By Robert Kreutzer
Whatever you do, please don’t tell Kaki King that she’s a guitar god.
In 2006, the venerable magazine Rolling Stone gave props to the native Georgian by naming her—alongside the likes of Jack White and John Frusciante—one of the new guitar greats. She was the only woman to make the cut.
The music that got King there has traversed many a paths. It has ranged from solo, acoustic work, to folk and world-influenced sounds and full-ensemble rock, often displaying her percussive, rapid-note style, all of which demonstrate why she is so well-regarded. Mind you, she doesn’t mind accolades. It’s just that the 33-year-old guitarist feels that the guitar is a little bigger than she is.
“Part of being a guitar player is realizing that there’s no mastering of the guitar,” admits King, talking by telephone. “You can master some styles of music, but there’s so much to the guitar and so many kinds of music that nobody ever really masters it.”
Mind you, she doesn’t mind accolades and fans and stuff like that. That’s great. She doesn’t mind that people love her music and respect her work. In some ways, the guitar god (goddess?) moniker has become more a bother than anything else.
“That designation doesn’t matter and it never did mean that much to me,” King confessed. “It’s always flattering when someone recognizes you, but I struggle with it. It’s always one of the first things people ask about. But the article was a long time ago and from a different part of my life.”
King makes clear that guitar is not just something she does for beer money. It has always been an integral part—maybe even the essence of who she is. Lists, accolades and even albums don’t completely capture that.
“With the guitar, I’m everywhere at once,” King explained “I play baritone bass, I play different things at a rehearsal space, I play acoustic guitar on my couch, I occupy a lot of different spaces at once. A record is a moment where I’ve chosen a certain path. It’s a tiny little snapshot of where I was at a certain time.”
Woman guitar greats, at least recognized ones, aren’t exactly common. King said she doesn’t mind that women—or for that matter, anyone—looks up to her, either as a person or a guitarist, but she declines the mantle of role model.
“I do try not to make an ass of myself,” said King, “but I advise both men and women. I’m very specific both as a woman and as a guitar player and my judgments have nothing to do with the broader vision of what a woman or guitarist should be.”
Two big things mark King’s life right now. One is her latest album, Glow. The album is yet another showcase of the finger picking frenzy of King’s style, fleshed out with extra strings. King said she wanted a clear-cut return for the guitar to its centrality in her life.
“I wanted to return to something where guitar was the driving force,” King said. “I’m going to go back to the simplicity of solo guitar, but I have a bag of tricks. I got to the point where I experimented and a lot of interesting things came out.”
The other big deal is King’s recent marriage to her girlfriend, Jessica. King said she doesn’t mind talking about that part of her life—but she doesn’t want it to become a preoccupation.
“I want to talk about my life, and I’m happy and I want to share that,” King said. “I feel freer and more stable. But I don’t want you coming up to me to talk about my personal life. I know some people think it’s something we share, but we don’t.”
Kaki King at UCR Barn at The Riverside, 900 University Ave., Riverside. (951) 827-4403; rside.ucr.edu/barnseries. Wed, Oct. 24. 8:30pm. $5 UCR student, faculty and staff (presale only); $15 general admission.