|Thumping bass lines, tapping melodies, and slapping percussion on her guitar, Kaki King is a one-woman force sent to wreak acoustic havoc. She’s a riveting performer, combining jaw-dropping technique with unique compositions. Her playing has a passion and an edge that keeps her tenuously balanced, one foot in the acoustic world, the other in rock’n’roll.
For King, the guitar isn’t just a reverie machine; it’s a percussion instrument, just like the drums she played with her high school band…
“When I was about four years old my parents wanted me to take music lessons, and I chose the guitar,” she says. “But I didn’t enjoy it, so when I was five I put it aside. Then I started playing drums when I was nine or 10. I still play them. That was how I got into playing pop music, and that feel was a big influence when I did go back to guitar.”
Using intricate tunings and neck tapping, Kaki became focused on writing instrumental music. In 1999, Kaki moved up to New York to attend NYU, and emerged three years later with a humanities degree that allowed her to complete only the feeblest of crossword puzzles. “I want to be either a vagabond street performer or a sassy bar rat,” she told a professor inquiring about her future plans, to which the professor replied, “With your handsome looks and ragamuffin charm, I’m sure you’ll be able to do both.” And so she did…
Her commitment to the instrument took a sudden turn a few months after graduation; King had been wondering what to do with her life, but on September 11, 2001, circumstances pushed her to take faster action. Looking for a way to support herself in the wake of disaster, she took her guitar into the subway and began playing for tips. She worked mainly at night at stations along the L or F lines in the Village. More than anything she had done up to that point, these performances transformed her into an artist of fierce and fiery originality.
“The subways gave me stamina,” she says. “It’s a workout in every way — mentally, physically. To play for two hours in an ugly environment is very challenging. But soon people were coming up to me and saying, ‘Do you have a record?’ And I realized that if I could sell a CD for 10 bucks every time someone asks me for one, I could actually do all right for myself.”
Kaki King’s debut album, Everybody Loves You, was releasedon Velour in USA. The record inspired the LA Weekly to write: “King is the most striking young musician to emerge in decades.” It was during this time that King also became a part-time band member of the New York production of the off-Broadway smash Blue Man Group. Since then she has released Legs to Make us Longer (Sony) and …Until We Felt Red (Velour). Her schedule is now jam packed with touring she no longer has time for any other commitments apart from her own musical pursuits.
Since then she’s toured incessantly, opened for an array of headliners (Marianne Faithful, David Byrne, Robert Randolph, Keb Mo, Soulive, Mike Gordon and Charlie Hunter to name a few), played a set at Bonnaroo, performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Late Show With David Letterman , hurried to engagements all over the world, and pretty much single-handedly — actually, double-handedly — dragged the art of solo acoustic guitar back to prominence, with an edginess that matches the temperament of her own generation.
King’s main focus is one thing: “Touring, touring, touring. It’s what I love to do — the stage is where I’m most creative.”
Kaki King music available from Amazon…