Appleton native Kyle Megna is in a unique position to reflect on the growth of Mile of Music.
The singer-songwriter-guitarist and leader of Kyle Megna and The Monsoons played at the first MOM. Since then, the band has grown in size and stature, and has released several CD’s of original music that have earned critical acclaim and a growing legion of fans who flock to the band’s live shows.
Megna had just moved back from Nashville when MOM debuted.
“Well, we just started playing out in the Fox Cities. We were playing our own tunes and finding our sound as a band,” Megna recalls. “This musical festival was going to happen, and no one knew what to expect. We signed up online I believe. Thinking back to the first year I was pleasantly surprised…I don’t think anyone really knew what was going to happen. It could have been a flop, or a success. It was organized well enough, and clearly people were curious about what it was. I think people wanted something different. They got something fresh, new, and exciting. Hearing bands from all parts of the country in Appleton, Wisconsin in one four-day stretch was and is a breath of fresh air.”
Many artists from the area were already performing.
“And creating and selling their own music and it gave them a platform to showcase their talents,” he added. “I think it was eye-opening to the community that they could catch original music almost any day of the week, year-round right here in the Fox Cities. We have so much talent here.”
Megna is grateful for the opportunities.
“MOM has given the members of the Monsoons, past and present, as well as myself a platform to play music in this area and beyond,” he said. “I’ve been performing, writing and recording music for the past 11 years. Only in the last two years has it gotten to a place where I feel I’ve ‘found myself’ as a musician and understand my strengths and weaknesses while always growing. Definitely having that platform once a year helps push the music created. I try my best to have new material every year.”
Right on cue, Megna and The Monsoons released a new EP, “Always Been This Way” on July 26th, which not only showcases the growth and evolution of the band, but the growth and evolution of Megna’s songwriting as well.
Since January of this year the band has a new lineup, a veritable Fox Cities all-star team. The current members are: Fred Velpel, bass; Mike Underwood, drums; Noah Harmon, keys; Kurt Shipe, trumpet; Aaron Zepplin, lead guitar; and Ross Catterton, sax, as well as Megna on guitar and vocals.
“Past and present lineups with the band always affect the writing,” Megna said. “This lineup, as it is now can still lay down funky grooves, but has a very intricate and dynamic aspect about it. Half the guys in the band now are professionally-trained musicians with degrees in music to prove just that. Yes, these guys are beasts of musicians. I’m very grateful to be playing and creating music with them. I feel everyone plays to the songs and knows their role to fulfill in the band. They’re smart and talented guys. I don’t need to talk ‘direction and vision’ with them. There is a lot to making a band work. The one thing I know is that we all respect the music and put music first.”
Megna jokes with the guys a lot about how many technical things he doesn’t know about music.
“I’m a simple song writer, and I love playing with melodies,” he said. “I have a different take on music, and this group of talented musicians brings it to life. I don’t tell them really what to play. They make their own parts around my simple songs. The combination of that makes it different and exciting to listen to.”
He describes the EP as an organic piece of work.
“I don’t tell the new lineup what to play,” he said “and this EP truly represents what we are now and what we are capable of.”
Different and exciting to listen to, are clearly evident with the opening notes of the EP’s first track, “Find The One Thing,” as Shipe’s trumpet announces that Underwood and Velpel have found a deep, classic Monsoon groove that creates the right ambience for Megna’s urgent vocal. Zepplin contributes his usual stellar guitar work and trades musical punches with Shipe.
It’s Harmon’s turn to set the stage for “Hollow” to develop around Catterton’s tenor sax. Megna brings the volume down midway as Catterton returns the favor and provides the right flourishes to augment a Harmon solo. The song builds back up to full-tilt boogie as Underwood and Zepplin take over big time. Megna’s maturing song craft creates room for everyone.
Evolving songwriter Megna places ear-catching acoustic guitar chords at the beginning of “Always Been This Way,” a ballad that showcases Catterton’s tenor, and the sonically pleasing mix that results when this lineup plays all together. Megna’s heartfelt lyrics are ideally suited to his voice.
The groove, and Megna’s vocal will seem familiar to Monsoon fans on “Deep Down,” but Catterton and Underwood underscore once again that the music is growing in a very good direction.
“Don’t Let Me Go,” is a second, equally compelling acoustic guitar-tenor sax flavored ballad that frames some of Megna’s best, ever-evolving lyrics, and once again, makes a listener glad that Catteron is in the band.
One gets the impression that Megna and the band are having a good time.
“The chemistry of the band has gotten to a top level,” Megna said. “It’s always been good, but now everyone in the band knows what the other member is thinking and it’s a smooth, well-oiled machine. If you see us live now, you see everyone in the band smiling and moving to the music. That’s a good sign. The guys in the band are all good hangs, too…getting to know everyone on a more personal level has been a blast. It feels like family. So many laughs and experiences with these guys, especially when we did our South-East tour.”
Check kylemegna.com for the dates, times and venues for Megna’s various performances. The EP will be for sale as long as supplies last…