By Jason M. Rubin
“As artists, it’s our obligation to keep going. I really believe we have to push for the world to open up again.”
The music business and the investment business have been very hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis. But don’t tell that to New York–based Gideon King, who is bullishly pushing forward in both industries, driving to keep the economy going as well as create excellent music. His band, Gideon King & City Blog (GKCB), is releasing a three-song EP, Love Knot, on May 29. As with his prior releases, you will hear the influence of Steely Dan, soul singer-songwriters of yesterday (Seal) and today (Lianne La Havas), and numerous other inspirations from a range of musical genres.
At the same time, King is a founder and general partner of Off Road Capital Partners, which he formed in 2016 after leaving his role as CEO of Loeb King Capital Management, an asset management firm. According to his Off Road bio, “King was lauded by Institutional Investor Magazine for being a responsible investor in periods of financial crisis.” No wonder, then, that he sees opportunity in our current troubled times.
“Whatever type of company you have, people aren’t working and that has an effect on every industry,” he says. “It’s sad, we live in a social world and coronavirus has stopped that. I think it’s time to reopen. I fear that when history speaks to us, we’ll find that we may have overreacted to this.”
King is doing his part, making prudent investments while wearing one of his hats, and making great music while wearing the other one.
“It sounds trite, but you have to make lemonade out of lemons. The music industry is completely shut down right now, it’s a devastation that’s becoming an alteration: people are going live on social media platforms, trying to sustain their relevance through other modalities.
“No one can deny the profound impact of losing the ability to perform live for people,” he continues. “Booking agents aren’t booking any venues of any size, and it’s economically devastating for musicians. The only thing one can do is to create music. But even then, the battle is you’re quarantined, and it’s normal life experiences that trigger creativity. But as artists, it’s our obligation to keep going. I really believe we have to push for the world to open up again.”
GKCB’s new EP finds King and his ensemble transcending the acute realities surrounding our lives, instead choosing to strike the listener in the solar plexus with sharply written songs that look at relationships with the type of cross-eyed wit his hero Donald Fagen specializes in. Joining him on guitar and vocals are pianist/music director Bryan Reeder; bassist Jeff Hanley; drummers Jake Goldbas, Diego Ramirez, and Zach Mullings; and vocalists Caleb Hawley, Alita Moses, and Sonny Step.
“I do the lyrics and chord changes and Bryan puts it into a chart, and then we bring it into the studio,” says King. “I like to write music that has some form and has some commercial elements to it but is also complex enough to engage the very creative musicians I hire. Everyone in the band has the freedom to add their input in the arrangements.”
The first song, the titular “Love Knot,” is a beautiful duet between Hawley and Moses, based on relationships King has seen. It has a bouncy, almost tropical feel yet with the sweet sheen of a soul slow dance. That’s followed by “Go Along to Get Along” (this writer’s favorite), which most closely recalls Steely Dan’s slick jazzy arrangements and penchant for strange narratives. It’s about a hitman who falls in love with a florist while plying his violent trade in New York City. The chorus is catchy as anything and the sax and drum parts on the break, according to King, were inspired by Wayne Shorter and Steve Gadd’s work on Steely Dan’s Aja. The last song, “Cliff,” which King describes as “a piece of candy,” is his funk-pop take on a friend’s breakup, featuring the leader on lead vocals.
The Love Knot EP will be available on the usual platforms (e.g., iTunes, Spotify) as of May 29. See the GKCB website for details. Obviously, there are no live dates being booked but King expects to put together a virtual performance at some point; check his website for information.
Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer for more than 33 years, the last 18 of which as senior creative associate at Libretto Inc., a Boston-based strategic communications agency where he has won awards for his copywriting. He has written for The Arts Fuse since 2012. Jason’s first novel, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. His current book, Ancient Tales Newly Told, released in March 2019, combines in a single volume an updated version of his first novel with a new work of historical fiction, King of Kings, depicting the meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Jason holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.