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Kaki King Biography

Home > Music > K > King, Kaki > Biography

Birth Name: Katherine Elizabeth King
Born: 1979/08/24
Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Years Active: 2001 – present
Genres: Post-rock, Instrumental Music, Shoegaze, Jazz

Kaki King (born Katherine Elizabeth King, August 24, 1979 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American guitarist and composer. King is known for her percussive and jazz-tinged melodies, energetic live shows, use of multiple tunings on acoustic and lap steel guitar, and her diverse range in different genres. She was introduced to the guitar at the age of four and played for several years, but after taking up the drums a few years later, they became her primary instruments as an adolescent.

Convinced that her break in music would come from drumming, King played in bands in high school with classmate Morgan Jahnig, who would later become the bassist of Old Crow Medicine Show. On graduating from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta in 1998, the two friends attended New York University. While there, King picked up the guitar again, and revisited the finger-style techniques that intrigued her as a child. While at NYU she studied with Dr. Bill Rayner, an accomplished professor of guitar. From there, King played a few occasional gigs and busked in the New York subways.

After signing with Velour Records in 2002, King began recording her debut album, “Everybody Loves You.” She incorporated finger-style “fanning,” with both flamenco style percussion and fret tapping techniques, as well as using double open tunings, viola tunings, and traditional Russian guitar. In April 2003, “Everybody Loves You” was released to positive reviews and feedback on King's skills as a guitarist in relation to her age. While her later work involved more of a band format, “Everybody Loves You” was King's only fully acoustic guitar album, with the exception of light singing on the hidden bonus track, “The Government.”

After King appeared on “Late Night with Conan O'Brien,” Sony Records offered her a deal with Epic records' Red Ink label. From there, King headed back into the studio to work on her sophomore effort, “Legs to Make Us Longer.” King began to incorporate different instruments and sound effects into her album, such as looping, light drum work on “Doing the Wrong Thing,” and her first incorporation of Lap steel guitar with “My Insect Life.” Produced by David Torn, “Legs to Make Us Longer” was released on Epic's Red Ink Imprint in October 2004 to strong reviews.

At the end of her tour for “Legs to Make Us Longer” in 2005, King departed from her previous musical direction, out of a desire to escape being pigeonholed as a solo instrumental artist. She amicably parted ways with major label Sony/Epic and returned to her original label, Velour, to begin work on her third album “...Until We Felt Red.” Released in August 2006 on Velour Records, the album featured production work by Tortoise's John McEntire. With the prominence of electric guitar, shoegazing and effect boxes on the new record, and the addition of a full band, her shift in musical trajectory was fully realized.

King recruited Malcolm Burn to help with her next album, 2008’s “Dreaming of Revenge.” Filled with more melodic pop tunes than previous albums, “Dreaming of Revenge” was released to highly positive reviews. On the first half of King's tour in support of the album, she headlined at Atlanta’s The Roxy and toured with The Mountain Goats, which led to the exclusive release of Kaki King and The Mountain Goats EP “Black Pear Tree EP.”

After meeting with Carter Burwell to start work on the scoring for the “Twilight” movies, and completing work on Timbaland's “Shock Value II” (which became Miley Cyrus' “We Belong To The Music”), King began to outline her ideals for her fifth record. King's interest in Cold War novels, Russian spies and espionage themes, particularly that of double spies living double lives, became the basis for her next album, “Junior.” As with her previous album, “Junior” was produced by Malcolm Burn and recorded at his studio in Kingston, New York. But in contrast to that record, which was marked by deep textures and layers as well as unusual instrumentation, “Junior” was specifically made with only three musicians in mind—in this case, King, multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson.

King was joined by producer D. James Goodwin for the recording of her next album. “Glow,” her sixth full-length record was issued on Velour in October 2012. It featured King on her many varied guitars and the ETHEL string quartet.