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Gideon King values the trait of being approachable. Fan engagement is key to long term success.

Posted: July 24, 2023
Approachable - Being approachable is a professional skill that fosters numerous career benefits, from networking and career advancement to information access and other advantages. As a leader at any level, approachability matters even more.

In an industry dominated by celebrities and highly esteemed individuals, being approachable is a character trait that would enable the connection with your favorite artist. However, being approachable can also be a liability for an artist or celebrity. There is a level of security that you will always want to convey to the outside world. In the music industry networking is a key asset to make advancement. If you convey a feeling of being unapproachable, then you are less likely to obtain advantages over your competition.

Introverts usually are not considered approachable. An introvert is a person with qualities of a personality type known as introversion, which means that they feel more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what's happening externally. They enjoy spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds.

You may wonder, how is it possible for an artist to become successful if they are introverts? Especially as they are not considered approachable either. It sounds like a recipe for failure. Afterall, embracing large crowds is what artists and musicians do night after night. Can you imagine an artist that doesn’t enjoy engaging their fans because they just feel uncomfortable with their surroundings? Unapproachable because they are more concerned with their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than their fan base?

Despite these seemingly unproductive traits, there are self-professed introverts that have succeeded in the music industry. Such as Eric Church, Prince, Taylor Swift, Bob Dylan, and Lorde.

Our guest today Gideon King is far from being introverted. At least that is what we have seen from her live performances. The idea behind our interview is to find out what is more applicable to her situation, and it has helped or hindered her career. Before we get into the interview let’s review some of the accomplishments of Gideon King.

 

ABOUT GIDEON KING & CITY BLOG

New York City geography is defined by musical genres. Deep blues lives uptown, jazz pulses in quiet corners from the West Village to high Broadway, and indie, fusion, pop, and funk push the envelope in Brooklyn and gritty Manhattan haunts. Guitarist, composer, and bandleader Gideon King is a Big Apple musical diplomat, conducting lively artistic conversations across these borders.

As the founder and primary songwriter in Gideon King & City Blog, he takes inspiration from the streets of his native New York City, and with artistic input from the band’s core collaborators, channels it into vibrantly varied fusion-pop. To date, the 8-piece band has released two albums, one EP, and 15 singles. These days, Gideon King & City Blog is releasing a steady stream of genre-defying singles emblematic of the band’s creative wanderlust.

“I call the band a ‘blog’ because it is an open-ended dialogue with different musicians contributing their perspectives. When we create, it is controlled chaos. We sift through competing ideas, chipping away at the song until it has discernible features,” Gideon says. “These songs sit at the nexus of many different musical approaches and hopefully become their own vibe.”

Gideon King & City Blog has explored funk, balmy 1970s classic rock, piano ballads, R&B, jazzy pop-rock, soul-pop, and folk. Gideon writes without a focus on genre, preferring to experiment with complex chord sequences, rhythms, and abstract lyrical patterns. He’s a cleverly poetic lyricist who pens impressionistic songs that don’t rely on linear narratives.

Gideon is a self-taught virtuosic guitarist who has been hailed by the Huffington Post “a musical genius…playing some of the most complex and satisfying music you may ever hear.” His soul/funk/jazz-fusion juggernaut has been favorably compared to Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder. Gideon King & City Blog has earned accolades from All About Jazz, Jazziz, OffBeat Magazine, and American Songwriter, among other outlets.

The band plays and sells out venerable NYC venues including City Winery, Joe’s Pub, and the Blue Note. The group has the distinction of being joined by masterful musicians such as John Scofield (Charlies Mingus, Miles Davis), sax legend Donny McCaslin (David Bowie, Bobby McFerrin), renowned “Bayou-soul” singer-songwriter Marc Broussard, and SNL bassist James Genus (Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea), among others.

Gideon is also polymath who dabbles in woodworking and carpentry. As a craftsman himself, he favors boutique guitar builders, including Buscarino, Marchione, and Traphagen for the devotion they put into their craft. “There is something magical about an instrument made for you by an incredible luthier. When you hold the instrument, it almost challenges you to do it justice,” Gideon shares.

Originally, Gideon conceived of City Blog as having a fluid membership where he would serve as the common denominator and other musicians would rotate in. His approach was informed by Steely Dan where the right cast of musicians would be summoned on a song-by-song basis. However, over time the band has coalesced around an 8-person configuration.

Gideon King & City Blog features distinctive vocalists. Caleb Hawley is a noted solo artist who has recorded with Vulfpeck guitar ace Cory Wong. Jazz, R&B. Ashley Hess is noted for her effortless and organic soul, having performed with legends such as Jason Mraz. Sonny Step, a fluid and highly musical soul singer, has worked with Ricky Martin, Rihanna, and Solange, among others.

The band is rounded out by A-list musicians that include Grammy© nominated drummer Jake Goldbas (Dave Brubeck, Aretha Franklin, Christian McBride, and the Broadway productions of The Color Purple and Dear Evan Hansen), bass player Jeff Hanley (Will Bernard, Morgan James, Doug Wamble), drummer Zach Mullings (Lauryn Hill, Billy Porter, AJ Mitchell), and musical director and keyboardist Bryan Reeder (Euan Morto, Chris Norton).

“I am basically looking for the best musical athletes to serve the song,” Gideon shares. “Our drummer Jake helped me handpick our lineup and we’ve really become a unit with open communication.”

Gideon grew up literally feeling music break down walls. His brother, a musical prodigy and renowned jazz musician who played with Dizzy Gillespie at the age of 10, had his Baldwin upright piano flush up against Gideon’s bedroom wall, pumping jazz phrasing and harmony into Gideon’s brain as he faded to sleep.

Gideon’s parents were classical purists who begrudgingly acknowledged even the mere existence of pop and jazz. His free-spirited sisters turned him on to the likes of Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd. “I grew up looking for a reconciliation of these competing musical obsessions.”

He began playing guitar at 9, and found he was attracted to music that was sophisticated but also accessible. Artists like Bob Dylan, Steely Dan, and guitarists like John Scofield and Pat Metheny became beacons of inspiration as he found his way learning the instrument and playing in pop-fusion bands in college.

Today, Gideon King & City Blog possess that rarefied artistic quantity of attracting finicky music fans who have an urban pop sophistication. “Brick by brick we are building something,” Gideon acknowledges. “There have been a lot of what I might call ‘micro victories,’ people stopping us on the street and saying they love a particular song or earning the respect of musicians.” He continues: “In the end, I want us to be known for working like hell to do something different with music.”

 

INTERVIEW WITH GIDEN KING & CITY BLOG AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

GT: Hello Gideon. I want to thank you for joining us for an interview today. You have an excellent background and history of accomplishments in the music industry. Would you consider yourself an introvert? How would you describe yourself?

GKCB: Well I’m not that social, to be honest, but I’m not an introvert. As I get a touch older I suppose I would like to keep dialogue substantive and avoid networking and small talk. In a perfect world, dialogue would be interesting all the time. Maybe not. Even that might get tedious. I don’t know.

 

GT: How has your view of yourself contributed to your success as an artist?

GKCB: I don’t view myself as terribly important. One would hope artists don’t take themselves too seriously. Since I’m not too important I try to write as many songs with a sense of otherness as possible.

 

GT: Being approachable is a professional skill that fosters numerous career benefits, from networking and career advancement to information access and other advantages. As a musician, do you feel it important for you to be approachable?

GKCB: Interesting question. Sure, I’m approachable. I guess I would say the most important thing is to be open to being approached with criticism. That’s not easy but it is worth it. And I’ll talk with anybody on the planet if they like to make jokes that are a little dangerous in their accuracy.

 

GT: How has being approachable enabled fan engagement?

GKCB: We love music. Anybody that loves music along with us is an ally for life! We are music makers and are not geniuses at tik tok engagement and the like so when people contact us or come see us and tell us they like our music it is incredibly engaging and rewarding.

 

GT: While it is important to consider your own thoughts and inner creativity, spending too much time on it, and not on your fans could be a recipe for failure. What is your opinion?

GKCB: Tough question in a tough world. Social media is the main pipe for fan engagement. It is such a difficult and unhealthy construct in so many ways…….. Short utterances that don’t reflect full or sincere expressions. Highly edited content. Millions of disaffirmations and affirmations building you up and tearing you down.

And yet IT IS THE PIPE. I’m not great at it. I wish I were. All we and I can do is post things that fans will see and hopefully like that are sincere and hope for the best. To tell you the truth I want to engage with our fans in two simple ways.

First, I want to build upon a huge catalogue of published music that is high quality, different, creative, and intelligent. I want a fan to be able to spend hours diving into GKCB music. I want a fan to be able to get lost in our creations and project onto these songs whatever is necessary to be entertained or engaged in some psychic way. Second, I want us to play long and exciting shows that fans simply enjoy and appreciate. I’m not interested in creating some persona outside the scope of the music. I want the music to be the message and to be the handshake, the hug, and the dialogue with fans.

 

GT: What kind of projects have you been working on as of late?

GKCB: Music music music. We are releasing our EP called “Splinters” and so far people seem to be liking it.

 

GT: Have you been touring, or is that it the works?

GKCB: We have been playing shows in the New York area and are considering a tour. Problem with touring is you might miss the next season of The Bear.

 

GT: Do you often feel the need to collaborate with other artists? If so, who have you worked with in the past or currently?

GKCB: Oh boy, we have worked with a ton of people including John Scofield and Marc Broussard and Donny McCaslin and Conrad Sewell and so many more. Collaboration is cool as long as there is a real hook-up. Just using collaboration as some kind of business card to expand your prospects and the commercial viability of the music gets old really quickly. If there is a real creative synergy then collaboration is simply amazing. Every time music becomes a business card it sort of fails.

 

GT: What are your goals for the near future? Do you have a timeline in which you would like to accomplish them?

GKCB: Man plans and God laughs so I try not to get too caught up in specific goals. We are going to release a ton more music. We are going to play tons of shows. Along the way I hope we continue to accumulate fans and engage with them in a way that is different. If our presence expands over the coming years then I’m happy. But I ain’t playing arenas any time soon….that seems clear.

 

GT: Tell us about your favorite guitar. What is the brand and model. Why is it your go to instrument?

GKCB:How dare you ask such an emotionally complex question! Ha. I guess my favorite guitars are my Buscarino guitars. They are warm and easy to play and beautiful. I have a bunch of acoustics made by him and also Dake Traphagen, which are really cool. I also have a new Strat made by Matt Powell which is killer. In the end each guitar is a love affair with ups and downs.

 

GT: How would you describe the musicians that work with you?

GKCB: Incredible musical athletes. All they need is a reference and are off to the races. Nice people. True collaborators. Funny people. It has taken a long time to come to a point where there is no ego in the room and we just try and create great music, but we are definitely there. It’s cool. Very cool. Perhaps that’s the goal. To work with people where the common goal eclipses the self.

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