We had the good fortune of connecting with Kyle Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kyle, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
Absolutely: “Be Light”
Right before the pandemic, I was lucky enough to sit in on a lecture with one of my musical heroes. The theme of the talk was supposed to be about composition, but we veered off course and started talking about finding long term success and building a Career (with a capital “C”).
His take on success was this: There isn’t a single successful person who got to where they are alone. It might look that way from the outside, but really everyone was lifted up by someone else.
With that in mind, the best thing that you can do to give yourself the best shot is to “Be Light.” Be easy to lift. Whenever you can help it, be a pleasure to work with. You can be the most gifted guitar player this city has ever seen, but you still won’t get the call if you don’t bring good energy to the room.
For me, keeping that in the back of my head has made things pretty simple. Be kind, assume the best, and don’t be bitter. As long as you keep that energy around you, you’re going to be just fine. So far it’s worked out – here’s hoping I keep floating my way up.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Oh boy, my career had a pretty roundabout way of getting started.
Right after I finished undergrad (majoring in Economics of all things) I spent a year working in sales at a tech startup in Oakland. By day, I was making cold calls selling HVAC software to corporate real estate professionals. My nights and weekends were spent interning at a local recording studio.
Everyday after work I would take a Lyft up to North Oakland where I’d soak up all the music production and recording experience I could. The goal was to spend exactly one year learning and saving money before getting back to LA. Almost exactly one year later I left my job, packed up a U-Haul, and drove back down the PCH to dive into a music career in earnest.
Just a few weeks after getting to town, I was lucky enough to get a job as an assistant with composer Nathan Barr. I’ll always be so grateful for the time I spent with Nate and can’t imagine where I would be without that experience. There’s so much about this career that you can’t learn until you’re actually in the room where the work is happening. As the composer, you’re essentially the CEO of a company whose job is to deliver a fully produced score. In the grand scheme of what goes into that, writing the music is often the simplest part of the job. What they don’t tell you is how much of the job is actually about project management, having good relationships, and surrounding yourself with talented people you can trust to do their job. Assisting a composer really is one of the only ways you can learn all that. Those three and a half years working with Nate gave me everything I needed to be ready to deliver on big projects when it was time to go out on my own.
During that time I stayed writing every day, playing in bands, and trying to learn as much as I could about the production side of things. The start of the pandemic was probably the turning point for my production chops, since suddenly all I had was time to sit, practice, and write songs. Once a week, some friends and I would get on Zoom and have writing sessions. Essentially we would share our screens and toss Logic sessions back and forth for a few hours until we finished ideas. That was how I built up such a close relationship with my good friend VANIA. Her and I would spend hours writing and it really felt like we were stretching the limits of what was possible working on music remotely. Her debut single that we wrote together is coming out soon, and honestly might even be out by the time this comes out. Either way, I’m so excited for this music to get released into the world.
All of that brings us up to right about now, where my days are pretty evenly split between composing and producing. To be honest, I think the next year is going to determine a lot about what my life is going to look like in the next ten. The best thing that I’m hoping to do is stay out of the way and keep doing what feels good, while doing great work with my friends along the way.
For me, I think the biggest takeaway from my journey is that there’s no such thing as inapplicable experience when it comes to this career. From my years DJing frat parties, to my sales job, to my internship, to my assistantship, and finally to my solo career, every experience has compounded onto the next one and helped shape me as a professional and a human being. Nothing that came next could have happened without everything that happened before. I guess you could say that’s just life moving forward, but I’m still out here feeling grateful for it all.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow I love this. I’m an East Sider through and through so I’ll keep it limited to my side of town.
When I have visitors, most of our activities consist of meals and drinks on top of planning where we’re going for the next round of meals and drinks. With that in mind, for breakfast we’re probably going to Millie’s in Silverlake at least twice. Little Dom’s in Los Feliz is usually a go-to stop with friends in town. I also just had an incredible dinner at Kismet, another in Los Feliz, so that’s absolutely going on the list.
As for drinks, East LA lends itself to tiny, dark, windowless bars (right up my alley). My three go-to’s are the Thirsty Crow, Gold Diggers, and on a special night Tiki Ti. The Crow has been an old favorite of mine since college and it’s got a beautiful whiskey bar atmosphere that I love. Gold Diggers has live music or a vinyl DJ most nights of the week so it’s great for a drink-and-listen. Pastor Funk runs a really rad jam there on Monday nights. It usually opens up for the third set so if you go and you’re a musician, bring an instrument. Tiki-Ti is a teeny tiny tiki bar on the edge of Hollywood on Sunset that fits, maybe, 25-30 people. Just go and order an Uga Booga.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh absolutely. There’s honestly like 26 people, eight podcasts, and four bars I could dedicate this to. For the sake of digestibility and not shunning anybody, here’s a book.
When I was fresh out of college, I was whining to an animator friend about having trouble sitting down to work and seeing projects through to the finish. He suggested reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, a kind of artist self-help book that was passed to him by an old professor at RISD.
“The War of Art” completely changed the way that I think about creative work. A large portion of the book is dedicated to distinguishing between the working habits of an amateur vs. a professional. To my chagrin, it was so clear to me that all of my procrastination tendencies put me solidly in the amateur column and if I wanted to change that, I needed to start taking real steps towards fixing my habits and embodying The Professional.
I definitely don’t think it’s for everybody and I’ll be the first to admit that it can get very preachy at times. But if you’re just starting out and are looking for solid tools to help you overcome the mental blocks that keep you from sitting down and doing your stuff, I can’t suggest this book enough.