Interview with Shelley King: The scales tip heavily to soul side: Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Shelley King. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

Shelley King: – When I improvise musically, I don’t always know where I’m going. My songs are like paintings. The lyrics are the images and the notes are the colors. Sometimes when I play the songs in a live setting we might like to color outside the lines. The challenge is to keep the colors complimentary and not actually leave the canvas completely.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

SHK: – I believe everything is a culmination of influences. I prefer to call that inspiration and I love being inspired.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SHK: – I write from the perspective of emotion and soul. I want my music to make you feel better than you did before. I want it to lift your spirits and make you happy. So as far as balance goes, the scales tip heavily to soul side.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

SHK: – I love the audience and they keep me going. I work to make sure everyone is having a good time. If someone comes to my show and wants to hear their favorite song of mine, I want to play it for them. I want to talk to them after the show. I want to hear their stories and I want to know what songs they like most and why. When someone tells me that my song helped them through a difficult time in their life, I care. That’s the reason I write songs. Having that connection is everything to me.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

SHK: – Memories – so many! The struggles, the accidents, the victories, the moments – more than can be listed or skimmed over. I likely need to write a book to catalogue even a fraction of the stories. This life of music has been an adventure, an education, a struggle, and a joy. It’s my heart’s desire so even the hard times are sweet memories. I have met truly interesting, incredible, beautiful souls along the way. I have worked with the most amazing and creative talented people who have shaped my art and outlook on this world. I have had opportunities to travel and see the world and meet people I never would have if it weren’t for the music. Making music is a blessing. Sharing it is a privilege. I am honored and very lucky to have both in my life.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

SHK: – The best music is classic. Those songs are still relevant. They are great songs and a great song is a great song no matter how old it is. That’s what makes it classic. Everything comes from somewhere. Having an appreciation of the classics will help the new music grow. It’s the foundation, the roots.

JBN: – And lastly, being a teacher, do you find it difficult to write music yourself?

SHK: – I have to carve out time for really focusing on my writing. Sometimes I actually have to plan a week long trip exclusively to write. I make a point to clear my schedule so that I have few distractions. I buy a brand new notebook and everyday I get up and have my morning coffee and start writing. I try to fill that empty notebook by the end of the trip.

JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?

SHK: – I think it’s really hard to be completely original these days. I think it’s important not to blatantly rip anyone off, musically, but more than being completely original, I think it’s more important to have a fresh approach.

JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?

SHK: – I write songs that make you feel good and give you a melody to sing. I want to make the world a better place by making people happy or by helping them to not be unhappy even if it’s for a limited amount of time. I definitely have an idea of what I want to accomplish with my writing but it is a feeling that I want as a result.

JBN: – What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life? If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

SHK: – I am on a musical journey and I hope that it continues to take me down new paths but I enjoy the well worn paths too. They are the paths to friendships and relationships that the music has created. I want to tour, write, and record with as many people as I can. In this musical life the live shows are the dream and recordings are the reality. I love living in the dream. If I could change one thing in the music world it would be the support systems that musicians have. In Austin, Texas we have a few wonderful resources for our musicians. One of them is called HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) which helps musicians have access to primary healthcare. We also have another program called the SIMS foundation that provides essential mental healthcare for musicians. For aging musicians struggling with housing costs, we have an organization called HOME-Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers. The Recording Academy (The GRAMMYs) has MusiCares which provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. Making a life as a professional musician is a difficult choice and many artists struggle with finances and health issues. Creating a global organization to assist musicians in times of need is essential to our long term existence and happiness.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

SHK: – I still love listening to the radio. I grew up scanning the AM dial to discover music. Nowadays, I listen to AM/FM, satellite & internet radio and find myself scanning for new, interesting music of every genre. I still enjoy classic jazz, blues, soul, rock and country music but I also am interested in the new emerging music. I have a teenage son and he often controls the music when we are in car together so I feel like I am getting exposed to a good cross section of music.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

SHK: – There is so much negative energy in this world and I choose to counter that with positivity. My message is that this life is short & we should be having fun and enjoying each other and our time here. Just let it go and appreciate the simple things.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

SHK: – My first thoughts are going back to 1969 and going to Woodstock but then again, I may not have liked being in the crowd. Now, had I played Woodstock and had backstage access, it would be a different story. I’d definitely want to do that. On the other hand I might want to be in San Francisco in ‘67 Summer of Love! Then again, I’ve always heard how cool Austin was in the 70s. Maybe I’d just like to go to Austin and hang out at the Armadillo World Headquarters and watch Doug Sahm or Willie Nelson unite the hippies and the rednecks with their music! I just watched the movie “Echo in the Canyon.” That sure made me want to be in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles in the late 60s-mid 70s.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …

SHK: – If you had a dinner party and could invite anyone you wanted, alive or dead, who would be seated around your table?

JBN: – Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Dave Holland, Eddie Gomez …

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

SHK: – I’m so excited for the coming year. This record is brand new and getting a lot of support from radio. I want to travel around and meet the people who are playing it. I want to play shows and connect with as many folks as I can. I also want to record and write as much as I can this next year. Simon, thank you for this thoughtful interview! I look forward to meeting you in person!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

OFFICIAL SITE | Shelley King Music

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