As one of Savannah’s finest guitarists, "Georgia" Kyle Shiver knows what playing an instrument can do for the soul. Whether he is listening or performing, the Albany, Georgia native turns to music for healing and guidance during difficult times. This week, he releases an album of songs instilled with peace, love, and beautiful tranquility.
Music is My Medicine is a lush, gentle album that takes Shiver’s six-string skills and uses them like an elixir. With his bluesy vocals, there’s an air of experience and learning that carries through the album and makes each song even more powerful. Among destructive hurricanes and mass shootings, it’s a record that seems particularly needed and meaningful in this very moment.
Shiver will celebrate the album’s completion with a release party at Unity of Savannah, where is Music Director. He’ll perform with Unity’s own Reverend Dale Worley, Tony Richards, and Rochelle Coatney.
We chatted with Shiver about spirituality in song, telling a story through musical arrangement, and spreading peace through his music.
How long have you been working on this album?
Some of the songs are from the last year, some from earlier this year. You’ll notice there’s a fair amount of covers on there. Playing at shows with other musicians, some of the songs, we’d play, then a couple months later, play them again and realize, “This is a really good song.” They’re not my songs, but I do them so much, they may as well be.
My friend Tony [Richards] produced the CD. He used to record Hall & Oates, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, all kinds of people in the music business. He recorded the basic tracks, took it to his studio, laid down the bass, and he produced it. I came in later on and did backing vocals and different things like that. So it’s been going on for a few months, but it’s always a process.
Why did you choose those covers in particular?
The idea for the CD is “music is my medicine,” of course, and the idea for that song comes from me realizing I could play music, or listen to music, and I would feel better. It sounds simple, but if I’m really upset about something, I just go get my guitar and start playing and get lost in the guitar. Whenever I’m done playing, whatever was bothering me isn’t bothering me and things aren’t so bad anymore.
It leads me into asking [the listener]: What do you do that makes everything okay? Some people go fishing. Some people crochet. What do you do that takes your mind of your problems and makes you feel better? All those songs are about awaking spiritually.
There certainly is a healing feeling in the music.
I’m a music minster at Unity of Savannah. I travel to other communities over the South East...I’ll do a service, play music, and do a concert. The CD is totally for that.
How has being a music minister informed your work?
It’s been really interesting and it’s really been fun. I didn’t really see that coming, but what I really like the most about the church and the reason why I go is that we can play any music that has a positive message to it. We play Bob Marley songs, rock music that I really like. This Sunday, we’re going to play “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty.
Those music choices seem like they might open up your crowd.
Unity is very open to everyone. We have African-Americans, gay people, all kinds of different people who go to our church. I’m a part of the Coexist Movement. Unity is all-inclusive.
A lot of the songs on the CD I play in church, but there are some I could play anywhere. They’ve got a simpleness, an idea of oneness. And we’re all people and trying to do something about the violence and the craziness going on.
Yeah, that message of healing seems like one people really need right now.
It’s what I need, it’s what the country needs. It’s what everybody needs. It works for me and hopefully we’ll start seeing a decrease in these incidents at some point instead of a continuing increase.
The music on the CD and all the songs on the CD are really geared toward spirituality and growing spiritually, waking up to the fact that black people, gay people, people from Iran, North Korea—we are all consciousness. We are all people underneath whatever language you may speak, whatever clothes you may wear. People gotta wake up and figure it out.
How do you create a guitar tone that evokes that message? How did you approach your guitar playing for the album?
Whenever I write or perform a song, I’m trying to create an emotional image. You want a song to be an experience, so that’s really what I try to do within the music around the song. What is the song trying to say? What am I trying to do with this song? What is its purpose?
“There’s A Healing” has tuba on it, and it’s supposed to invoke happiness and make you want to clap your hands. That’s the approach to music and words for me: I try to put music and words together and have them create a picture.
You released this album as Kyle Shiver. Do you consider the work you’ve released and the shows you play as Georgia Kyle to be separate from that?
It’s kind of funny—I play in two different places. I might play at One-Eyed Lizzy’s Tequila Bar, and twelve hours later, I might be playing at church. So to me, music is music.
It’s definitely a different kind of thing. It’s kind of funny—the people at church don’t really care if I was playing a bar during the day. But sometimes I feel like the people at the bar would care that I go play at church. I really have an audience out in the world, but really, my audience that’s bigger and more meaningful to me is playing at the church. I play to entertain people.