Santa Barbarans and old-school Kaki King fans are in for a treat this Friday, when King will make a very special solo appearance at SOhO. During the past few years, the Atlanta-bred guitarist and singer/songwriter has been successfully recording and touring with a full band; however, it’s her earlier years in music that she really considers special. And it is with that in mind that she plans to perform sans backup this Friday night, without even a microphone to “hide behind,” as she will later explain. King is not often able to perform in this capacity. In fact, this week-long solo tour is being squeezed between larger, full-band gigs. But, as she puts it, her passion to perform unaccompanied is so strong that she’s more than willing to stretch her schedule thin to fit in these dates.
“Yeah, I’m doing something different on this tour,” King noted. “[For] the past four or five years, I’ve been working with bands, so once or twice per year I like to go out and play really intimate and interesting venues with just my guitar-no band and no loops. That’s the way I made my first record, and also the second.”
King continued, “This type of performance has always been spiritual and sacred for me. It’s what I do best. I’ve never been as good at anything as I am at being a solo musician. This is the reason I am a musician, [and] I hope that this is what people still see as the fundamental place this all comes from. Why I do this tour? It’s simple and as stripped-down as possible, and that’s when you have to be your best. : There’s nothing to hide behind.”
And to be sure there was no confusion regarding just how solo a Kaki King solo performance would be, King quickly addressed the topic of vocals. “This show will be completely instrumental,” she explained. Older fans of King’s work know that lyrics weren’t something she added largely until her third album, 2006’s :Until We Felt Red. “On my third album, I got to do whatever I wanted, but in a way it made me take a step back,” King recalled. “Solo guitar was a discipline, like learning a style of painting. It’s possible with solo guitar to somehow tell a story and move people without emotion and without voice.”
While King attended New York University, one of the country’s most prestigious art schools, she doesn’t lay claim to any sort of music degree. “I did take music classes, though,” King explained. “I’m self-taught-well, kind of. I had lessons when I was really young, maybe five years old, then a little when I went back to guitar at age 11. But I’d learn things from people; I’d see them play and ask them to show me how they did something. Each little thing I learned, I applied to what I already knew and went from there.” In discussing her gift and passion for the guitar, it seems plausible that she might one day return to the studio on her own. “It’s slightly self-indulgent,” King admitted. “If I can perform solo once every year, I’m lucky. I would love to creatively get back to a place to make a solo guitar record.”
King is a woman who has achieved a lot at a young age. At 29 years old, she’s gone from playing New York City subway stations to touring with the Foo Fighters. But among her proudest musical moments are the starting points of her career. “I have a lot of proud moments,” she recalled aloud. “In a weird way, one of my proudest moments is when I was played in the band for the original Blue Man Group. A friend of a friend knew me, and I guess I had no idea what was happening. I had the first audition of the day-the worst, most undesirable time-and I had to play a Chapman Stick-an instrument I’d neither seen, nor played before. I went in and used all the abilities I had at the time, and they hired me. : At the time, it seemed like the biggest thing that had ever happened to me, and it was. Whenever I’m down, I think back to that.”
Among her list of achievements, King still has yet to score a hit single. But this doesn’t faze her in the least. “I’ve never had a radio hit,” she explained, “but when people come to my shows, they’re psyched to be there. My fans are amazing and they give back tons. I feel very privileged.” And who could ask for anything more?
Club Mercy presents Kaki King at SOhO (1221 State St.) this Friday, January 23, at 9 p.m. For tickets and information, call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com.