Kaki King: Born 1979

A guitarist known for her technical mastery and revolutionary style, Kaki King pushes past traditional methods and reimagines how one can play the guitar. Despite having been introduced to the guitar at age four, King’s initial instrumental love affair was with the drums. Playing drums in high school rock and bands, it wasn’t until discovering guitarists Preston Reed and Michael Hedges that she was led back to the guitar.

Studying guitar at New York University, King’s earliest solo performances were at campus open-mic nights. Following graduation, she began busking in the NYC subway where the urban acoustics and honest feedback influenced the development of her style and pushed her towards becoming a professional musician.

In 2003, Velour Records released King’s debut record, Everybody Loves You. It was within this work that she established her signature fingerstyle playing while also utilizing flamenco style percussion and double open and viola tunings. In her 2004 release, Legs to Make Us Longer, King continued to explore and expand her sound by incorporating looping, lap steel, and organic drums. King’s third album, Until We Felt Red showcased her singing and her talent as a multi-instrumentalist. While writing her fourth album, King contributed original music to the soundtracks for Into the Wild and August Rush and graced the stage with Tegan and Sara, as well as the Foo Fighters.

King’s next venture, Dreaming of Revenge, was released to near unanimous acclaim, and after arriving home from tour, she contributed to Carter Burwell’s score for the film Twilight. In 2010, she released Junior and in that same year, was recruited by Timbaland as his primary guitarist for his chart-topping record, Shock Value II. Clearly acquiring mainstream attention, King’s 2011 solo tour The Traveling Freak Guitar Show showcased her performing with a collection of seven instruments, including harp guitar, dojo, a custom-made nylon seven-string guitar with fanned fretboard, and a self-made hybrid instrument that combined the acoustic guitar with the Japanese koto. In the coming years, King would go on to issue the albums Glow, Everybody Glows: B Sides & Rarities, and Live at Berklee — each of which continued her evolution and displayed her impressive ingenuity as a musician.

Kaki King’s career continues to be an inspiring representation of reinvention. Her unwillingness to duplicate sound or style, mixed with her ability to think outside of the box, will surely aid her in developing revolutionary music for years to come.

Written by Victoria Shaffer

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