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Kyle Feerick Keeps Things Easy on ‘Heart’

Feb. 14, 2017
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Photo Credit: Berkley Burch Photography
One day it’ll be possible to divide Milwaukee musicians into two groups: those that remember the Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken, and those who were too young to have caught them during their residency at The Jazz Estate. For 13 years the group held down Tuesday nights at the East Side club. Their set list changed from week to week and sometimes so did their lineup, but they always drew a crowd with their exploratory, jammy fusion of jazz and funk. Of the thousands of people who caught one of their shows, though, it’s possible nobody was more inspired by them than Milwaukee songwriter Kyle Feerick.

“I minored in music in college, and I’ve played since I was 12, and I’ve always enjoyed writing my own music, but I feel like it wasn’t until I discovered Static Chicken that it all came together,” Feerick explains. “I went to the Jazz Estate and saw them, and it blew my mind. It was like, ‘so THAT’S what it’s like to be a musician!’ Those guys could improv whatever they wanted on the spot and watching that changed the course of my musical direction.”

Before he became a Tuesday night Jazz Estate regular, Feerick says his songs were fussy and elaborate. “I wrote one that was 11 parts, and none of them repeated,” he recalls. “But when I saw the Chicken, there was a real ease to how they played, even though there were complicated things in them. I realized for my own songs, ‘Why not just strum two chords and let the vocal melodies be where all the interesting parts lie?’”

So he committed himself to learning to be a better singer. And, in true Static Chicken fashion, he opened himself up to playing with as many different musicians as he could (some of whom, poetically, were in Static Chicken).

Those connections he built up over the last decade or so pay off on his latest album, Heart, which features a murder’s row of Milwaukee talent. Sean Williamson produced it and wing mans on guitar throughout; his Twin Brother's Lodewijk Broekhuizen cameos on violin. Kevin Dunphy of Fever Marlene drummed, while Evan Paydon of Delta Routine and Matt Wilson of Painted Caves handled bass. Other guests included De La Buena’s Dave Wake, who lent organ to two songs, and saxophonist Aaron Gardner of the Static Chicken, who played horn on a few, too.

That may sound like a crowded studio, but these songs breathe. With its dreamy, ponderous style of folk and rock, Heart is an easygoing listen, the kind of thing Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon spent less time in the woods and more time in a hammock. That breeziness is very much a reflection of Feerick’s character. In conversation, he sounds like the kind of guy who’s always smiling, and indeed, his day job requires plenty of that: He’s a fifth-generation funeral director at Feerick Funeral Home in Shorewood (if you went to school across the street at Atwater Elementary School, that might explain why his name sounds so familiar to you). It’s a job that requires a cheery disposition; after all, Feerick says, “Who wants to have someone they really love die and then meet with a gloomy person?”

Contrary to the Six Feet Under impression of funeral workers being trapped in a macabre family business, Feerick love his day job. “I enjoy helping families and being there for them,” he says. “But it’s like the ying to my yang. It’s good to have the balance between the two. At night I can go out and play a show and close my eyes and sing, and that fills a void for me. I like being a mortician musician.”

Kyle Feerick plays an album release show on Friday, Feb. 17 at Red Dot Tosa at 8:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb 17
Red Dot Wauwatosa

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