Much like the iconic civil rights leader, DR King (as in Donald Ray King, Jr.), has a dream — to positively impact people’s lives with music. Step by step, city by city, gig by gig he’s getting closer and closer to finding his place in the spotlight at center stage.
Prior to getting a major bump in name recognition as a Top 12 finalist on Season 14 of NBC’s The Voice (airing earlier this year), King performed with the world-renowned R. Nathaniel Dett Choir, the Grammy-nominated Central State University Chorus, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Dayton Philharmonic; he even sang for Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. On a smaller scale, he shared his talent at schools in Louisiana and his hometown of Cleveland where he worked as a music teacher. Once he landed in New York City, he worked as background vocalist including gigs with major artists including Eric Benet, Andy Grammer, Melvin Davis, and 50 Cent.
While King finished just short of the finals as a member of Team Kelly, he will be taking a victory lap of the country in 2019 as a featured vocalist on Clarkson’s national tour. Since the show wrapped, King signed with Onerpm/Monocentric Music and released a debut single, ‘Love is a Drug’ (no relation to the classic by freshly minted Rock Hall inductees Roxy Music). The track is a duet with fellow teammate Jackie Foster, hot on the heels of their popular Voice battle that charted on iTunes (Harry Styles’ ‘Sign of the Times’).
Now King’s back with a second single, a powerhouse funk and soul number that truly spotlights his voice, talent and vibe. Popdose is proud to present the world video premiere of ‘Gravedigger’:
To mark the occasion, Popdose caught up with King as he prepared for his tour dates with Clarkson.
POPDOSE: Lyrically, “Gravedigger” is urgent and relevant, it appears to address today’s highly charged political and social climate…
DR KING: ‘Gravedigger’ definitely deals with social injustice. It’s a movement of self awareness and a declaration that we are not going to take it anymore. I just want to empower the people.
Sonically it sounds like a lost 70’s soul smash — straight from FM radio back in the day; the vibe feels decades removed from today’s ProTools landscape…
KING: Recording this song was like creating magic. My band and I cut it live in studio with producer Marc Swersky. We really got into a funky groove and nailed it in two takes. The rawness of the recording serves the urgency of the lyric.
I grew up in Cleveland area too. Even though it was long before you were born and far south and east of the city, we may have shared a love for WZAK radio — that station opened my eyes and ears to classic soul and early hip hop at the dawn of the 80s’. And we probably hit some of Cleveland’s legendary live venues and record stores; just in different eras.
KING: The music scene in Cleveland has always been popping. WZAK is still a thing I believe. 93.1 used to be the hip station for R&B and soul.
I remember going to all types of rock shows at Peabody’s. The Agora did a ton of hip hop events and the Grog Shop is still one of my go-to spots. In high school I was privileged to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. I listened to everything growing up. Can’t believe I’ve been out of Cleveland for over six years now.
Fans like to think the team coaches on The Voice stay up with their team members after the show wraps; you’re living proof they do. How did the tour come together?
KING: On the set, Kelly was a class act every time I worked with her. Her honestly and her belief in me as a vocalist meant so much to me. When I was eliminated from the show, she promised that it wasn’t the last time we would be on stage together. She also stated that if it wasn’t beneath me she’d love for me to go on tour with her. I was like ‘You’re Kelly Clarkson!!! I’d love to.’ I’m so excited to start rehearsals next month and eager to help Kelly and the band hit the rafters on the hits. These will be some of the biggest arenas I’ve ever played and to do it alongside of Kelly is a dream come true. I would have never thought this would be my life right now but I’m so grateful and humbled by the opportunity.
What’s next for you after the tour wraps in 2019?
KING: After the tour I plan to keep grinding making music. In early 2019, my EP It’s My Life will be released. Like ‘Gravedigger’, it’s layered with rock and soul vibes and has that live feel to it with modern elements. I really hope people are inspired by the songs and that I can make an impact somehow on people’s lives. I’ll be back performing in NYC and working on more show dates on the east coast. I will still be doing my residency at The Red Rooster in Harlem so fans can come out on a Monday and say hi! It’s a great time. Writing and recording more tunes are definitely in the immediate plans. The sky’s the limit.
It’s My Life, cut live at Shorefire Recording Studios in Long Branch, NJ, will include tracks co-penned by King, two-time Grammy winning songwriter/producer Marc Swersky (Joe Cocker, Kesha, Hillary Duff), and veteran songwriter Brielle Brown (Ashley Delima, Jacquie Lee, Gedeon Luke & The People).