People seeking fame often dream of being recognized by sight. But that holds no appeal for Kaki King. She longs to be recognized via another sense entirely: by sound. Not the sound of her voice—the sound of her music.
Like a lot of great artists, King is the product of a rather tormented childhood. She was kind of awkward, as most teens are. But she was also a gay youth growing up in a very religious community of the South—a fact that left King cripplingly lonely. Add to that the fact that she also had terrible eyesight (she ultimately became legally blind), and let’s just say that her road wasn’t exactly easy. But through all the difficulty, she found a respite she could always rely on: Playing music.
Although King’s talent was undeniable, her road to success was far from inevitable. While the music industry puts a high premium on singer/songwriters, they seem to care much less about guitarists/songwriters. But that was how King wanted to be heard. “I was just this nerdy little guitar player,” she says. “And I still am.” So, music execs did what they frequently do, they tried to change King into something she wasn’t. Luckily, she wasn’t buying what they were selling. “That would have been the death of me,” she says, “if I’d decided to do something inauthentic.”
That commitment to authenticity has paid off. Now, many years later, King has amassed eight albums—six LP, two EP—and a Golden Globe nomination for her collaborations with Eddie Vedder on the film score for Into the Wild. Rolling Stone put her on their list of “The New Guitar Gods”—making her the only woman and the youngest musician to make the cut. Successful eye surgery has left her seeing better than she ever has. And that crippling loneliness? That’s gone too, as King now has a wife and a daughter.
Currently, King is preparing for the biggest show of her life—one that is as innovative from a visual sense as it is from a musical one. We recently caught up with her as she was preparing to talk about the road that has led her here, and where she hopes to go next. To hear more from Kaki King on her roots, her current pursuits, and her hopes for her legacy, be sure to check out the newest episode of Uncharted above, brought to you by Honda.