Grateful Web Interview with Gideon King

Article Contributed by gratefulweb | Published on Monday, March 9, 2020

Gideon King & City Blog are a jazz-rock fusion project that have become fixtures in the NYC music scene over the last few years. Much like Steely Dan (both in sound and set-up), King leads the band as songwriter and guitarist while inviting a rotating cast of top musicians to join. In just a few years the band has gone from playing small clubs to venues like Brooklyn Bowl, City Winery, and Joe's Pub, and their last album featured artists like John Scofield, Marc Broussard, and Grace Weber. Huffington Post called King "a musical genius...[playing] some of the most complex and satisfying music you may ever hear.”

Gideon King & City Blog are gearing up to release a new EP later this summer, and its first single “Just Remember” is out now. We spoke with King about the new single, their upcoming EP, and their quick rise to success.

Grateful Web: Tell us a little bit about your background. When did you start playing music and when did you decide to form a band?

Gideon King: I decided to form a band when I was 7 years old, but didn’t get around to it until 38 years later. Kidding aside, I have played in a few different bands over the years but didn’t arrive at this model until about 5 years ago.  A band is a protean concept. Everyone envisions an ensemble differently. For me, a band is a group of incredible jazz and funk and folk musicians coming together to learn and augment my tunes. I need great singers because I am too frightened to sing in public and don’t want to bring pain to the people of the world with my voice. Put differently, for me a band is not some type of support mechanism put in place to buff my centrality. It is there to bring life to what I write.

GW: You've been on an incredible trajectory over the past few years, growing from playing small clubs to places like Joe's Pub. What has that been like?

Gideon King: Brick by brick. To be honest, lots of hard work and logistics and passion. Seeing the organic growth of fans is absolutely lovely. Growing this thing is like moving through different rites of passage. You have to do one thing to get to do another. The key, and I am terribly sorry to fire a cliché missile into your line of questioning, is to enjoy the different steps of the process. This has been a learning experience for me. In the end, it is simply not about what I like musically. It is about getting the listeners to project fragments of their own lives onto your lyrics and melodies. The experience is enlivening and fun and frustrating and pisses me off as much as it captivates me. This would be a really bad Grammy Speech.

GW: We definitely hear some classic rock influences in your sound. Who are your main musical influences?

Gideon King: Well let’s see. Steely Dan. Steely Dan. Steely Dan. And Steely Dan. Their harmonies and lyrical abstractions absolutely captivated me for my entire childhood and early adulthood. Oh there are others too. Eagles. Neil Young. Dylan. Seal. Barbara Streisand and Lianne La Havas. Pat Metheny and John Scofield. My brother, who is a great jazz pianist and introduced me to phrasing. Snoop Dog, who makes up words which I love. Wayne Shorter’s composing is so exotic and showed me that you can sort of try anything. Amy Winehouse freaked me out. So raw.

GW: We know you've collaborated with some incredible artists like John Scofield and Marc Broussard. How did that come together, and what was it like to work with them?

Gideon King: Literally cold-called both of them. Just sent them music and begged for them to be part of it. They are both funny and smart guys, so I tried to sort of come at them with a weirdly subversive vibe. Scofield is simply my favorite guitar player ever, so working with him was a dream come true, for lack of a better and more interesting thing to say. Broussard just has one of the best singing voices in the United States. His intensity is evident the second he walks into the studio. I like intensity. It’s fun.

GW: Tell us a little bit about your band. How did everyone come together?

Gideon King: Really sort of did a series of quasi auditions. Many of them came through our drummer Jake Goldbas. Jake has great judgement and understood that I was looking for really flexible people who could hang on many musical levels that are frankly beyond my own. Also, the distillation process of weeding out schmucks is all-important. Everybody in this band likes each other. We hang out as friends. We laugh. We play tennis. We drink alcohol together. Everybody is psychologically brave enough to have fun while being critical. Over-sensitive amoebas can’t form a great band. This group is wonderful. We have 3 incredibly capable and amazing singers, all with a different bent. Caleb Hawley is one of the most soulful and unique singers one can come across. Sonny Step is a music box. He sings with soul and clarity. Alita Moses consistently nails her singing in a way almost no singers do. She has soul and makes great choices. Our piano player and musical director is a great jazz and classical pianist and can kill pop. The guy is versatile as hell. Our drummer Jake brings energy and pop and technical skills. Our other drummer Zach Mullings is a human soul metronome, with great pocket and a unique and tasty approach. Our percussionist and drummer Diego Ramirez slides into and out of ideas like a percussive acrobat. He is a bad ass. Our main bass players Jeff Hanley and Nathan Peck and James Genus are all amazing in different ways.

It has taken a few years, but good, fun, smart people who play their instruments beautifully is what this is about. No assholes allowed. It’s a true collaboration.

GW: We love "Just Remember." Can you tell us a bit about the song, and what it was like to record?

Gideon King: “Just Remember” is about how upset I was when my son left home.  Once your kid leaves the house, you become like a rooting fan in a way. I don’t mean that in a cold way----I love him more than anything in the world----but he will and can and does make his own way.

GW: What can we expect from your upcoming EP?

Gideon King: ‘Love Knot’ is what it is called. I think it is the most heartfelt music I have written. That’s a super boring thing to say but I swear it’s true. Three tunes. The first is a duet that we are all proud of.  All three tunes are about the vicissitudes of relationships and the madness of human relations. So pretentious. Sorry. Jeez. Fuck me.