In a world full of musicians, the guitar chose Kaki King.
The drums also competed for her attention, but the guitar came out on top. Singer-songwriter King leaves no skill set unused, though, incorporating those drumming techniques into the percussive style of acoustic guitar playing she’s known for today. She often slaps out a rhythm on the body of the instrument while she plucks its strings with both hands.
“I’ve played a lot of instruments over the years,” said King in an email interview, “but the guitar was the one that said, ‘You! Come play me.’ It wasn’t a conscious decision.”
King will bring her multimedia show “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body” to Ent Center for the Arts on Friday and Saturday.
The musician, who “Rolling Stone” once called a “guitar god” and “a genre unto herself,” started playing at age 5. She did the band thing throughout her teens and studied music at New York University, despite having no plans to pursue it professionally. She thought she’d return to her Atlanta hometown and work at her parents’ law firm. But then 9/11 happened. In the days after the tragedy, she felt so isolated and grief-stricken that she busked in the New York City subway for comfort. That return to her roots worked out. Her debut album, “Everybody Loves You,” was released in 2003.
She’s since put out seven more albums, performed around the world, gone on tour with the Foo Fighters and The Mountain Goats, and worked with Eddie Vedder on the soundtrack to Sean Penn’s 2007 film “Into the Wild.”
And over all that time, it has never once occurred to King that she’s mastered her instrument. She knows who the boss is when she sits to explore and create.
“I’m not thinking about what I want to write or perform,” she said. “It’s more like I’m channeling the guitar, and it leads me. A lot of it isn’t a mental process. It’s just me being open to where the instrument wants to take me.”
That channeling led directly to her latest project, the performance she’ll bring to the Ent Center. It features a lot of video, including some designed to be projection-mapped onto her guitar. As she plays, moving images and colors will project onto her white resin guitar. It’s a way for her to tell visual stories as well as musical tales. “I’m constantly amazed at the limitless possibilities this instrument offers me as an artist.”