Call & Response - Chris King Robinson

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The rise of Chris King Robinson is a thoroughly modern success story. In 2012, the young musician’s early YouTube videos were spotted and spread by influential US rock photographer Robert Knight. In 2013, he began an email bromance with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. In 2015, he’s trailed by an army of social media disciples who hang on his every tweet. And yet, when you spin the 20-year-old’s debut EP, Tell Me Why You’re Scared, you realise that behind the online savvy is an old-soul guitarist who cut his teeth on Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and has an innate sense of what makes great blues tick.

People are tipping you for big things. Do you enjoy all the attention?

Well, because it’s about my music, I like it. If it was about anything else, I probably wouldn’t. People going through your bins… I don’t think it would ever get to that level, because that’s ridiculous.

Are you really the most followed blues guitarist on Twitter?

I am. At the time when I first made that statement, I was ahead of John Mayer, if you want to call him ‘blues’. But now I’m sure he’s overtaken me. I’ve got around 630,000 followers.

John Mayer’s probably got more female followers…

Yes, definitely. I think the majority of mine are, like, old men who love guitars. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love those guys.

Have you got more than Joe Bonamassa?

I’m just on Twitter now, actually. I’ll search for Joe Bonamassa. He’s got 127,000 on Twitter. But on Facebook, he’s got millions, I think.

Does it take a lot of work to stay on top of social media?

Yeah, it really does. That’s the majority of my time taken up. I’d like more time to play the guitar. The last few years, I’ve been doing everything myself. I’ve been booking all of the shows, doing all the promotion. In the next month, I need to find a guy who’s gonna do that for me. I want to be focusing on just the musical side.

You once said you’re mainly a fan of “dead guys”?

Yeah, it’s true, unfortunately. They always die so young, don’t they?

You’re from Peterborough. What were your mates at college listening to?

Like, dirty rap. I’d come home and listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. They’d be listening to Tupac and 50 Cent, stuff like that.

So how did your career start?

Well, it was from hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan – I just loved to play guitar along to those records. From the age of 14, I just really didn’t pay attention at school. I just thought, ‘I can’t picture myself doing anything else.’ So I sort of stuck with that attitude, even through music college. One of our first gigs was in Poland, in July 2014. As soon as I was there, on stage, I thought, ‘I just want to be doing this every day.’

Didn’t a couple write to tell you they have sex to your song Lipstick On Her Cigar?

Yeah. I got this message through, and it was accompanied by a rude photo. I was gobsmacked. Flattering? I’ve still not decided yet.

What’s the vibe on Tell Me Why You’re Scared?

I’d like to think it’s quite modern, but not so modern that it’s frowned upon by blues guys. But it’s got a sort of funky, fresh, soul sound, as well as a classic blues element. It sounds a bit more current than an Albert King song. It’s sort of got choruses, almost.

Is your main Strat really called the Bananaman?

Yeah. I always remembered the blue and yellow costume he had in the comics, and the yellow of my guitar seemed to match that perfectly. I’ve not really seen a yellowy, creamy Strat like mine before.

You’ve got another Strat that’s battered as hell too…

Yeah, but I hate it every time someone asks me about this, because I’ve got to be honest: there’s this company in America called MJT Bodies. They make really cool relics. So, unfortunately, it’s not really old.”

Shouldn’t you pretend it got chipped in a fight with Hells Angels?

We were actually playing at this club in America, and we got briefed before we went that it was one of the most notorious bars for the Hells Angels, and if one type of biker turns up that’s not wanted, they’ll all kick off and start shooting each other. So the whole gig, we were looking around, thinking, ‘Please don’t show up.’ That was a proper biker bar where everyone was all hairy. It was surreal, like a movie. We went down quite well.

Any other favourite guitars?

From the age of 12, I’ve always dreamed of playing a Hamiltone. Obviously, Stevie Ray Vaughan played Fender predominantly, but on the Cold Shot and Couldn’t Stand The Weather videos, his guitar is a Hamiltone. I was playing one on tour in America and at the end of the tour, they said I could keep it. Now I work with Hamiltone to endorse their guitars, and that’s such a huge thing for me.

A year ago, you tweeted that “nobody is going to stop me being successful”: do you still feel that way?

That sounds arrogant. But I still feel the same. I don’t want anyone to be in the way. I do the best I can, every day.

Tell Me Why You’re Scared is out now and is self-released. More info at www.chriskingrobinson.com