“A lot of my development came from criticism”: Kingfish on how he became a modern blues great

“People would tell me when I’m being repetitive.”

Kingfish playing guitar

Image: Jim Bennett/Getty Images

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Kingfish has opened up on how he became one of the biggest new names in blues in a recent interview.

When speaking to Total Guitar, the guitarist – real name Christone Ingram – is asked about his frequent use of the pentatonic scale, and how he keeps things fresh and interesting.

Kingfish says, “Feel can be such an overused term, but it’s so important. Unless a lick is integral to the song, I don’t really play the same thing twice. I like to go off into the unknown and freestyle!

“As simple as the scale is, pentatonic ideas are always the best way to reach an audience. Those tend to be the notes they feel even if they don’t even know why. A lot of my development came from criticism – people would tell me when I’m being repetitive. So the secret to pentatonic playing is finding as many licks as you can.”

He goes on, “You have to be inventive so it doesn’t sound like a scale. It has to sound like you’re actually saying something, rather than playing a series of notes in order, which can quickly get repetitive.”

Elsewhere in the interview, he discusses his vibrato, and how it comes from mimicking his favourite singers – the likes of Luther Vandross, Erykah Badu, and Patti LaBelle. He explains, “You hear a lot of blues players with a fast vibrato, which is cool, but I tend to like the slower shakes. Listening to Otis Rush was a big part of that, too. He had this really dope vibrato that sounded out of this world – not too fast, not too slow, just right there in the middle.”

Kingfish released the live album Live in London in October, making it his first album since July 2021’s 662. Meanwhile, the young blues star has also been named the Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year at the Blues Music Awards this year.

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