Nashville, TN The night I interviewed Abi Hoffman at the Bluebird Café I met two other songwriters. Greg Friia, who was a mentor to Abi in Nashville and Kyle Rife who is an accomplished guitar player and had recently co-written songs with Darius Rucker, Joel Crouse and Ed Sheeran. I knew right away I wanted to interview him as soon as we could get it arranged.
Kyle Rife was born in Seattle, Washington and was NOT raised on country music. Kyle’s 14-year-old uncle played the guitar at family gatherings and he began playing at age 6 with his uncle’s guidance. At age 7, he got an acoustic guitar for his birthday. He took a ukulele or guitar with him every day to school and would often serenade the class. Once he graduated high school, he was hired as lead guitarist for The Eric Stone Band, out of Destin, Florida. After three years of touring the world Eric Stone, it ended and he considered going back to school. But Kyle missed music and when he had the chance to play clubs with Scott Bryan, he took it.
In the meantime, around 2007, Jimmy Buffet was traveling to Africa for a music festival. They stopped to refuel and get some lunch and Ilo Ferriera was playing at a local café. Jimmy Buffet basically signed Ilo on the spot. Later on, Kyle just happened to be sitting in with a band in Key West, Florida, when Ilo Ferriera and his manager came up to him and said: “Hey, we are looking for a guitar player, maybe you could do it.” He then had to go to Orlando and play a little audition for Jimmy Buffet and his band. “It was like a magic lining up of the stars for me,” Kyle relates. Ilo Ferriera and his band (which now included Kyle) also opened for the Dave Mathews Band.
Shortly thereafter, Kyle ended up doing recording sessions in Kingston, Jamaica, with legendary players Sly & Robbie under the supervision of Chris Blackwell, Island Records founder and discoverer of Bob Marley and U2.
In the summer of 2013, Joel Crouse and Kyle toured with Taylor Swift’s Red Tour as one of her opening acts. “It was bizarre to play stadiums,” he said. At that time Ed Sheeran was also opening for Taylor Swift and he was “immediately floored” by him. After that Joel and Kyle would become a power acoustic duo, touring regularly with Darius Rucker and other various well-established artists such as Tim Montana, Kid Rock and ZZ Top.
Kyle gushed, “I am a huge Billy Gibbons fan (of ZZ Top) and we were in Seattle in a guitar store. Billy said, ‘Kyle, play that old number, that Mr. Sandman song.’ I’m shaking I’m so nervous. He said, ‘Will you teach me how to do that?’ Everyone in the music store was freaking out.”
After each tour ended, Kyle would return back to Seattle until the next one happened. Then one day, famed songwriter, Mac McAnnally, Kyle’s professed hero, suggested he move to Nashville. That was in 2011 and even though Kyle was not considered a country music artist, Music City was the place to be. He explains, “As a guitarist, I am really into all styles. I always thought I would love to be a studio musician because I love to play all styles, so that was kind of what I initially wanted to be.”
When he first moved to Nashville, Joel Crouse was the person who got him connected to the Nashville music scene. Now that he in the writing world, he gets to write songs, but they also use him to play the songs as they are being written. I asked if he wrote lyrics or mainly melodies. He said, “My strength is getting the scene started, getting the atmosphere, getting the music going and getting inspired.”
Kyle Rife signed with Spirit Music Nashville, in March of last year. He said they were, “watching me for over a year and seeing what I was up to.” Finally, they gave me an offer. I had been touring with Tim Montana and I was getting a little burnt being out on the road so much. In August of 2017, Kyle’s daughter was born and his priorities changed. At that point, he was ready to take the songwriting seriously.
Says Kyle, “The blessing is now writing with some of these artists I get to still fulfill the love for playing.” While living in Nashville he is asked to play random gigs on a regular basis. And the best part is that “it’s not the same thing. I love variety. It’s starting to turn into a great thing. And all this makes it possible for me to be more involved with my daughter.”
Since songwriting has become his main focus, Kyle Rife was privileged to write with Ed Sheeran twice. Last year, Ed Sheeran came to Nashville and rented a fancy house for a few months to write songs with his crew. Kyle and Joel were lucky (and talented) enough to be included. “We wrote one day and it was just magic. There was a total connection.”
The next time Kyle and Joel got to write with Ed Sheeran was with Darius Rucker in London. They wrote three songs. Kyle stated, “Ed is really quick, he writes so fast, he sets a new standard. It’s like writing with an Olympian.” That day they wrote “Wildfire Love” which is on Hootie and the Blowfish’s soon to be released album, Imperfect Circle. Kyle added, “When we finished the song, it didn’t have an intro. I had to make sure it had a suitable guitar intro. When I write [a song], my stamp is to make sure it starts with something definitive if it needs it.”
I was fortunate enough to hear the recording before it had even been released. There is no doubt in my mind that “Wildfire Love” will be the hit it is destined to be.
Spirit Music was fortunate to sign guitar prodigy Kyle Rife to be on their writing team. Being a lead guitarist (as opposed to a lead singer) he brings a different take to the music he creates. He has done more in his thirty years than many could dream of doing in a lifetime. And yet he has many years left to offer his musical ability and talent to the world.