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Kyle Carter Interview - Key Western Festival



 

(CSC) 1. Thank you for your time! Tell me about your involvement in the Key Western Fest taking place January 30th – February 3rd, 2024 in beautiful Key West!


(Kyle Carter)

Yeah, first off, we're extremely excited to have this incredible lineup. My involvement is as festival director, as the CEO of the company. I get to oversee an incredible party in paradise. We do three festivals here in Key West, back-to-back to back, a five-day festival with a couple day changeover, another five-day festival, couple day changeover, and then this festival is our last in that series, and this is our second year doing it. We have as you've probably seen, an incredible lineup. And we have an incredible team of not only our people but beyond at all of our facilities and venues and Key West is just a great place to have a family party. We like to call it a little bit more of a family kind of environment because, you know, it's not this great big 20, 30, 40,000 seat place. It's a pretty small little boutique festival.

 

(CSC) 2. The festival features many artists from one of the greatest eras in country music – the 90s! With this being your second year of the festival – who are some of the artists that you are most looking forward to seeing perform?


(Kyle Carter)

You know, I would have a hard time picking one or two of them, but certainly, as you touched on, the 90s, especially for me and people my age the 90s were, there just wasn't a country song that I didn't know growing up in Oklahoma and playing in a band. And you know, idolizing whether they were bands, or guys, or girls, or just, you know, there just wasn't a song that I didn't know, and there certainly wasn't an artist of any stature that I had heard of or was familiar with, and so if you look at this year's lineup, it represents greats, it represents Hall of Famers, it represents number one hit makers, it represents all of those things that, you know, that you want to embody whenever you have an incredible lineup.


It just so happens that, that it's all women, and I've said this multiple times, I don't know of another genre or another era, decade or otherwise, that you could take the top hitmakers of that genre and make an entire festival out of.


But this is that decade, and this is that genre.  So, obviously, I love Tanya Tucker. What an incredible story. Lee Ann Womack coming a little after the rest of them. Jo Dee Messina, of course. Wynonna and Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis. And Pam's coming back again. She was here last year. Suzy Bogguss was here last year. We got incredible feedback about how they loved our venues; they loved our fans; they loved the city of Key West.


And so, but top to bottom. Boy, there's just not a bad artist and there won't be a bad show with the bunch. And January in Key West is not a bad place to be (Laughs). But it's freezing everywhere else.

 

(CSC) 3. Having an all-female lineup is quite rare these days in a very much male dominated country music festival circuit. Was that your initial intention when putting this year’s festival together or did it just happen that way organically?


(Kyle Carter)

No, great question and not initially if you look at year one, we had such an incredible lineup. We had it, you know 70s bands 60s and 70s bands 80s bands and the heavy, heavy 90s bands. We had Clay Walker. We had Clint black we had, you know just Blackhawk and just all these amazing, Oak Ridge boys and, and it did well, of course, because everybody loves that, those of us, again, from this era, love, love those bands.


You know, we start planning the show quite literally once and sometimes before when it comes to hotels, but we start planning the talent pretty quickly but what kept coming up in our, you know, we build this grid out and potentials and, okay, here's our dream list, we start with a hundred or so dream listers, and then, hey, that won't work, because he or she or the band isn't touring anymore or they're taking a year off or routing doesn't work, they've already got another gig in Oregon at that time or right and so the names start getting scratched off because of availability. But one thing that stood out to me and again three festivals here, we worked on several festivals in Oklahoma and we do shows in several parts of the country I've never had this aha moment of look at all these powerful powerhouse women.


It is as a promoter and as somebody who puts together shows it can be a challenge if you're saying I want to make sure that women are getting a fair shake because in many instances you may not have those artists to draw from. This became really apparent when we started boiling down the names that look at all these badass women, so then you know I talk to my partners and talk to my team and I said you know; we could do something really unique here and just have it dominated by these women.


I don't want that. I didn't want that to be the focal point. Of course, it was gonna be. That was gonna get attention. All I want to say is this, man, woman, or otherwise, these are some of the best artists that you will find from this era of country music. Period.

 

(CSC) 4. Being from Oklahoma, you were very much involved in the music scene there. Tell us how your very beginnings have helped shape your experience with not just this festival but the several others (RokIsland Fest, Mile 0 Fest) that you host here in Key West!


(Kyle Carter)

Oklahoma is as a whole pretty supportive. Certainly, it is now, but music's a big part of Oklahoma history. You go back to way back in the day in Tulsa, you go certainly starts ramping up 70s, 80s and by the 90s, you've got Garth and Reba and Toby Keith and on and on. And so, that was the time I was coming up through my late teens and early 20s and again playing music.


And so, it had a massive impact on me. What I was listening to, who I was following and those kinds of things. And then in Oklahoma, we had this what is now known as Red Dirt. Red Dirt at the time was just really, you know, local and regional bands playing music that they'd written, songs that they'd lived.


And so, the kickoff here in Key West was Mile Zero Fest seven years ago. And it was our first baby, and it was our first, my first full time foray into throwing you know, a considerable sized festival. I had the good fortune of meeting many, many people in the business over the years as well as once I, you know, had found a few other partners to go in and do it.


We put together a team of professionals. Every person that works for these shows has 15, 20 years in the business. And so, we look like a much more mature production company than what we are on paper. But, if you take the sum of the whole, if you take the individuals that make up the team it's quite literally hundreds. You know, it's 30 people that have 20 years. I'm not great at math, but whatever that number is, it's a big number.

 

(CSC) 5. For those who have never been to the Key Western Festival before, other than great entertainment, what other offerings can they look forward to from the festival?


(Kyle Carter)

Yeah, which, listen, on a 2 by 4-mile island, or on a 2 by 4-mile area anywhere in the world, I'm just not aware of places that have the history, history maybe but, but restaurants are absolutely underrated and fantastic here. We know the nightlife and the bars are fantastic and we put some of the music in there.


The water sports, we put music on the sails with Fury Water Adventures, you can go snorkeling, you can go fishing, you can go diving, you can go to the Hemingway house, you can go to the beach, you can go, you name it. This place, you can ride a bike around, you can rent a golf cart, you can Uber or Lyft. The festival is a four- or five-day full festival.


It's a five-day festival with a kick off night. And there's just more things that you can possibly get done, so. In addition to, when am I going to go see all of these fantastic artists, you've got to, you've got to whittle down, when am I going to do all these other things, because here I am in Key West, and, and that's what differentiates our festival from many others out there.

 

Can you go see these artists at your local casino? Yeah, probably. Can you see them at a fair, or a festival somewhere else in, say, Wichita, or, yeah, you can. But you won't see them on a 200-foot-long pier in between the Gulf and the Atlantic. You won't see them on a beach at the end of January or the first of February when it's 78 degrees, and you've got flip flops and shorts on, singing your favorite, you know, Tanya Tucker song!

 



Please visit the Key Western Fest official website and PURCHASE your tickets today. Don't miss the country music party in paradise!!



 

 

 


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