by Kimberly Shires
Courtney King is not only a homeschooling mother of three living in the Northern Virginia suburbs, she’s also a hell of a rocker chick with CrossFit guns and a guitar. Courtney King recently released her debut album Feel Good Swiller, which was nominated for a WAMMIE. Now we get to check out her second music video for her single “Fantastic.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxWFhhMKYT8
Feel Good Swiller is full of intensity, with Courtney fluttering around her sultry vocals with her rock flute. Legend has it that she can actually shoot flames out of that thing! Courtney pulls inspiration from some of her favorite artists such as The Raconteurs and anything Jack White as well as bands like The Black Keys.
Courtney is a world class musician. As a matter of fact, she is a classically trained flutist. Courtney graduated with her Bachelor’s in Music and joined the Air Force Band of Flight alongside her husband who plays the trumpet. After one tour with the Air Force Band, she separated and moved to St. Louis to raise her family and pursue a Master’s in flute performance. Courtney pushed the boundaries of traditional flute repertoire into the avant garde. She had a brilliant idea to hook her flute up to a guitar pedal board during her finals in front of the graduate jury panel, and they absolutely loved it.
During grad school in St. Louis, Courtney joined a rock cover band. Not long after the band formed, they started writing originals. This is where Courtney planted her songwriting roots while she was already well into adulthood. Courtney thought back to the first time she put pen to paper to write a song. She dropped her kids off at camp and then went back home and wrote a love song about the first time she met her husband. Courtney told us, “I need (to create) to feel like a functional adult…Some go on a run and they feel better and some people take a bath and they are happy again. That helps work through the moment and then you can look back and say ‘that was that and now I’ve moved on.’”
This band not only started Courtney on her songwriting journey, but it alsogave her a platform to get really comfortable with improvisation. Courtney said, “When you are classically trained, you are always looking for the ‘right’ notes, and no one told you in music school that if you play the pentatonic scale, you’ll be OK. That’s always the right note, and no one told me that. So, it took a little figuring out, even though I had a degree in music.”
Courtney first dipped her toes into the pool of improvisation while playing in the worship band at church. Courtney recalls, “There were no written down notes. There was a lead sheet and I was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ So, I started learning how to make it sound good. I just made it up, and I loved it. I loved the freedom of that. It was kind of like being a lead guitar voice.” Around this same time, Courtney started exploring jazz, which she says is like the classical music of the improv world. She began studying with the famed jazz flutist Ali Ryerson. This study gave Courtney a good foundation to understand jazz improvisation.
Just after the band’s second album was released, Courtney’s husband was transferred to Ramstein Air Force base in Germany. Courtney bid farewell to her band, and the family packed up their lives in St. Louis to move to Germany. Upon arrival, Courtney felt the impact of this big life change and started to feel separation anxiety from the home she had grown to love and the band that she left behind. Courtney said, “I decided for the time that I would be there, I was going to do it on my own and see what would come out of it and figure out who I was as a songwriter.” This would mark the first time that Courtney really set out to create her own unique voice. She learned to trust her artistic instinct. Courtney reflected, “When I’d have those moments of ‘Oh what should I do here?’ I already knew the answer.” While Courtney learned to trust herself, she admitted, “It’s scary writing stuff and then putting it in front of people.”
Outside of music, Courtney is really invested in the fitness world and has spent several years as a CrossFit coach. She got into CrossFit because she wanted to feel more confident on stage. She had already lost a lot of weight but didn’t quite feel connected to her inner fierceness. Courtney said, “I walked into this gym. I didn’t even know what CrossFit was at that time. It just looked like a cool place. I fell in love with it and all the people and the community. The fact that I got to do stuff like climbing a rope that I never was able to do when I was a kid and fun weird stuff. I just like being weird and doing odd stuff. I like to tell people if I can do it, you can do it.”
Courtney brings this same attitude to her students and is eager to take on new students now that she is settled in Northern Virginia. “I like peeling back the layers and trying to see what makes them work hard.” Courtney sees a strong parallel to coaching people in the gym and teaching students a musical instrument. The principles and behaviors are so similar.
Courtney also brings her joy of teaching to her own three kids. Courtney and her husband, who is a professional trumpet player, make sure the kids are growing up in a musical home. All three children started playing Suzuki violin at three. Their two high-school-age kids still play the violin and have both started to take up the guitar, and their ten-year-old daughter plays the piano. Courtney said, “It blows my mind. My kids are all way more talented than I am. Their ears with harmonies and just picking out the right notes. It’s pretty cool.”
The experience of making her debut album has just whetted Courtney’s appetite for more. She has some ideas brewing for new sounds. She’d love to do something more instrumental in the future. “I want to create more musical breaths.” Until then, check out Feel Good Swiller at Band Camp https://courtneyking.bandcamp.com/releases or your favorite streaming service. While you’re at it, also check out her new music video for “Fantastic.” Learn more about Courtney and find out if she has a show near you by checking out her website: https://courtneykingmusic.com/
Kimberly Shires is a native of the DC Metropolitan area. Kimberly is a freelance writer, music degree holder, road bike warrior, songwriter, corporate ladder climber, and a Subaru driving nature enthusiast.
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