Thanks to a blend of powerful, sultry vocals with an Ian Anderson-esque rock flute sound, alt rocker Courtney King is becoming the next big thing in the music world.
King’s debut album, “Feel Good Swiller,” boasts a collection of songs reminiscent of early Heart with influences of Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull shining through.
Her interest in the flute dates back to middle school, and though she wanted to play the trumpet, her dad convinced her to take up the flute instead.
“He shared with me classic rock and there was always music on in my house growing up,” King said. “He would show me how much flute was integrated into some of the songs and it was cool. So, I got into it and just kept playing.”
Hailing from the Chicago suburbs, King studied music at DePaul University and was a student of leading flutists Mary Stolper and Donald Peck, former principal flute of the Chicago Symphony.
In 2001, she became a member of the Air Force Band of Flight in Dayton, Ohio, playing flute in front of presidents, foreign dignitaries and veterans.
“I attended basic military training and learned to shoot an M-16 – just so I could play music for a living, that’s how much I love music,” she said. “As a classically trained musician, you don’t have a whole lot of options when you graduate, unless you’re in the top, top percent, that’s going to actually get you a job that will support you. This was a great way to do that.”
Her husband, trumpeter Gene King, was also in the band. After the couple had their first child, King decided not to re-enlist, and two more children followed while she stayed at home and worked on her music, teaching music classes and working as a local singer and flutist for a band.
When King’s husband was stationed in Germany, she moved there and started concentrating more on a solo career. It’s there that she wrote most of what’s on her first solo album. The family moved back to the U.S. in 2019, settling down in Northern Virginia, and King decided it was time to release her album.
On June 10, King will play Jammin Java as part of the venue’s 20th anniversary of outdoor concerts. She plans on other shows in the Washington, D.C. area throughout the summer.
“I was planning on playing the album out, and then COVID hit, so this will be the first time I’ll be playing with a full band since its release,” King said. “I’m pretty excited about that. We’ll be playing a lot of the songs from the album. And I will also be playing some tunes that I co-wrote with my band from St. Louis.”
She’ll also be doing some new stuff that she’s written over the last year, playing acoustic at the show. Her guitarist, Josh Byrd, was another former Air Force band musician and she’s looking forward to playing with him.
Singing and playing flute at the same time isn’t as challenging as one might thing. King explained there are distortion techniques for flute players that allows them to do both, and she thinks of her flute as a lead guitar voice.
“I actually run my flute mic through a pedal board and I can add distortion and have fun with it,” she said. “It’s not just your traditional flute and I can do a lot of effects with it.”
Since the early days of the pandemic, King has hosted a weekly live stream every Tuesday at 10 p.m., where she plays solo stuff. Sometimes she brings on other musicians, and she likes introducing those watching to local musicians in the area.
“It’s just basically me playing some, learning covers, and trying to connect with people online,” King said. “It’s been a lot of fun and having new people come in and join me. I’ll continue to do that for as long as I can.”