Richmond singer-songwriter Sid Kingsley wants people who hear his music to feel free and uplifted, and to realize the full potential of human emotion — “however you interpret that.”
Richmonder Sid Kingsley‘s musical career has been marked by continuous growth. His latest single, “Sweet Virginia,” is a sign of that growth in his subtle, yet successful, departure from his previous material.
“Sweet Virginia” still has sounds of singer-pianist Kingsley’s Americana roots, and it echoes his debut album Good Way Home; but it also points towards a musical shift for the artist, now moving into a more self-styled blues direction, a la Marc Cohn’s classic “Walking in Memphis.” Like “Walking in Memphis,” Kingsley’s single represents an ode to a city; this time, it’s Richmond. References to places like Texas Beach appear in the song, as well as other subtle Easter eggs for fans that listen closely.
Despite its carefully-placed references, “Sweet Virginia” doesn’t have a specific meaning.
“I don’t usually like to give the listener a ‘this is what the song is about’ explanation, because then they’re not allowed to use their imagination,” Kingsley said. “I’d rather invoke an emotion, like a feeling. It’s your song. You can interpret it however you want to.”
In Kingsley’s mind, “Sweet Virginia” feels like a road trip song. With its references to geographic locations — powerful, rising melodies and a strong, clear voice — it makes you want to drive down the highway with your windows rolled down.
The track also incorporates the feeling of change, and a lot has changed for the artist since his debut album with American Paradox Records. Most notably, this single is independently produced: Kingsley recorded it at Audio Verite in Richmond’s Northside, which is operated by producer, engineer, and musician Pedro Aida. The only people involved in the recording were Kingsley, the audio engineer, and Jordan Stoll — a drummer that Kingsley brought onboard as a full-time collaborator in August 2018.
Kingsley and Stoll met five years before they began to formally collaborate, played a show together in Northern Virginia soon after their meeting. Three years ago, Stoll moved from NoVA to Richmond, where he began to encounter Kingsley more often at shows. Once they got to know each other, he reached out to pursue playing together regularly.
Stoll was having a hard time finding a band that he truly enjoyed drumming for, while Kingsley was having trouble keeping band members that were consistent and reliable. He needed a drummer that could go on a cross-country tour, and Stoll got the call.
“Going across country alone, it’s like, ‘Is this going to work or not?’” Stoll said. “You’re in a car with someone for so long. You’re going to learn to know if you like them or not. But it worked out.”
After returning from their tour, Kingsley and Stoll solidified their partnership and began creating music together. Together they made their first single, “Bar Room Queen,” which was recorded live with a raw and stripped-down sound. Over the past year, they wrote “Sweet Virginia,” and recorded it in an actual studio.
On the new track, Kingsley took care of vocals, bass, and keys. Stoll played drums and supplied backing vocals. The result sounds like there’s more than two people playing, which shows the musical magic that the two can create when collaborating together.
To Kingsley, there was more recording freedom on the “Sweet Virginia” single compared to his previous album. While there was an audio engineer present, Kingsley said that he didn’t do much in terms of controlling how the single came out, which allowed Kingsley and Stoll to be as creative as they wanted to with it.
“This was us able to go in and write the song ahead of time, really know what we want to go for. When we got in there, [we knew] everything was going to fall into place, because we already had a game plan to begin with,” Stoll said. “And then it’s such a better-sounding quality.”
It is that freedom, in both the interpretation and the creation of music, that Kingsley and Stoll believe in so strongly. By listening to their music, Kingsley hopes that listeners can have the freedom to experience all the range of human emotions, but come away feeling positive and uplifted.
“Music should be human,” Kingsley said. “It should be all those emotions. We’ve been tossing around this term calling it ‘freedom music.’ Not to say that all music isn’t free, but this is more about feeling free — however you interpret that.”
For Kingsley and Stoll, after the release of their “Sweet Virginia” single, the next step in spreading their “freedom music” is the release of more songs that are currently in the works. They’ve also been on a mostly local tour: on the weekend of their single release, they played at Hardywood on Friday, The Hofheimer Building for the release on Saturday, and traveled to Greensboro, NC on Sunday.
On November 9, the duo played at the historic B.B. King’s Club Ebony in Indianola, Mississippi, a show that benefited educational programs offered by the B.B. King Museum for youth in the area.
Playing at the club is a huge honor for both Kingsley and Stoll, who view the venue as something sacred due to the amount of blues and other musical legends that have played there.
“They’ve kept it the same as they did back when it was still a segregated club,” Kingsley said. “It is a very sacred space to play in. It would be nice to get the blessings of the legends who played there.”
Top Photo via Sid Kingsley/Facebook
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