Christone “Kingfish” Ingram Talks Upcoming Tour, Expression and Lineages

For acclaimed blues guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, who is often hailed as the “next big thing” when it comes to both the guitar and the genre in which he excels, the pressure of this reality can sometimes be a bit (too) heavy. So, to navigate his position in the world of music on a day-to-day basis, Ingram works to keep ideas of accolades, attention, and lineage out of his mind, for the most part. In its place, the artist focuses on the roots of the music he loves. He thinks about writing, playing, getting better, and adhering to what got him to the place where he is now. Any other deviations might lead his proverbial forward-moving car into a ditch. As such, as Ingram prepares for a lengthy tour this spring (see dates below), he’s focused on improvement first and foremost.

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“Anytime when you’re lauded,” Ingram tells American Songwriter, “as the ‘next big’ anything, you’re going to feel pressure. But most of the time I try to keep it out of my mind just to ease the anxiety. I try to make sure everything I do musically is rooted in some form, in some way, in the tradition.”

For Ingram, he says he doesn’t really want to be known as the next big thing. Instead, the 23-year-old, Clarksdale, Mississippi-born bluesman likes his reputation as one of the young, up-and-coming artists who is carrying on the blues torch.

One reason for this distinction is that Ingram is still finding his way as an artist. Despite his prowess and attention, he still has decades of work ahead of him to prove what he can do, who he is. Part of that, of course, is showing how he’s different from those who have come before him or will come post. And on Ingram’s 2021 album, 662, which was nominated for a Grammy Award this year, he did just that.

“I added rock rhythms, rock riffs, rock grooves,” says Ingram. “I added some smooth jazz. I even put the electric down and went to the acoustic [on some songs]. If you do want to elevate, you have to go outside the box and try different things just to see what they could bring you.”

When it comes to blues music, Ingram says he first really became aware of the genre and some of its best participants well before he even turned 10 years old. It was around 8, in fact, that his father showed him a PBS documentary that centered around the legendary artist Muddy Waters. He also remembers seeing—and loving—B.B. King, who he watched on the television show Sanford and Son, on the 1977 episode “Fred Sings The Blues” in season six.

“The PBS documentary,” Ingram says, “Muddy Waters’ piercing slide sound captivated me. And the way B.B. played his notes definitely got me. I was also into gospel music and that also got me into the blues, as well.”

On 662, Ingram shines. The 14-track album wends between fast-paced, six-string shedding tunes like the opening titular track and follow-up, “She Calls Me Kingfish,” and more emotional, slower-paced songs like the country-inspired tune “Rock & Roll.” The album earned him the Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album—an honor, Ingram says, that feels really good. Makes sense, he’s pushed practically his whole life toward it.

“Just to know all the hard work and education really pays off in the end,” he says. “A lot of hard work and sweat definitely went into the record. As far as the praise and recognition, I really appreciate it. I’m definitely grateful for sure. I’ve wanted folks to hear my life in a more personal light.”

Outside of music, Ingram says, his life is pretty boring. When he’s not writing new tunes or holed up in the recording studio, Ingram says he likes to play video games like Grand Theft Auto and he enjoys following the world of professional wrestling. Looking to the future, Ingram says he’s focused on the upcoming tour and “making memories” along with eventually making more records. Speaking with him, one thing is clear throughout Ingram cares about improving as an artist (and a person) and advancing his career.

“I’m always on the hunt to find different artists and different producers to work with,” he says. “I just want to ‘fill-up the vault’ with music. Keep on touring, keep on making music for the masses.”

Given these goals, it appears Ingram is right on track. Music, hard work, and the guitar remain on his mind. But the reason for this is he cares about expression. And those are the mediums through which he’s best able to achieve the fullest forms of expression. In this way, Ingram is like all of the greats before him and all of the greats after him: it’s about telling your story the best you can.

“I just love the fact,” Ingram says, “that it’s a great and true form of expression, especially for me. Music and the guitar are the number-one ways I can really tell someone about my problems. I never could really talk anything out. So, whenever I play my guitar or really just listen to a song I like, I’m able to get rid of those feelings.”

662: Juke Joint Live 2022 U.S. Tour:

Supporting Acts: 

* Rissi Palmer | $ Maggie Rose | ^ Camille Parker | # TBD 

03/02 Broward Center – Parker Playhouse Fort Lauderdale, FL *

03/03 Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater, FL *

03/04 Hard Rock Live Orlando , FL *

03/05 Florida Theatre Jacksonville, FL *

03/08 DPAC Durham, NC *

03/09 Knight Theatre Charlotte, NC *

03/11 Symphony Hall at Woodruff Art Center Atlanta, GA #

03/12 Lyric Theatre Birmingham, AL #

03/13 Mars Music Hall Huntsville, AL #

03/18 Carnegie Library Music Hall Pittsburgh, PA $

03/19 Agora Theatre Cleveland, OH $

03/20 Royal Oak Music Theatre Royal Oak, MI $

03/23 State Theatre Minneapolis, MN $

03/24 Pabst Theatre Milwaukee, WI $

03/25 The Factory at the District St. Louis, MO $

03/26 Clowes Memorial Hall Indianapolis, IN $

03/27 The Vic Chicago, IL $

03/30 Berklee Performance Center Boston, MA *

03/31 Apollo Theater New York, NY *

04/01 Kimmel Center – Merriam Theater Philadelphia, PA *

04/02 Capital One Hall Washington, DC

04/28 Saenger Theatre New Orleans, LA

04/29 Cullen Performance Hall Houston, TX $

04/30 ACL Live at the Moody Theater Austin, TX $

05/03 Tulsa Theater Tulsa, OK ^

05/04 The Criterion Oklahoma City, OK ^

05/05 Majestic Theatre Dallas, TX ^

05/09 Moore Theatre Seattle, WA #

05/10 Roseland Theatre Portland, OR #

05/13 The Ace Theatre Los Angeles, CA #

05/16 Balboa Theatre San Diego, CA #

05/17 Orpheum Theatre Phoenix, AZ #

05/19 Paramount Theatre Denver, CO #

05/21 The Cotillion Wichita , KS #

05/22 Uptown Theatre Kansas City, MO #

Photo by Justin Hardiman/Alligator Records

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