Kaki King was born, as best as we can decipher from her MySpace page, on August 24, 1979, in Marietta, Georgia. Although she had a close relationship with both of her parents, she credits her lawyer father with introducing her to music. She started taking guitar lessons when she was 4, but quickly dropped them because she wasn’t interested. Actually, Kaki preferred the drums instead, but when she got older, the sound of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana convinced her to give the guitar another shot.
In high school, Kaki continued jamming on the guitar in bands with her then-boyfriend Morgan Jahnig. When high school ended, the two of them wanted a change of scenery, so off they want to New York University, where Kaki would be bitten by the music bug for good.
At NYU, Kaki King completed a humanities degree while performing on the side. Kaki hadn’t yet given up on the drums, but as time went on, she decided to focus on guitar; however, her style includes a bit of her love for percussion. Actually, the sound of her hand tapping the body of the guitar reminds us, just a little, of Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt on “More than Words.” At any rate, Kaki’s result was a unique blend of music that she popularized at cafes, parties and subway stations. Kaki felt that subways were a mentally and physically exerting environment for music, but the challenge of performing gave her the confidence that she could turn things up a notch.
Kaki King ended up as a waitress at the Mercury Lounge — a locale that’s long-been a gather site for aspiring musicians. The Mercury gig allowed Kaki to gain insight into the music industry and to see how to work an audience, which proved to be an enormous advantage when she finally took the club’s stage. As a result of her strong performance and her subway CD, she got a recurring gig at The Knitting Factory in 2002. Kaki’s hard work paid off when Jeff Krasno from Velour Records discovered her. Less than a year later, her first album, Everybody Loves You, was released.
Everybody Loves You was Kaki King’s first official album, released in 2003 through Velour. Audiences were impressed with Kaki’s instrumental abilities and she got to meet Preston Reed, one of her greatest influences. After their meeting, Kaki decided to adopt his style for her second album, Legs to Make Us Longer. In 2004, it was released with Kaki’s vocals included for the first time. This shift in style would be consistent with Kaki’s own musical evolution as her subsequent album, 2006’s …Until We Felt Red, included the most vocals Kaki had ever recorded, and it placed a new sound emphasis on electric over acoustic.
With the release of three albums over the course of only a few years, Kaki’s fan base grew exponentially and as a result, she received significantly more exposure. A tour with the Velour-represented Lettuce took her to both coasts and a spot in The Blue Man Group house band gave her an off-Broadway gig. Television soon called, as David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Carson Daly all invited Kaki to perform on their shows. With her career moving at a swift pace, 2007 landed Kaki one of her most significant accolades.
In early 2007, Rolling Stone recognized Kaki King as the first-ever female Guitar God recipient, which was a true testament to her immeasurable talents. This proved to be a good omen for Kaki, as the year also brought two important collaborations for her. First, she was a guest guitarist for Tegan and Sara’s The Coin, which she followed with another guest spot on the Foo Fighters’ Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.
Kaki King’s collaborations didn’t end there; Sean Penn had heard her music and invited her to provide soundtrack material for his new film, Into the Wild (2007), starring Emile Hirsch. Kaki graciously accepted and began working on her 2008 project afterward.