Elk Grove's Kyle Ekstrom taps his history with solo debut 'Florescence'

Over the last 17 years, guitarist and songwriter Kyle Ekstrom put in his time honing his craft, learning the business, venturing through different genres and touring with a band. Now 30, he's finally releasing something of his own.

“Florescence,” the Elk Grove Village artist's solo debut released last weekend, is an 11-song album of his personal work that, while solidly alt-rock, bears flourishes from different vibes showcasing Ekstrom's varied experiences in music.

“The songs are about past relationships and stuff like that. You go through life and the things you see and everything,” he said. “I kind of like to be a little bit literal and a little bit vague. When people can see what that story is in the lyrics and what they think the song is about for me, they could be right. And if that resonates with them, then I think that's a good thing.”

Ekstrom said he was first inspired at 13 to start playing music while watching music videos — one by the band Trust Company still stands out in his memory — and he hasn't looked back since his dad bought him his first guitar. But he also acknowledges being successful as a musician is more than just about studying an instrument, and that after all this time he's still discovering new things.

“As I got older, I found out you have to learn how to produce, and it's not gonna all come naturally like you think it would,” he said. “And it's really a big learning experience. Even today, I'm still learning a lot of things.”

Leaning on friends and frequent collaborators Rom (Romel Panganiban) and producer/musician Joe Scaletta of Elmwood Park's Word of Mouth Recordings — both of whom appear frequently on the album — Ekstrom draws inspiration and musical expertise from contacts on both the Chicago-area scene and across the country. He gave a special shoutout to Pacific Northwest singer Darian Renee, whose vocals add a haunting charm to the nostalgia-laced “Papillon,” the part English, part French standout on the album.

Another catchy track, “You're A Flower, I'm A Weed,” will be appearing on an upcoming movie by Hanala Sagal, who wrote and produced the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival darling “Elvis & Nixon.” Opening that door has led to other soundtrack offers, including an unannounced project he has in the works.

But while writing and recording music has been Ekstrom's focus for the last few years, in part because of the COVID pandemic's effects on the musical landscape around Chicago and the suburbs, he is very excited to get back on stage to connect with audiences now that his big release is out.

“I remember I played a show, and I was playing one of the first songs I wrote. Somebody came up to me after the show, and they were like ‘That was so beautiful with all the meaning behind it,'” he said. “It was about one of my friends who had passed away. And what was interesting was I could tell by the look in their eyes that it was super resonating with them in some sort of way. To me, that's so rewarding.”

With various genres at his fingertips from his musical history, Kyle Ekstrom embellishes his alternative rock album with flourishes evoking different vibes. Courtesy of Sara Svarda
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