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SoundCheck: Douglas King Tries to "Write With Purpose"

(courtesy: Douglas King)

Songwriting is a solitary experience for most of those who do it.  It can even be downright painful if the songwriter has any qualms about sharing his or her innermost thoughts with the world.  KSMU’s Jess Balisle talked about that with our September STUDIO LIVE guest, Douglas King, for this edition of “SOUND CHECK.” He says he sometimes feels uncomfortably exposed allowing others to hear his creations.                

“I think more so on some songs than others. There are some that are pretty personal and have come from, like, a deep or painful place. And then others, they’re just kinda fun, they’re not really reflective on something that I personally have dealt with. But yeah, there are some that… I try to write with purpose. I try not to just write for the heck of it. I’m sure a lot of musicians are that way as well, songwriters. I try to write on a topic or an experience, or try to tell a story.  But yeah, they do come from a pretty real place.  And you know, when I share these songs with family, or with my wife—before they ever get heard by anybody else!—there’s always just like, ‘Is she gonna like this, or is she gonna kind of go, uh, what… what were you trying to do here? I don’t understand what the point was.’ So yeah, there’s some hesitation, and there are some questions in the back of my head on, like is this really going to communicate what it communicates to me, when I’m writing it, to others when they’re listening.”

Jessica asked King how long he’s been playing music. “I started playing guitar when I was 14. I’d been singing onstage since I was about 6, 7 years old.  Grew up in church, still involved in church now. But that’s where I got my start with music, was in church, and sang and would kind of bang around on drums. I was able to get into drumming when I was in middle school, and did that through high school. But guitar at 14 was really when the musician in me really started to take over. And I really developed a passion for songwriting about that time.

“For some reason, I never really wanted to learn how to play lead guitar… NOW I do!  Now I wish I would have taken the time to actually learn some theory and all of that stuff. (‘You still can!’, Jessica encouraged him.) But then, I just wanted to learn how to play enough to where I could write my own stuff. Probably 15, 16, 17 years ago, I played with a band that was trying to get some traction regionally, and recorded a single that went out on the radio for a little while.  And then I kind of did my own stuff again. I think I played a couple of shows about ten years ago, and then really just kind of went silent until about 2018.”

King describes how he returned to songwriting and performing elsewhere besides church. “I played a show at the end of 2018, and then I decided, ‘In 2019 I’m going to try to write as much as I can and I’m going to play as many shows as I can.’ I had not played out—I’d done things, some outside-of-church stuff, but it was never, like, an official gig of sharing my own music.”

King says he greatly prefers playing his own original music. “I haven’t done any covers. I don’t know what it is, I’ve just always had this desire to share my own music and write my own stuff. There’s just something about trying to take the time to learn somebody else’s stuff, that I feel like takes away from me being able to write, and just growing my own writing skills. So I’ve mostly just focused on sharing my own music.  And maybe that’s a mistake,” he said with a laugh, “as far as growing an audience, you know.”

You can hear Douglas King perform and discuss his music-making on KSMU’s STUDIO LIVE program, Friday September 11 at 12:06pm.