Street Bar in Brandon. He said the show went well and he’s never really had a bad gig, but added, “I’m still learning. I’ve got a lot to learn, especially in the entertainment aspect. I’ve always been hard on myself.”
Once he started doing the solo acoustic gig, each show was like a practice session for his guitar playing and singing. He took a few lessons on guitar but laughingly said, “I don’t like to be told what to do. I was given homework and realized that I was awful at it and was just wasting my money. Eventually, I figured out that any song I want to learn how to play, I can learn online.” He also learned a lot from watching and playing at open mics. It was there that he got to meet musicians like Jeff Poremski, Jared Johnson and the late Steve Audsley. All three of them taught him and encouraged him to play. His very first open mic was at Pub 42 with Robby Smolinkski. He then migrated to Center Street Alley to Audsley’s infamous open mic on Wednesdays. Audsley later invited him to play a gig together.
Some of Collett’s musical influences include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pennywise, Black Flag and NOFX. Collett said, “I like a wide variety of music, pretty much anything but country. There’s good and bad from all genres.”
The music that he prefers to jam out to is his own. He said, “I have the most fun playing my own stuff. I’m into it, it’s my own emotions. Everything is mine.”
Collett starting writing music as soon as he started playing it. He said, “The thing is, if I go back to when I was 8 years old or in my teens, I can remember moments of when I would wake up in the night with my toes tapping to some melody stuck in my head. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s there.” It wasn’t until six years ago that he made those moments a reality and started writing songs. In that short time, he’s written about 40 songs.
Collett is now in the process of making his first album, which he hopes to release in the spring. This Monday, he goes into the studio with Jeff Poremski to get that started. He talked about his songs, and said, “Most of the time I write about personal experiences. Things that are either past, present or future. Maybe it would be a night with a girlfriend.” That last part led to a song: “The Gypsy Love of My Esteban.” It will be featured on his album. Not only is a great song to listen to, but it has a great story that goes along with it. Collett explained. “I was seeing this girl and she asked me why she always had to come over to my apartment? I didn’t really have an answer at that moment, but I realized that she didn’t have a guitar at her house. I had this cheap Esteban that I picked up at a pawn shop. I brought it to her house and left it there and then started hanging out at her place more. She and I broke up, and then later on I was dating another girl and she asked me the same question. I knew the answer at that point. I looked around my apartment and realized I had half a dozen guitars of mine, plus some guitars of friends who left them around. The idea of ‘Gypsy Love of My Esteban’ popped into my head, so I wrote a song about it. One of my friends leaves his Esteban at his girlfriend’s house because of that song. I influenced somebody [laughing].”
Collett’s favorite thing about playing live is the audience interaction. He explained, “I especially like when they’re into it. I was playing at the Hop ‘n’ Moose one time and there were two reunions going on. One group was singing every song; in fact, a lot of times I couldn’t hear myself over them singing. Good times — it was fun. They were requesting songs and some I didn’t even know how to play, but I was just having a blast.”