Sid Kingsley, New On The NYC Scene,
Looks To Break Out
Born In A Virginia Farm Town Of About 200 People, The Traditionally Inspired Musician Laments Music Schools For Stymying Creativity And Explains How He Is Making His Way In The Big City
By Joey Hancock
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 15, 2013 — New blues and jazz artist, Sid Kingsley believes music is in a transition period right now and as the shift takes place he plans to be at the forefront.
Kingsley has recently started making the rounds in New York City. Playing every hole in the wall and dive bar he can to better his sound and performance in hopes to perfect his unique sound, and continue to grow as an artist before he releases his first EP sometime in the future. The persona of a Mississippi river orphan and carnival worker lends to his sound of the old delta blues, and he is fitting right in to what has become one of the more faster growing genres in past few years.
Kingsley discussed recently with Modern Times Magazine about his sound, influences, his childhood and what he wants to do next.
MTM: Where are you from and what kind of town did you grow up in?
SK: I'm from small town rural Virginia, and by small I mean less than 200 people. Just farms and not much else.
MTM: Why did you get started in music?
SK: I can't really say why I got started. I just gravitated towards it naturally. I was never pushed or prodded. I remember before I could even talk I would sit at an organ at my grandmothers and play the same three notes over and over, and I remember it would just make me feel ecstatic all over. Like a rush, and I would do this for hours I guess. I wasn't yet old enough to have a concept of time. I was also exposed to all sorts of music since my father is a musician. So I came by it all very naturally. It’s in my blood I guess you could say.
MTM: After your childhood musical experience how long did it take you to really embrace your talents?
SK: To really and fully embrace my talents... really I have only just started to in the last few years. I always had natural talent, but being my own worst critic I tended to get down on myself musically and thought I was never good enough. Music has always been that thing about myself I knew but no one else did except my family. It was a very private thing for me and up until recently I wasn't ready to share that part of myself. Because it is such a personal thing that any outside criticism I just wasn't ready to handle. Fear of rejection I guess and being that it is so near and dear to my heart I was hesitant to let anyone in on that part of me.
MTM: Did you go to college for music or did you get your more mature music background somewhere else?
SK: I went to school for music and I learned absolutely nothing except how to over analyze music and I spent a lot of time unlearning all of that. See, when you go to these schools they aren't in to actually letting you be creative. They want you to play the music on the page as written, and they train you in a classical style which is all well and good, but leaves no room and stifles those with real creative talents. Art and creativity is not something that can be taught at least in my experience. I view it as a bunch of robots playing music in a robot way. Real musicians create and there isn’t much room for creation when you're competing with other “musicians” to see who can play some written down music the best. Its all mechanical. Also I had wanted to be a jazz musician most of my life from a very young age so I wasn't learning any new concepts that I hadn’t already discovered on my own. So I was taking classes on things I had already been doing since I was a kid. I wasn’t being challenged. So I left with just one semester left to complete for my undergrad, but for my chosen field a degree means absolutely nothing.
MTM: Your sound now leans towards the Bob Dylan and more beatnik style. Is that an obvious choice for you or is that just something that has come along with your musical education?
SK: No, its not a choice. I am just doing me. I'm not trying to sound like anyone, but I am a result musically of everything that I listen to, and as an artist you should constantly be evolving. And right now I just happen to be really into Bob Dylan and the whole folk scene. When I was younger I was listening to nothing but Coltrane and Monk etc.. so as I evolve as a listener my music evolves too. I will always sound like “me” but if I am doing the same thing in a year then I'm not progressing as an artist. Also there is something very powerful about just a person and their instrument on stage alone and able to hold an audience’s attention. So for that I have been studying Dylan. Who I think is one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever. So I have a very strong jazz background but now I am working my way around to other musical styles. A lot of musicians get stuck in one kind of sound and one way of doing things, and they grow stale, but I feel as long as I keep pushing and evolving so will my art. Shit... I wasn't even singing two years ago and I didn't think my voice was any good. So basically what you hear me doing now is completely different from what I was doing a year ago and a year from now hopefully I will be on to new horizons musically speaking.
MTM: Playing anywhere and everywhere you can, have you had any epiphanies or experiences where you have thought "I know what I want to do" or, "this would be perfect for this situation"?
SK: I've had a lot of epiphanies, musically speaking, where things just kind of click, but they are things that I can't really explain and make palatable for other people. I have always known what I wanted to do from a very young age, I was just never sure how I was going to do it and now things are taking their shape very naturally.
MTM: You're traveling the east coast now? Where are you playing and what should people expect out of Sid Kingsley?
SK: Yes. I am actually living in NYC and playing around here for a bit and honing my live performance skills and doing a lot of writing, and people should expect something new, something old and something that just feels right. I think music is in a transition phase right now and there is about to be a shift and I plan to be on the forefront of that.
MTM: Can you elaborate on your look, sound and feel of your music?
SK: We all learn from the past, or at least we should and you can't go forward without knowing where you have been and with music its the same way. You learn from those that came before and build on that. So I always, in most everything, look at what came before to gain a better understanding of where things are going.
As far as style goes I don't really have a certain period I am going for other than just to bring a little class to the music I guess. I grew up listening to jazz and people like Miles and Coltrane who wore nice suits and just played the shit out of their instruments. No glitz, no glamour, no sequins, no crazy outfits... just class, style and pure talent. I guess I am going more for something timeless. I have never been into any fads and I think nothing is more simple than just a nice suit. I don't have time to keep up with any fashion trends so I just keep it simple and focus on the quality of the music and not setting the latest trends in fashion. There are enough people going for that, and I am not knocking that it’s just not my thing.
As far as the sound and feel. Like I said before I just do me. The sound and feel is something out of my control. To say I'm not really “trying” to go for anything in particular at least at this point. I don't sit down and think “ok now I'm gonna write a song like this, and I want it to have this, this and this and sound like this.” It just kinda happens on its own. If I try to interfere with the creative process I end up fucking it up and it sounds manufactured. So I just let it form on its own. Also I may do a song one day and play the same song an hour later and do it in a completely different way. Change the time signature, maybe change the key who knows. Just depends on how I feel. I am big on being spontaneous and improvising. I hate routine and complacency. I play by myself so I have that freedom to change things at will. Playing with a band takes away some of that freedom but adds other elements as well. Haha..I hope that answers your question I feel like I'm rambling.
MTM: Other than analyzing everything how are you feeling about your progress on the scene?
SK: Well I am just now really stepping out on my own and doing this and at first progress was slow mostly because I was taking baby steps but now things are really heating up and getting very exciting. Its gets better and better everyday. I'm just trying to play as much as possible right now and get as much experience as I can.
MTM: Any new projects coming out and are you planning on releasing an EP any time soon?
SK: Right now I am focused on just live performance. I feel like that’s something in music today that has been lost. Anyone can go in a studio and do take after take, throw some auto-tune on and come out with an album. So my focus isn't there right now. I am focused on getting people involved and listening face to face but I will definitely do an album in the near future just not right now.
MTM: Lastly, who is Sid Kingsley?
SK: Ha...good question. When I find out I'll let you know.
To listen to Sid Kingsley’s music head to his website at www.reverbnation.com/sidkingsley, or check him out on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/SidKingsly. Also give him a like on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sidkingsley83
Joey Hancock is a freelance writer and photographer living in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
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