In 2013, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, native Steven King packed up his car and acoustic guitar and headed across the country. With his sights set on California, King stopped along the way in cities such as St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Albuquerque, New Mexico, playing shows where he could before coming back to Columbus.
“I didn’t have any music out or recorded, but I knew some people and I was able to fake it,” King said. “I didn’t want to get into (music in Columbus). I was afraid if I started here, I would get too comfortable and never go out.”
Touring is a familiar scene for King. At age 14 he started traveling with small bands, taking photographs for them. However, after four years, King felt that the photography gig had become too much about money and a job and not enough about pursuing a passion.
“I slipped back into doing music and writing,” King said. “I learned to play guitar when I was eight. At one point I had enough (of photography) and started writing songs.”
Since 2013, King has put out two EP’s, an album and he repeated his solo tour out west in the summers of 2014 and 2015. Each features a variety of back-up artists and instruments, but all lyrics and music were written by King.
“I like to start with a melody, but lyrics are the most fun part,” King said. “Lyrics get you excited about the song. You can get really creative and take a lot of time with it.”
King is backed up by a full band — currently consisting of Mitch Rossiter on bass, Daniel Seibert, a fourth-year in percussion on drums, Maddie Ciampa on cello and Jack Doran on piano.
King said he sees his music as folk-based, with some rock and alternative country influences.
Because the variety of musical backgrounds, Rossiter said he thinks it’s hard to box the band into a specific genre.
“Over and over again, Steven has been deemed a ‘space cowboy,’” Rossiter said. “I like to think of our genre as kind of an off-kilter American rock ‘n’ roll band. We all have different styles, so, sometimes it ends up a little all over the place.”
Besides the influences of various types of music, the addition of a band has not changed King’s goals or passions. A traveler at heart, he said he hopes to get the band on the road soon.
“I’m essentially doing what I used to do solo with the full band, because it’s way more interesting to see a full band than just one guy with a guitar,” King said. “I want to get the band on tour. Playing out of town is the best thing I’ve ever done, and the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Rossiter agreed that the next step for King and the band is a tour.
“The goal is to find some bigger support slots for us and get some more press generated so we can get the name and music pushed out as widely as possible,” Rossiter said. “We’re looking to play some larger-scale shows and do a decent-sized run of the Midwest and South.”
King is optimistic about his future and hopes the band is, too.
“I’m not at the point where I can pay everyone (in the band) a lot of money, so their incentive is just to believe in what I’m doing,” King said.
But while King knows the band is taking a chance on him, he’s also had to take an even bigger leap of faith on himself. He acknowledges that the future is uncertain, but he said he knows he’s on the right track.
“Over the past few years, music has been so helpful as self-expression,” King said. “And these small victories, when things go well, it’s the best thing for me because this is what I’m about all the time.”
King’s next show is Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. at the Shrunken Head.