Miami native Kyle Bielfield’s detour into the classical music sphere was, thankfully, a temporary one; the singer, who now calls Sydney home, returning to his first love (pop) for his debut EP, ‘Boom + Bust’.
With an extraordinary five octave range and the ability to destroy sound systems at ten paces, we made sure the phone volume was turned waaaay down for our pop chat with Bielfield.
What was it that initially brought you to our sunny shores?
It was a buddy of mine who had brought me here for a couple of different concerts and we were doing this thing with some classical music, some pop music and I really wanted to record the last show that we’d done here and so the only people that I knew that were available to do it was basically Sony. So that’s how I met them. And then I ended up going over and singing for everyone over at Sony and they basically said, ‘hey, we want to do something with you, why don’t we do an album or something like that?’.
At first I don’t think it was meant to be pop music, which is kind of where the twist of things has happened. We were on the road to do maybe ‘70s cover kinda of music – something along those lines – but then I kinda pulled a couple of pop songs out of the bag when I was doing a development deal with them here and they just went, ‘wow, we didn’t know you could do that, but obviously you need to do some more work towards that because obviously you haven’t done it before’. We thought it’d be a really cool direction. So then the whole thing just basically changed towards pop music.
I basically made ‘Frequency’ and ‘Kings & Queens’ and it was all kind of over after that and it was very much pop. So it was very impromptu for everyone involved. It was this big shocker thing – pop from this kid who was trained in classical music.
We can’t get over the fact that they wanted you to do a ‘70s style covers album!? Seems an odd choice?
I thought it would be really nice. I was re-writing a lot of bridges to things, but I never really thought I was a writer. I’d pitched some things, but I didn’t really want to do someone else’s music or anything like that. And I didn’t know that I could write music either. I just started writing all this stuff. I did the words and I did the verses and I was co-producing it… I guess there’s something there, you know? So I was a little shocked about the transition and I think everyone else was too.
Oh look, I grew up in Miami, Florida, so there was nothing else but pop music. Miami is like a big hodge-podge of a lot of different cultures in the US all coming together. So I grew up with so much Spanish music and it’s kind of southern there too, so I grew up with funk and soul music and all of the major pop and this and that. So that was really my whole understanding and actually going into classical music and trying to study that… that was the difficult part for me, especially when I was younger. Because I really didn’t have a background in it.
So everytime I would go up and sing something for a class, my teacher would say, ‘well, that’s beautiful, but you have pop-isms in what you’re doing’. That was the big word for me… “pop-isms”. That I had pop-isms in everything I was doing. By the time I’d finished this education, it wasn’t that big of a leap for me. I’d fought for ten years trying to be something… maybe I’m something else.
So did you then have to unlearn some of the classical habits you’d picked up?
Yeah, I did. It’s interesting because now I can go and do a performance really easily in pop, just with some of my classical skills. But it’s more the studio that’s the hardest part, because you have to use your voice… Basically all the guys that I’ve been working with, including Louis Schoorl, who did the album and the EP with me… He’s so brilliant, but he was just flabbergasted by the sheer volume of sound that I would make.
Like when you hear me going up into the stratosphere, the thing that you don’t realise is how loud it is for a guy to sing that high. Just the sheer volume of sound… I was breaking peoples’ microphones in the studios if they didn’t know what they were doing. I was blasting out peoples’ speakers.
I remember when I first came to Australia, I sang ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ on my tour here. And when we were doing a concert at Sydney Recital Hall, the whole mic system just blew out entirely. It’s, I guess, the hardest part… the sheer volume of it. And I have to change how I’m singing and really structure how I’m singing in the studio so what I’m doing is captured by a recording mic. I guess that’s been the hardest thing for me.
We guess you’d also have to change your proximity to that microphone too, no…?
Well, that’s what I thought at first, but the thing is… if you change the position, then you don’t have the airy sounds and the sexy sounds and all of the nuances. You’d never hear all of that stuff if I was further away from the mic. So basically I kinda had to learn how to sing all of that but in a completely different way and I had to come up with a whole collection of vocalisms that I could do that would help people understand the story that I’m trying to tell.
In opera that’s not important. In opera, you sing fully supported and the nuance comes from the music that’s written. Pop’s not like that; the nuance comes from the performer, so I just had to relearn. It was far out. It was crazy, but I really love it.
I think in a club setting it definitely does. Half of the time, they can take the microphone off me and I can still sing notes and they can still hear me. So in certain ways, it’s pretty impressive live, which is why I’ve been trying to transition my whole performance to more and more live performance since ‘Frequency’ was released.
I kinda did it backwards. I created this music out of nothing. I wasn’t doing pop, you know? I wasn’t in this world. So I kind of created this whole world that didn’t exist for me and now I’m finding context for the world to exist in. It’s really cool, I think and it’s kinda fun because half the people who buy the EP really don’t know that much about me, but they really like the music.
And they say that! ‘Hey, I really like the music; I don’t really know that much about it, but it’s really cool’. And it’s because I haven’t had the band in bars and done live music festivals or anything yet… It can’t really exist until there’s an EP out with a few songs and the direction.
Well we suppose the fantastic thing about where you are at the moment is that you have a blank canvas on which to create your ‘masterpiece’, if you will…
Exactly. Going back to the classical thing, when I’m in the studio, I can think about melody lines in a different way too. Of course, everyone thinks I’m a little crazy, but I think of it in intervals and I think of it in dissonances and I think most songwriters aren’t really thinking that. They’re more just freely doing what comes to their minds and what ideas come through.
But for me, it’s more like, ‘how can I design something that has a full effect’. You know? Where people hear all these little things… and how I can add all of these vocals in. Even with ‘Boom And Bust’, there are times in it where there are four octaves of my voice all stacked on top of each other. And you’d never hear it.
Most people will never hear it. They just know that they hear something funky going on, but what gives it a unique sound is that I’m doing all of this crazy stuff that’s the bedding of everything that you’re hearing. So I’m pretty excited about it all.
Some of those notes that you hit on the EP shouldn’t be humanly possible. But clearly it is. So it’s you and Mariah basically…
Yeah. People have been saying the whole Mariah thing on radio and what not. It’s kind of a thing to say that I’m a bit of a freak of nature. I think it’s great. For me, it’s just about people listening to this music. I think for a lot of pop singers that I’ve come in contact with, it’s about this persona or it’s about some aspect that they really love in it, whether it’s their fashion or this or that.
And I love all those things, but at the end of the day, I really just want people to listen to the music. Just have a good time and enjoy themselves… Music for music’s sake, you know? I’m not trying to be anything I’m not. I’m just exploring a whole side of myself and trying to make it interesting, cool and have these lines that you won’t really hear from any other modern pop singer.
What are your hopes for the EP?
Well, I think the EP for me, ultimately right now, I guess the hope is that I can get some different musicians together, can start putting the show and the music into different formats and actually start reaching people with it in a more live music way. And hopefully eventually have that lead into what I do next.
To this point it’s been a lot of clubs, just because it’s a very sensible way of getting the music onto its feet and having people dance to it, with the remixes and all. One on the EP is by Tracy Young, which I was so excited about. She’s also from Miami actually, so that was so cool.
But I’d love to bring more musicians into the fold of what I’m doing by using this EP because until it was out, I was just an artist that had a couple of singles. ‘Kings & Queens’ is cool pop, ‘Frequency’ is funk pop and ‘Boom & Bust’ is kinda ‘70s retro pop. There’s nothing that’s really defined me as an artist to now.
But I think that this EP with the acoustic of ‘Kings & Queens’ and everything else, is going to showcase what I do in a very fine light. And then we can go from there depending on how the music is speaking to people live. Because I think it should be about music – and live music and live performance, because that’s really what I love.
Are you content with just popping out a single and EP here and there or would you like to do an album?
I would really, really love to do an album. The thing is that I have to find the right musicians to do that sort of thing with, because if I did an album, there would probably be one song that could be a single on it. My dream for an album is doing something very experimental and I’d have to have a really, really, really good song that’s going to lead it. And I have a few, but it’d have to be something that’s really powerful so that then I could take people on a journey.
I think that an album should be something that you put on and it really takes you somewhere. So I don’t just want to put out an album of a bunch of songs. That’s not something that I want to do. This EP’s important because it’s a collection of what I can do and it’s a collection of really good pop songs and I think they’re really fun and exciting, but I think I want that to be a sort of exploration.
Well potentially the way to do that would be to bring in some of those classical elements, in much the same way that William Orbit did in the in the late ‘90s with ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’.
Exactly. And that’s why I’ve been thinking about… what would I have if I could get a group of really talented musicians together… Would I have a violin? Would I have a cello? An electric guitar and a bass guitar? Maybe someone playing percussion on keys perhaps. A whole collection of people who are really talented and very creative. Real experimental things can usually only be created by real live musicianship, so it needs other people to help breathe life into it in a certain way. So I think that’s what the future is.
But who cares about the future, because I think this EP is so cool. ‘Blow My Mind’ from the EP is one of my favourite songs and there’s a video to it which is really fun, so I think people will be able to explore that over the next month. There’s still a lot of surprises for this coming out over the next couple of months. This EP marks just the tiny, humble little beginnings, you know?
Before we let you go… Given you’re such an unashamed pop fan, we’d be a little amiss if we didn’t ask you who your favourite pop artists are (and, to that end, your favourite pop songs)?
Oh… A modern person who really helped inspire this was probably MNEK. And I guess one song of his that I really liked lately was ‘Never Forget You’ with Zara Larsson. And the way that he does a lot of his lines and the way that he works through a lot of things is so fascinating to me. So he was definitely a big inspiration for this.
Prince was obviously a very big influence. And of course, I wrote this EP before Prince had actually passed away. So for me, the whole Prince thing… Obviously one day, I had the hope that one day I’d be able to send Prince something, so I’m actually really sad that some music that was very much inspired by him… I’ll never get the chance for him to hear, which makes me really sad.
One of my favourite singers that probably inspired me vocally was Whitney Houston. I’m sure a lot of singers feel the same way. Especially because I have a light-ish kind of voice. It’s loud, but it can go really fast and do a lot of tricks and stuff. So her vocally has always been a really strong rock.
Simon & Garfunkel probably, lyrically I get a lot of inspiration from them.
Well Sony will be thrilled to hear that if they are wanting to do that ‘70s covers album with you…
Well that’s why that was a thought! I wasn’t going to be something manufactured. It was going to be a very unique album. And maybe it’s not off the table, you know. But now if we did it, it’d have to be more raw, you know? It’d have to be more folky, something that’s a bit more ‘real’. Not as canned as what it would have been.
But I’m very happy that we took this route and Sony’s been so supportive of it too. They just want me to find that root in which I can express something really important and really ultimate. I’ve been happy. It’s great.
Bielfield’s ‘Boom + Bust’ EP is out now both digitally and physically.