Kevin Kleist is a self-taught guitarist who has been playing music for over 25 years. He plays in the Parks & Kleist Band with his favorite companion in life, love, and music – Dianna Parks.
What sparked your interest in music?
I was at the North Star Bar and the band that night was playing “House of the Rising Sun.” I stood there and said to myself, I just have to learn this song. It just hit me. I had no inkling to play music before, but the idea was like a bolt of lightning. I went home and strung up my sister’s old guitar, bought some chord books, and then started to learn guitar. I was eventually able to play “House of the Rising Sun” with the very band that played it that night at North Star.
Most listened to song in the
What I listen to depends on what I am learning at the time and what songs catch my ear. Right now I am listening to “Harden my Heart” by Quarterflash and “Away from the Sun” by 3 Doors Down.
If you could run sound for one artist no longer among the living, who would it be? Why?
I would say Freddy Mercury of Queen. I’ve heard stories about his horrible teeth, yet he wouldn’t get them fixed because he was so afraid it would change his voice. He was more concerned with the music than his personal appearance.
Top three artists at the moment?
Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, and Jackson Browne. We have a joke in the band that if I sing a song, 99.9% of the time, it’s a 80s song. It’s my genre. I guess I’m just stuck in the past.
One book you think everyone should read?
Charles Nicholl’s “Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind.” It’s about how the mind works with creativity.
Favorite local hangout?
I go where the music is, and my favorite place is the one that supports live music.
Kindest words from an audience member?
We do an acoustic version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” One time an elderly man came up to me and said, “Young man, I just really love you and your girlfriend’s music. And I really enjoy that song about Tommy working on the docks.”
Best show you’ve ever seen?
It’s hard to beat a 3 1/2 hour concert by Bruce Springsteen where your hands hurt from so much clapping and your voice hurts from so much cheering.
What makes you stand out as a musician?
I pick appropriate songs for my voice and for the way I play guitar. And I’ve got to feel the song. If I don’t feel it, then I probably shouldn’t play it. People love our set list because the songs are filled with emotion and a desire to play them.
What motivates you to keep playing music/keep performing?
Music can make people feel the same way as a narcotic. It’s a high; it’s a rush. When I was a single guy going to jams at the North Star Bar, someone signed me up to play in the open jam. I probably would not have gone up there otherwise, but I did it. I sweated through my shirt, turned my guitar all the way down, and stared at the floor the entire time I was on stage. But it was the greatest feeling, and after that I wanted to experience it again. I still keep trying to find the person who signed me up.