Steven King is not stranger to frustration and bad fortune. Over the past few years, the Columbus, Ohio indie-roots singer-songwriter has felt their sting firsthand. During the tail end of winter 2017, King took a group of musicians on a Southern tour, and in the beginning, it was all that he could have hoped for – shows were packed and people seemed to genuinely connect with his music – but one day while driving through Tennessee, a tire came loose on their van and hit a passing car. No one was hurt, but the tour was cancelled, and what started out as a wonderful ideal became fodder for a certain personal darkness.
Determined to move forward, King decamped back to Columbus to finish working on his sophomore record with engineer/producer Maddy Ciampa (who also counts herself as a member of electro-folk band WYD). By June of 2018, the album was finished, and King began shopping it around to different labels while on a July tour out West. Unfortunately, there was little initial interest, and so he returned home after the tour feeling particularly low. Out of this setback, however, King found a new inspiration, and songs began pouring out of him. So while his second record is still unreleased, he’s getting ready to release an EP of the songs which were born from this turbulent period of time.
Mostly recorded live and acoustic, the 5-track “Earth Hurts” EP finds him digging into some fairly dark material, using the struggles of the last few years as the framework for these songs. There are shadows and ragged emotions piling on top of one another throughout the EP, although there does seem to be some light allowed in at the end.
On recent single, “It’s Over Now,” he intones the end of everything while effortlessly plucking away at an acoustic guitar. There are overtones of early Conor Oberst here, with King revealing a razor wit and intensely persuasive perspective that isn’t afraid to dig deep into despair and caustic experiences. It seems that there’s a slight smirk as well, as if he knows things aren’t quite as bad as they’re made out to be, but he can’t help but wallow in the moment for effect. On the accompanying video, shot and edited by Mitch Rossiter, King and his musical co-conspirators are shown traveling on snowy roads, performing at various venues and goofing off. The clip highlights the familial relationships that exists between the band members and plays as counterpoint to the pointed gloom of the lyrics.