Steven King’s impressionistic painting of a figure skater that graces the cover of his new album On Ice is a wonderful example of his artistic talent. The twenty something year old Columbus musician is also an old hand at photography, but lugging his acoustic guitar across the country and using his voice as an instrument to sing about life and humanity is what is most important to him these days. In a career that is still relatively young, his contemporary take on music is both adventurous and inviting, especially with the release of his latest album. The opportunity to continue to discover the old and the new has led me to Steven King’s door (so to speak). We recently had a chat about his music endeavours. Here is some of what we talked about.
Being a musician can be a tough gig. You have experienced this first hand. Steven, tell us something about your journey as a singer songwriter?
I feel like I can’t complain much about it, seeing as it’s a path that I’ve chosen for myself. It does make things like relationships and mental/physical health more difficult, but I don’t know what else I would do without art. I’m sure if I became a doctor or lawyer or something that I would live in a bigger house and have a better dating profile, but there is still hope out there for a self-sustaining artistic lifestyle. At least I’m (sort of) free to do what I want, when I want.
Is photography something that is still close to your heart? What’s the world like through the lens of the camera as say compared to being in front of it?
It was such a huge part of my life a decade ago that it will always remain a pretty serious part of me. Songwriting has kind of taken the front seat and the technology has advanced a lot since I stepped away from it. I’m definitely open to coming back to it though, if the right opportunity were to present itself.
I understand that in the past you travelled a lot. You probably still do. Does the feeling of restlessness bother you? Where does Columbus, Ohio sit with you currently as ‘comfort’ zone?
I can’t say for sure but I feel sort of the opposite, I find a lot more peace in traveling and the constant changes day-to-day. I feel comfortable in Columbus, but that’s not necessarily the best thing for my art or my mental health, honestly. It’s nice to have a solid support system here at home, but I can appreciate what I’m doing a lot more through travel and sharing art and stories with new people.
There seems to be a kind of soul-searching aspect to your last EP Earth Hurts. What was the inspiration behind it?
It’s a bit of a darker release for me. More of a “present-day” piece than ‘On Ice,’ which I think of more as an accessible “pop” album. It took me releasing a stripped down, bare-bones record for some people to see beyond the catchy hooks of my past work and pay better attention to the lyrics. Whether they enjoyed them or found them disturbing, who knows.
It’s Over Now is a wonderful track on Earth Hurts. Did that song sum up where you were during that period in your life? Or was it more of a metaphor?
It started as melodrama, and I think I’ve learned that it’s more about a bigger picture than I first realized . I’m really happy with that track and it kicked off a songwriting session where I wrote the majority of earth hurts in about 2 or 3 hours total. All the songs on the EP were about that immediate period in my life.
To a degree your new sophomore album On Ice moves away from a personal weariness of Earth Hurts. It’s a lot more inclusive and relatable to the listener. Can you elaborate a little about your writing process for it?
It’s definitely a mixed bag. I was going for a “greatest hits” kind of feel, because I had been sitting on a lot of those songs for a while before we rolled them out. Trying to contrast the acoustic ep with something larger-than-life that has something for everyone on it. Most of these tracks were written between 2014 and 2018, so there are a lot of different versions of myself in the music and lyrics.
A host of musicians play with you on the new record. What was that collaborative experience like?
I’m learning to dig the colab style of writing/ recording. It’s really hard for me to trust other people with ideas, that’s why it’s always been pretty much just me figuring out everything for myself. Luckily I’ve surrounded myself with some real pros who make me feel comfortable sharing my ideas and giving them feedback on their own. Guitarist Pat Schlafer wrote a couple big riffs that I think take this record to the next level, and drummer Dan Siebert needs no instruction on putting the drums where they need to be.
You certainly enjoy covering an array of territory sonically speaking. How much fun is it to transverse elements such as country and Americana to rock and roll in your music?
I’ve usually got a pretty good idea of the theme/arrangement as soon as I begin the writing process of the song. That being said, it can be hard for me to focus and stick to one genre at a time, which is why sometimes these elements can come across a little wild and ambitious. It’s good to keep things fresh and the listener (and myself) on their toes.
Champion The Idiot is arguably my favourite track on the new album. Can you tell me the inspiration how it came about?
It’s basically about the idea of wanting someone else to put you on a pedestal. Both so that others see you in a better light, and knowing that someone believes in you and is willing to vouch for you
Finally, are there any hopes on getting back on the road this year?
Hoping to bring the full band back on the road later this year, we’ve got some things rolling in that regard. I also hope to travel for some solo acoustic shows. Keep your eyes peeled for news on all of that.
Stream the album.
Steven King’s On Ice is out now via Broom Closet Records. Listen to Scorpio Moon on Spotify. Also check out On Ice via Bandcamp. For more information on Steven King including tour updates check out his Facebook page and Twitter feed.