Six60 and Broods pretty much owned the NZ Singles Chart back in May when an unknown guy calling himself Kings turned up with Don’t Worry Bout It, which entered at #20. After hovering in the bigger numbers for a month the single started a rapid climb that took it to #1 by mid-July. It’s not gone anywhere since, Gold in late August, Platinum by late October and still #1 (half a year and counting) as this issue goes to print. It’s a single phenomenon. Emma Moss talked to Kings just before his self-titled EP dropped.
While Kingdon Te Itinga Chapple-Wilson’s Breakthrough Artist of The Year win at the recent NZ Music Awards may have come as a surprise for some – based as it seemed on just one (very) big single – for Kings, it’s just another step on the path – and part of a bigger plan.
“The dream for me, and I’ve shared this a lot, is to get a Grammy and eventually build a school for kids like me who dropped out of school early. That’s the ultimate goal, this is just the pathway to that.”
The next step on his path followed just a week after the NZMAs with the release of his self-titled debut EP which entered the main album charts at #32.
“Without sounding like I’m mean to the Awards, because I love the Awards, this EP meant a lot more to me than that [Tui]. It was just cool to hold it in my hands.”
Kings sees the EP as a showcase for his portfolio of work. A 2017 album is already in his mind. He’s on a journey of self-revelation and remains true to the idea that people want songs they can connect with, and that come from a place of experience.
Ultimately though, “It’s nothing without family”. Kings keeps a large photo of his daughter in the studio to encourage him through the darkest moments and long hours, freely admitting that his driver is his family. How other people see him is also important.
“I want to be more than ‘that guy’. I want to be a positive influence to the young kids and everything, because there are bigger goals than just me singing and having people taking photos of me.”
But you don’t get to shift more than 30,000 ‘copies’ of a local single in NZ without putting yourself out there and Kings clearly knows plenty about creating and maintaining a social media brand.
“I try my best to stay on it more for other people – the followers. I love connecting with people. I used to wear glasses when I was on stage, I took them off. I don’t drink anymore on stage, I like to look at people, vibe with them and see where we are. I’ve even remembered some people and they tripped out that I’ve remembered them. Like we’ll do a gig and I’ve gone to McDonalds or something after and I’ll be like, “Hey, thanks for coming,” and they’re like, “You remember me?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I saw you, you’re the crazy guy, the drunk crazy guy’ or whatever. I like to do that for people.”
By now it’s well known that Kings has spent a number of years behind the scenes, doing production work on big brand commercials. Until Don’t Worry Bout It he says he has been known as ‘that producer guy’.
“I wasn’t known as an artist, until last week,” he laughs.
With the skills accumulated from five or six years of music production work Kings determined that he wanted to produce an EP, and an album, by himself – the complete; record, mix and master routine.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people and even in production, doing commercials, you work with a lot of people – voice overs and things like that. I know how to work with people and it’s fun, but there’s something about this journey that I feel I want to do it by myself for the first time.
“Just so I can show everyone my talents, and then from there I can reach out for collaborations. I’ve had people reach out and I’ve kind of just kindly declined because… it’s a beautiful thing that they want to be a part of it, but I kind of want to do it. I’m like, ‘Let me do this.’”
He can’t read music, but clearly doesn’t let that hold him back, believing that his music comes from his head, his heart, and of course, a lot of YouTube.
“YouTube has been my teacher!”
Now 27, he says he “physically” dropped out of school at 17.
“But I left mentally when I was probably like 12. My interest in stuff wasn’t in anything I was doing.”
His musical journey did start at school however, trying drums, guitar, bass and piano.
“I can play a lot but I’m not great at anything yet. A jack of all trades and master of none,” he laughs.
He later spent some time at MAINZ, completing a Foundation year course, but moved to Australia with his family before he could finish the Certificate. The last six years have been a process of learning and refining his art. Kings reckons that between his first laptop and his current one there are more than 500 projects that he’s created and worked on. Of them it’s just the very best six tracks that made it to his EP.
And if you’ve heard Don’t Worry Bout It you’ve likely also watched the video he shot himself, on his own phone. Despite missing the deadline for NZ On Air funding, he knew that if he was to get noticed he needed a video, and so the idea was born. He’s a regular one-man production house.
Some of the success of his breakthrough single Kings thinks, stems from the idea of commonality.
“Whether it’s depression or happy times. It seems like everyone thinks they’re alone in that moment. So, when I wrote the song it was coming from a place of me talking about my childhood, and it was just cool to see how many people had gone through it”.
Having now firmly established himself in our local music scene Kings is finding a whole world has opened for him. The period to the start of 2017 sees him performing at some of NZ’s biggest events, including Electric Coastline, Rhythm and Vines, Homegrown and the Wellington Sevens. All in all, it’s not been a bad year for ‘that producer guy’.