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Kiefer Luttrell on “The Wind,” Guitar Playing, and the Green Berets

KFL

Slowly sauntering through moody blues, Kiefer Luttrell’s performance on “The Wind” is a folk song with a unique sound. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Luttrell changes up many of the instrumental stylings of classic country with something a lot more modern, and a lot more West Coast. “The Wind” doesn’t feel just like a Southern blues song, it feels more exploratory than that.

Rather than a more acoustic choice, Luttrell opts more for this beautiful and dreamy piano chord. This is a recurring sound in “The Wind”. All through the piece, there’s these drifting notes that hover over slow percussion. Gentle reverb and the progression in the chorus feels evocative of the 90’s pop sound, but is juxtaposed with the more traditional vocal sound from Luttrell. There’s these moments, like in the instrumental segment after the chorus, that feels like a space-pop or a beach rock song. Then, when the lyrics come back in, a guitar firmly places us back in a more Americana sound. It feels strange, but not at all unpleasant. I find the more folk segments of “The Wind” are carried by Luttrell singing, discussing someone lost and wishing for that wind to return. But as he finishes, a reverb laden guitar delivers this haunting whammy that slowly fades into a windy ambiance. These little moments are genius, keeping me hooked between each verse.

I admit that growing up in the South has soured my opinion of country and folk. I love the genres, and they were some of the first musical experiences I had, but exposure can kill. I find Kiefer Luttrell’s work, and especially “The Wind”, to breathe some life into a musical genre that is both very expressive and in need of fresh insight.

When did you first start playing an instrument? Back then, did you think you’d be making music like this?

I first started playing guitar when I was 18 and learned on an old Gibson acoustic guitar my grandfather gave me when I was 14. I definitely don’t think I could’ve predicted I’d be making music like this back then.

What are the components of a ‘good’ song in your mind? When you sit down to write, what are the must-haves?

A good song to me starts with the words. If the words can’t draw me in, I’m out.

Who encouraged you to begin songwriting? Was it an event, or someone in your life?

I started songwriting out of a general interest in writing, which is why when I went back to school after the army I graduated with a bachelors degree in English. Also, John Prine and Sturgill Simpson. I watched Sturgill’s NPR tiny desk concert and that really set a bar for me to reach as a songwriter.

Do you have an ultimate goal with your music, or is singing and songwriting more about the journey than destination?

My ultimate goal is to continue making albums that are meaningful until I have nothing left to say. I don’t care about fame or money. I just want to make great art and that will always be my priority.

I see you served in the Green Berets for a time. Without your experiences there, do you think that your art and your music would be the same as they are now? And, thank you for your service.

I certainly wouldn’t be creating the type of music I am without having served and deployed. When I first ventured out from my small town in Kansas working in a factory to try and become a Green Beret, I didn’t think it was possible. Achieving that award really opened my eyes that if I have discipline and focus on what I want to be, the only who can hold me down is in my head.

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