Combining 1970’s Glam Rock with old-time country music is not something that is too often understood in its time. It’s only afterward that people begin to dig that eclectic combination of styles that somehow manages to catch fire.
Superficially, that’s what some may say of 22-year old singer-songwriter Steven King‘s music, without ever taking the time to peel back the layers and delve a bit deeper.
His latest release, an EP titled “What We Needed” (December 2016), contains six songs that touch on the musicians and the sounds that have influenced him, while keeping fans guessing at what he means when he calls his sound “Space Cowboy.”
“When I started the project,” King said, “it’s always kind of been… well, I started with me and an acoustic guitar, because it’s always been hard for me to stick with the same band. When I first started writing music, a lot of my friends were in rock bands. I’ve found that my music is a little bit like old country/western. I like old country music, but I also like 1970’s Glam stuff.
“Sometimes, I would write a song that was a little country, and then I’d want to make it more like T. Rex. So, I started with ‘Space Cowboy’ and have kind of stuck with it. My music has a bit of a western tinge to it. But, it also has an out-of-this world, over-the-top kind of thing.”
There’s a healthy dose of John Prine in King’s rhythm. And, you can’t miss the glam-rock sound of Marc Bolan and T. Rex in his styling.
But as you move past the obvious influences of Prine and Bolan, you take notice of misunderstood artists at the core of King’s music. Once you realize what you’re hearing, the unmistakable vibe of Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers invades your aural synapses.
“John Prine is a huge one for me,” he said, “and The Flying Burrito Brothers I just got really into recently.”
Born and raised just east of Columbus in a somewhat rural area, King made the decision to move into the state capital at the end of 2016.
“I’ve been playing here since I was 14, but I finally made the move,” he said with a smile.
His debut release in 2013 was the five-song EP “Tamerak.” He followed this with the 2015 release of his first full-length album, “Shakin in My Boots.” Released in December 2016, “What We Needed” chronicles Kin’s growing maturity.
“It was recorded in Dayton,” he said, “and co-produced by the singer from Manray, Joey Beach. I went in just to do it as a solo album, but the songs sounded good with some musicians from different bands in Dayton that played with me.”
He’s been playing the guitar since he was eight-years old. The musical epiphany struck him somewhere between the ages of 14 and 18. While working as a photographer, he came to realize just how important music was to him. In addition to his own songwriting, he’s been playing guitar with a band called the “Up All Nights”, on and off for years.
What drives the young singer-songwriter is writing music and playing to people that want to hear his somewhat unique blend of glam-rock and country.
“I write a lot,” King said. “I’ve been writing another full-length for a while and have been kind of saving specific songs for that. I wanted to put something out without just releasing this album that I wasn’t done writing. I think there’s a little bit of a feel of variation in the tracks. It doesn’t feel like they necessarily all came at the same time.
“The EP was six songs that I wanted to get out that I have been playing for a while. The first track, Haircut, I wrote two weeks before I went in to record. Then, there are others that are a year old.”
Receiving the feedback from the fans who “get” his brand of music makes it all the more worthwhile to chase after the dream of playing music for the rest of his life. But, that doesn’t mean that everything is smooth-sailing for him.
“I honestly don’t feel as though I’m that good at many things. I think other people enjoy when I can play music for them. But, I would like to eventually just be able to take care of the art and music on its own, without having to worry about making money in other ways.
“It’s not all about the money. I just want to be able to do it the way I want to. I’d like to make and play music forever, if possible.”
Steven King hit the proverbial nail on the head. Wouldn’t we all like to do just that?
Steven King – Don’t Lose Your Mind