Filed Under:

Kaki King: A Guitar Wizard Conjures New Colors

If you listen to NPR news shows, chances are good that you've already heard the music of Kaki King. Her rich, distinctive guitar playing is a favorite of the directors of our programs — certainly Morning Edition.

She gets her sound by playing the guitar in a unique and mesmerizing way. Rolling Stone has named her a "guitar god" and called her a "genre unto herself." When she plays, King says, "there's a lot of really strong flailing and strumming and beating."

It's a style she developed over years of practice: King is 33 and has been playing guitar since she was 4. In her early 20s, she started busking in the New York subway. Today, she tours worldwide, does soundtracks and has put out five albums. Her records have run the gamut from solo guitar to playing with a full band to singing. Her latest release is called Glow.

"I wanted to make a solo guitar record really badly again," she says. "But I really didn't hear that in my mind; I heard something more. So there's a lot of color in this record, a lot of added sound."

She teamed up with producer D. James Goodwin and went to a studio in Woodstock, N.Y., with solo guitar tracks that she'd already recorded. The two of them went after that colorful, added sound.

"We really spread it all out — we took all the instruments that we had at our disposal and just made them visibly present," she says. "So there's a Weissenborn guitar hanging out in that corner, and there's a piano here. I brought all my shakers and percussion things, so it was all really ready to go."

King says she was skeptical that she'd be able to get the sound she wanted without the guitar getting lost. But to her surprise, adding layers around the guitar often enhanced its presence.

"I'm really pleased with this record," she says. "There's a lot of magic and mystery in where your ear's going to take you. It's almost like exploring a house — you kind of peer into little bitty rooms. Your ear can just pick out all these little things, but it can also listen to it as a whole, and it's beautiful."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Rolling The R's' Is A Story About Coming Of Age And Coming Out

Rolling the R's tells the stories of restless teenagers in the disco era in a gritty neighborhood in Hawaii. Author R. Zamora Linmark discusses the book's impact, 20 years after it first came out.
NPR

'Sweetbitter' Is A Savory Saga Of Restaurant Life And Love

Oysters, cocaine, fine wine, love triangles: Stephanie Danler's debut novel Sweetbitter follows a year in the life of a young woman working at a top-tier Manhattan restaurant.
NPR

Trump Rolls Into Washington For Biker Rally

The presumptive Republican nominee for president addressed Rolling Thunder, the annual gathering of motorcyclists, on Sunday. The group seeks to raise awareness of veterans' issues.
NPR

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, She Channeled Her Ups And Downs Into Texts

NPR's Scott Simon talks with Natalie Sun about her project, textingwithcancer.com. The website won a Webby award, and documents her pessimism and optimism while undergoing chemotherapy.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.