20 years after taking flight, local artist Little Wings lands back in SLO
On Sept 27, the last evening before Mercury shifted into retrograde, Kyle Field of the band Little Wings stepped onto a stage for a solo performance in the courtyard outside of Idlewild Floral in San Luis Obispo. Dressed in a collared shirt and jeans, a look completed with socks and sandals, Field greeted the crowd by joking that this would be the “last normal night in a while.”
Candle-lit and decorated beautifully with dried flowers from Idlewild Floral, the venue created a perfect atmosphere for the audience to sit back and relax while enjoying live music, something that’s been a rare opportunity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Combining warm and full melodies with simple yet pensive lyricism, Field captivated the audience from the very first strum of the electric guitar.
Little Wings has been Kyle Field’s band since the late 1990s, but he’s been playing music since he was a teenager. He attended Cal Poly alongside the guitarist of his first band, called Rodriguez. San Luis Obispo was an especially memorable place for Field in his early music career.
“Our first show in the area was at a place called Nectar of the Bean,” Field said. “That night, all I could see were people, inside and outside, having a good time.”
In retrospect, Field says that this was the show that solidified his dream of creating and performing music.
“It was mind blowing that music had the ability to do that,” he said.
Although this venue no longer exists, Field has played numerous shows at local venues such as SLO Brew and the courtyard behind Linnea’s.
“This town feels like a second home,” Field said. “One of the things that I enjoy about playing music is getting to revisit a place and do the thing that I love and have put a lot of my life into.”
Field compares playing music to hopping into a time-machine. “All the nostalgic things I remember about the place kind of form the show on a specific night,” he said.
The band’s music undoubtedly contributes to the time-machine feeling. Over the course of the past two decades, Little Wings has released a number of lyrically-driven yet genre-defying albums. One of the band’s most recent and notable albums, “People,” was released in 2019 and explores themes such as identity, human existence and growth.
“‘People’ is the most recent record that was released physically on LP. [It] is one of my favorite records in some sense,” Field said. “There were a few moments that I had been wanting to do for a few years, and I feel like the record captures the energy of the live band playing together.”
Tracks “Why Me?” and “Paradise” from the album encapsulate this energy through gentle yet catchy melodies and lyrics that stir familiar feelings of nostalgia and what it’s like to search for answers to life’s biggest questions.
Other members of Little Wings have changed throughout the band’s active years. Recently, because of the pandemic, many of the band’s shows have been performed solo by Field. He enjoys playing with a live band, but keeping a larger band going, in terms of performing and planning, has proven to be challenging.
“Keeping it simple and maintaining that sort of ease is important to keep the music going for as long as I can,” Field said. “As fun as having a big band is, for me, it is hard to maintain.”
In preservation of his relationship to music, when he started “Little Wings,” Field said he would keep this band name for as long as he could and play under that name both by himself and with his band. This way, he has more freedom to say yes to playing shows and releasing music.
The recent Little Wings performances have been special for Field.
“It feels like I have come full circle, to be playing to the same amount of people that I was playing to 20 years ago,” he said. “…If people still come out and hear the songs that I [am] pedaling, that’s a pretty satisfying feeling.”
In terms of creating during the pandemic, Field’s process has not changed much. Field works with a notebook and pen, like he always has been. However, the pandemic gave Field substantial time off from performing to slow down and write more music than he had in years past. Field has also noticed that the energy of performing has changed since the pandemic started.
“This is how I have been doing it all along, and I have been able to continue doing [so] during the pandemic,” he said. “…With the last year and a half that we’ve all experienced, I feel like the appreciation level has gone back to where it was 20 years ago.”
In 2006, Field released a book of drawings called “Put it in a Nutshell.” Although he doesn’t have any current plans for another collection of art, some of his pieces are either for sale at his shows or displayed in galleries.
“I’ve always been working on some sort of visual art,” Field said. “Art and music are two different practices, and they help each other. Drawing is an introverted thing, but connecting with people through music is crucial for me.”
Little Wings will be back on the Central Coast in early November, playing at the Halfway Station in Atascadero on Nov 6 at 6 p.m.
Cayley O’Brien is a journalism major and content writer for KCPR. Josie Doan is an art and design major and designer for KCPR.