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Midnight Pilot’s Kyle Schonewill Talks Football & Music

December 2, 2016 • Ben Heck • Features, Front Page, Interviews, NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins

For me personally, football and music are two of my favorite things. Midnight Pilot‘s guitarist Kyle Schonewill has similar feelings.

So why not combine the two?

A few weeks ago Schonewill was nice enough to take time out of his busy music career to speak with us about a number of topics, including his band’s music, football and his high school buddy — Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins.

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Schonewill and Cousins grew up together in Holland, Michigan. They attended middle school and high school together, along with the other members of the band.

Kyle, although not quite up to Kirk’s athletic prowess, played football and baseball in high school. As receiver, Kyle caught some passes from Kirk in high school.

“I was probably better at baseball than I was at football,” Kyle said.

While he says he did consider pursuing a pro baseball career, he never even thought about a pro career in football.

While Kyle now resides in Nashville, Tennessee as a musician and Kirk is busy in Washington D.C. as a starting NFL quarterback, the two high school friends remain close. Close enough, in fact, that over the off-season Kirk and his brother traveled down to Nashville to play some music with Midnight Pilot.

Schonewill attends Redskins games from time to time, and even happened to be in attendance for the now infamous “you like that” game last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Schonewill on how/when Midnight Pilot formed:

“I ended up going to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee for music, and Grant [MP’s guitarist and vocalist Grant Geertsma] went out to Seattle to Seattle Pacific University. That’s when I decided that music was going to be a way better option for me, and so I went into music pretty much right away after high school.

The band has been playing together since middle school and high school, but it was under a different name. Then when I went to college in Nashville and Grant went to Seattle, we still over those college years would get together over breaks and record in Nashville.

But I would say after all those years of playing, in 2014 is really when Midnight Pilot truly formed. Everybody that year moved to Nashville and we kind of rebranded and started the band. So we’re lifelong friends who have been playing together for years, but we say that we started in 2014.”

Schonewill on Kirk’s recruiting process in high school:

“His junior year, Kirk broke his ankle. And he was undersized. So I really don’t remember him getting a whole lot of attention his junior year, and I remember that his senior year we had a good season. Early on in that year it was late in the recruiting process, but he had a few offers, I think from schools like Toledo and Northern Illinois.

Really last minute, I think it was basketball season, he got an offer from Michigan State. So I would say the attention came real late. Even at Michigan State, the offer was basically like ‘you can come play but we have a five-star recruit.’ He ended up getting redshirted. So I don’t think the attention truly started until he started winning his junior of college.”

Schonewill on the music Midnight Pilot has been working on:

“Right now we’re making a bunch of music and not trying to do a lot of shows. We’re doing three or four different EP’s a year, that all sound kind of different. Our main goal is licensing, so trying to get our music in film and TV.

So it’s all over the place. Right now we’re trying to do one that’s a little more chill, so kind of like a Beck record. After that we’ll be doing an instrumental one, and then a heavier sounding rock one in January.

We’re pretty much trying to make a ton of music right now.”

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(Photo credit: Midnight Pilot)

Schonewill on Kirk’s “You like that!” moment last season:

“I was at the Tampa Bay game last year — where the whole “you like that” thing was born — and we were sitting in the sixth row. At halftime we were unbelievably discouraged with how it was going, and so the kind of turn-around he had was unbelievable.

I remember afterwards we got to the van that Kirk takes to the games, and me and his brother Kyle were sitting in the back of the van. I was looking on Twitter and started noticing that Vine was starting to go around. So we’re still driving home from the game and I was like ‘Kirk did you say something in the hallway?’ because people are sharing this video a lot. He said ‘it was no big deal.’

So we didn’t even really think it was a big deal, but by the time we got back it was already becoming a huge thing.

Later that night Kirk’s mother-in-law said we should write a song about it. We thought it was a little premature, but when I got back home to Nashville the next day I called Grant and Chris and said that we should try to do it. We thought we’d keep it real short, and the idea of it was to use it as a sort of pump-up song to play in a stadium, if it becomes a thing. This was only two days out, so we just kind of winged it and in 48 hours we recorded the one-minute song, had a drummer play on it and as the season went along and started catching on more and more.

A couple of D.C. radio stations played it for some of their sports segments, but it hasn’t been played at FedEx Field or anything yet. The biggest thing was when NFL Films reached out to use it twice.”

Schonewill on NFL Films airing Midnight Pilot songs:

“It was amazing. They also used it in their show called NFL Top 100. Kirk was ranked in the 80s on the show, and they used it then as well. That was helpful. With that traction they reached out to use it for this other Kirk segment too, and that was about as much promo as we could possibly get. Kirk talked about it a lot, so it was really cool and helped out a lot.”

Schonewill on Kirk’s recording sessions:

“One thing I wanted to clarify is that that’s separate. Kirk is not in Midnight Pilot. Kirk has been incredibly helpful in getting us extra promo as much as possible, and he’s done other things for us regarding our band. So he’s very helpful, but he’s not actually a member of the band.

But every year for the last two or three years now, Kirk has made it a tradition to come down to Nashville with his brother for a few days and we just record some covers of his favorite songs. Midnight Pilot plays all the music, and he sings. No one ever hears it, it’s literally just like a vacation for him.

It’s kind of like the way I want to go to the Redskins’ facility and catch passes on the field. It’s his version of that. He just wants to hang out and sing. At the end of it we get four or five songs that he’s sung on, and it’s fun for him.”

Although we don’t have physical proof of it, as none of Kirk’s recorded songs have been released to the public, Cousins is supposedly a decent singer.

“He’s actually pretty good,” Kyle told me during the interview. “I don’t think anyone will ever hear it, but if people did hear it I think they would be genuinely shocked.”

With Kirk busy slinging passes in D.C. for the 6-4-1 Redskins, Kyle doesn’t expect any of Kirk’s music to be released any time in the near (or distant) future.

He does have a new catch-phrase, though:

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Midnight Pilot band members:

Grant Geertsma: Guitars, Vocals, Lyrics
Kyle Schonewill: Guitars, Production, Vocals, Keys
Kris Schonewill: Bass Guitar, Aux Percussion
Dustin Wise: Organ, Keys

Check out NFL Films’ Kirk Cousins segment w/ Katie Nolan (featuring music from Midnight Pilot).

Be sure to check out Midnight Pilot’s official website and Facebook or Twitter page for announcement/updates from the band. Also check out their page on Soundcloud or Spotify to listen to the band’s music.

Photo: Midnight Pilot

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