Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Uncovering his original songwriting

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 28, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

Already well-known to fans of Phil’s Family Lizard and Grateful Groove, Kyle Haller has enjoyed success in Fort Wayne’s busy music community. But he had long wanted to play his own originals and to eventually record them.

That opportunity has finally come to pass, and with his new CD, Boundless and Free, and its release party at the Phoenix on April 14, Haller puts his own original music front and center — with a few great covers to round things out. It has allowed him to fulfill one of his musical goals.

“All the other bands I’ve been in have been cover bands,” Haller said in an interview with Whatzup. “I love those bands, but the Kyle Haller Band has a bunch of originals, and I’ve finally recorded them. I’ve played so many of both over the years because even when I’m booked as a cover band, I’ll sneak in some of my originals.”

Digging into his influences

The Kyle Haller Band started a few years ago, performing at an annual concert in Noble County. But those were largely one-off appearances until he joined with drummer Kevin Jackson and Kelly Tellef to play as a trio.

“It was light, pretty music because we were playing at brunches and things like that,” Haller said. “Then I had a friend come and start playing guitar with us, and we became bar guys playing rock n’ roll, old country standards. It just keeps growing. There are five of us in the band, but a lot of times there’ll be seven or eight of us on the stage because people will join us. We have that on the CD, too.”

Haller’s band features Jackson along with Steve Wright on guitars, vocals, and percussion; Nate Shultz on bass and vocals; and Cami Yoder on vocals and autoharp. Also appearing are Felix Moxter on viola, Matt Cashdollar on flute, and Haller’s 15-year-old daughter Ruby on vocals and glockenspiel.

Haller also included some “cool guest appearances” from J.J. Fabini, Jason Lee, and Doc West.

When putting together the songs, he tapped into a couple of his biggest musical influences.

“The sound of the band is really influenced by my love of Bob Dylan,” said Haller, noting that his band covers many of Dylan’s songs including “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” which is also on the CD.

“Dylan is always a huge influence, but we don’t try to emulate Dylan’s style,” Haller said. “I’m a total Deadhead at heart, and the Grateful Dead is my favorite band, hands down. When the Dead play Dylan, they manage to make it so much cooler, so I get a lot of influence from the Dead, too.”

Ready for a big Performance

Yoder is the most recent addition to the band, bringing a new dimension with her vocals. But there is one member of the band that has been part of Haller’s musical life longer than anyone else.

“Steve Wright was the first person who was not in my family that I ever played music with,” Haller said of his Northwood Middle School classmate. “We did a presentation in our class on the history of rock n’ roll and played music as part of it because our teacher let us do that.”

Haller is also proud of his daughter Ruby’s own musical evolution. Her band, Bending Mercury, will open the April 14 CD release party at 3:30 p.m. at the Phoenix.

They’ll be followed by a Jim Barlow acoustic set at 4:20, with the Kyle Haller Band taking the stage at 5. The band will play the entire CD plus a few other choice tunes before turning over the stage at 7 p.m. when the Taj Maholics allow Haller’s band to celebrate and listen to some music themselves. The entire slate of performances costs just $10 and includes a copy of Boundless and Free.

Fans of Haller’s need not wait until that Sunday’s performance, however, as the band will also be part of the Record Store Day celebration on the North Anthony Corridor on Saturday, April 13.

There will also be several upcoming performances at the Corner Pocket on St. Joe Center Road and a few other appearances as the summer festival season unfolds.

Rocking everything but the plaza

One place you won’t see Haller’s band performing is Rock the Plaza where Haller plans the popular Saturday night performances at the Allen County Public Library downtown.

“It just feels a little conflict of interest-y,” Haller said. “Phil’s Family Lizard and Grateful Groove have performed at Rock the Plaza, but now there are just so many bands that want to play that I hate to take a slot for my own personal interest. But booking for Rock the Plaza is already under way. It’s in the planning stages, and it’s going to be a great year again. We open on June 1 with Beatlefest and close with Zep Fest on August 31. Both of those are Doc West’s shows, but I’m planning the other 12 shows in between now.”

But first, Haller gets to enjoy what he hopes to be his first of several albums and finally gets to share his own music with the people who have been playing with him and supporting him for many years in the Fort Wayne music scene.

“It’s going to be a great night, and the Phoenix is always so great and it’s an all-ages venue. I just think it’s going to be a fun party.”

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