Not many ladies kick ass and rock out as hard as the world-renowned guitar extraordinaire Kaki King. Her unique sound has captivated listeners everywhere, encapsulating an intricate blend of percussive, slap and finger picking guitar styling that she has honed and capitalized on. King and her music have been featured in movies (Into the Wild and August Rush), in the studio with performers such as The Foo Fighters and Timbaland, on television shows (Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) and on stages all over the world from Australia to Mexico, New York to Italy. Recently touring in support of her new album Glow, King is trying to get back to what she can do by herself, paying special attention to putting in guitar work and representing her instrument as the focus, since to her, “at the end of the day, that’s what I’ve done best.”
Her songs are ripe with open tunings and primarily instrumental, though she does sing occasionally, most notably with her lesbian classic “Jessica.” To King, though, her songs are never literal, even when there is a lyrical component to them. The music is the focus and the songs are instead built from a mood that she describes as “a mix between technical playing, emotional music and thinking outside the box when it comes to what I’m doing with the guitar.”
This love of music was something she got from her dad, who was a huge music fan and guitar player himself. When I met with King, she laughed and talked about when she realized she has surpassed her father, who used to take lessons and then come home to teach her, as a guitarist. Growing up listening to Van Morrison, Fleetwood Mac, jazz pianist Bill Evans and the likes of Bach, King is into the music of artist like Godspeed and Buch & Gase these days, unless she’s on a run, in which case it’s “all Rihanna and Gaga.” Sometimes she’s really just in the mood to see a piano recital.
The best part of sitting down with King was the fact that we weren’t alone, but rather joined by her wife, Jessica. The adorable newlyweds couldn’t keep their eyes off each other, showing that you can be super-cute and lovey and actually be married. “This past year has been full of me doing me,” King admitted, and about six weeks ago the couple went on down to city hall to just “get ‘er done” and waited with hundreds of other people to get their marriage certificate. During a recent NYC show, King happily announced, “I’m not gay married, I’m real married,” and joked about how happy she and Jessica were to be treated just like everyone else—they had received the same paperwork and level of ennui from the city clerk as the straight couples, paralleling it with being at the DMV.
“We did not meet until after marriage equality was legal in New York, and it changed my life, it changed what I thought was possible in my future completely,” King said. “I didn’t think it would, because for so many years I wasn’t anti-marriage—just more like ‘that’s not for me’—but it never would have been anyway because I am who I am.” Now that New Yorkers have the right to be married to whomever we want, “Being able to go and commit to someone—it changed who I ended up looking for and what I ended up looking for in a person. And I found the right person,” she beamed.
With a romantically not-so-romantic proposal that took place in Italy, King got just what she was looking for—and she couldn’t be happier.