Devin Guisande, aka Kyd the Band, can still visualize the photo his parents have of him sitting at a drum set, no older than the age of four. Introduced to music in the Pentecostal church he was raised in Northern California, Guisande was playing drums at mass by the age of 10 and singing in the choir at 15, yet he didn’t consider himself a singer until his brother and future collaborator Kyle pointed out his impressive voice.
“I never wanted to be a singer, but I remember driving in the car one day with my brother and he heard me sing. He’s like ‘you can really sing,’” Guisande recalls to Audiofemme in a phone interview. From there, the brothers formed a band with their friends, and Guisande dipped his toe into the songwriting pool, discovering a passion for the craft that he later turned into a career. He’s just released the latest EP in his four-part cycle, Season 4: Series Finale.
At 18, Guisande made a life-altering move when he left the church, venturing on a personal odyssey that led him to Los Angeles, where he tapped into his songwriting capabilities, turning his personal tragedies into compelling narratives. “I wanted to write my own songs because I felt like I wanted to say something. I didn’t know exactly what then, because I was so young and I didn’t live enough life to really have an opinion or just a story. But I knew I wanted to try to get there,” he expresses. “Songwriting, it’s like a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger you build that and the better you get. Over my life of living more, it cemented ‘this is who I am as a person, as an artist, and this is what I want to say.’ If I’m not the one writing my songs or being honest in sharing my story, then I don’t think there really is a point for me to do this.”
Leaving the conservative life of the church behind and moving hundreds of miles away from home for the fist time put a strain on Guisande’s relationship with his family, leading to what he describes as one of the darkest points of his life. He developed a substance abuse problem and overdosed, an experience he chronicles in the deeply personal “Dark Thoughts.” The ear-catching, dreamlike bass doesn’t overpower the song’s thought-provoking subject matter that serves as Guisande’s cry for help, reaching his hand through the dark as he professes, “I’ve been having dark thoughts/They’ve been cloudin’ up my mind/Like someone’s turned out the light on me/I’ve been having dark thoughts/Do you ever feel like me?/‘Cause I could use the company.”
“To me, that song was like an admission, a vulnerability saying, ‘this is me whether you like it or not, this is what happened.’ It was a face-to-face moment with myself,” he observes. “ I haven’t really talked to a lot of people about those things, and music was the outlet for that and gave me an objective, outside view of it. I think hard experiences and painful ones can inspire you and be a source of creativity. It’s been a way for me to help deal with those things.”
After coming to the realization that he no longer wanted to be in L.A., Guisande and his now-wife headed east to Tennessee, making Music City their new home. Soon after, his brother made the trek to Nashville, Kyle working at GameStop while Devin worked as a full-time assistant to a real estate agent. The two formed Kyd The Band, balancing their day jobs while making music on the side that resulted in such songs as “American Dreamer.”
After the brothers musically parted ways, Guisande continued on with Kyd The Band as a solo act, releasing a series of EPs throughout 2020 and 2021 with Season 1: The Intro, Season 2: Character Development, Season 3: The Realization and Season 4: Series Finale. “I figured out early on I wanted to release music as seasons and make it like how a TV show is formatted because the music’s about my life,” he narrates. “My life has gone in waves and different phases, and so the seasonal structure really made sense.”
Season 1: The Intro chronicles the California native’s childhood growing up immersed in the church. “Sad Songs” depicts a sense of loneliness while acknowledging inner demons through lyrics like “I only like sad songs/Something may be wrong with me/And I leave the TV on/So someone’s in the room.”
Season 2: Character Development candidly chronicles his journey of leaving home and moving to L.A. while blossoming into adulthood with songs like the aforementioned “Dark Thoughts.” By Season 3: The Realization, Guisande has embraced who he has become and come to terms with his own reality, though heavy themes are still present. On “Make It In America,” for instance, he narrates vivid memories of watching a creditor place a foreclosure notice on the door of his childhood home after his family went bankrupt (Guisande was 16 at the time). He recounts his family selling off their belongings off in a yard sale and driving with his father to the bank to surrender their cars.
But Guisande attributes these challenges for building his endurance and resiliency, the message connecting as much to the present as it does the past. “Had I not gone through those things, I don’t know if I would have the perspective or understanding that I have now of you can lose everything literally tomorrow,” he reflects. In the song, he ponders, “When my soul flies/I can’t take one thing/Why do I try so hard to make it in America?” – a message that certainly hit home during the pandemic. “Over the last year, if we didn’t know that you can lose everything tomorrow, we realized or remembered that. Things aren’t what matter. It’s the relationships that you have in your life, and it’s people that you have right in front of you. Those are the things that you need to put value on,” he says.
The collection concludes with Season 4: Series Finale and includes the motivational “Glory” and powerful “Real Problems,” the latter of which he cites as one of the most important songs he’s released. A collaboration with fellow Nashville-based artist Taela, the song was borne out of their parallel experiences with substance abuse and Taela’s struggle with mental illness and self-identity. Taela had already written part of the chorus when she pitched it to Guisande as a collaboration, the dynamic artist working his magic in verses that find him in a work-in-progress state, yet recognizing the strength he’s gained from walking through life’s obstacles.
“I knew I wanted to talk about the struggle of it and of living with things that have happened in your life, or things that you’re currently dealing with, to talk about that in a really honest way,” he says. “There was a strength in saying, ‘I have some things that I’ve gone through and they’re legit, real life things, and they’re not always pretty.’ I think there was a strength and courage and admitting that.”
“It took some real problems for me to grow and become who I am,” he continues. “When I look at my life, that’s the truth for me. That’s me going through what I did and the things I talk about in Season One, Two and Three to really figure out who I am as a person and what matters to me and what I believe. I’m thankful for all of it, the good and the bad, because it’s gotten me to where I am now.”
All roads lead to where Guisande is in present day, with the mission of inspiring others to share their truth and find methods of healing, just as he’s done countless times. Turning his scars into musical works of art dovetails with the goal of making others feel like they have a true sense of belonging. “If they feel different, if they feel like they don’t fit in, there’s other people out there that feel like that too,” Guisande shares. “We’re all in this together. At the root of it, that’s what I hope.”