Christone ’Kingfish’ Ingram Brings a Youthful Spin to the Blues

Rory Doyle
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is a young man with an old soul.

The 20-year-old is part of a new generation of artists that gives a contemporary twist to traditional music.

The multi-instrumentalist grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is known for its rich blues history. Muddy Waters is from the area. Ingram took an interest in music while watching a documentary on the blues legend with his father. Soon after, he started taking classes at the Delta Blues Museum.

In his young career, Ingram has already had the chance to perform and tour with one of his blues idols, Buddy Guy, on “Fresh Out,” the first single off his debut album Kingfish.

Ingram talked about his origins, take on blues music and new album during a recent interview with Phoenix New Times.

Phoenix New Times: Have you always tried to stay true to the traditional blues style?

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: I’ve always been one of those type of people that even though it is impossible, I try to satisfy everybody. I feel like you have to respect the guys who came before you and keep that tradition going while adding some of the modern elements into it to keep it going forward. I think you can do both.

What’s inspiring you right now?

Pretty much as far as my sound, Prince, Gary Moore, Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins. As far as my songs, pretty much just life itself being the influence. That’s pretty much what all the blues is.

Do you feel like you’ve had that life experience that you can really draw from, being so young?

I’ve been through some things in my life that were very tough for me. I think I’ve been through some things that give me the right to sing the blues.

Has growing up in a city so rich in blues history influenced you as an artist?

Growing up in Clarksdale, I was always around that. When I was younger, it was blues pretty much 24-7. I was always around some of the local legends. They were telling me about the history of the city and the blues.

I know you’ve had a chance to work with blues legends such as Buddy Guy. What are some important things you’ve learned from him?

I learned a lot from him, just watching him every night, how he controls the crowd and all of the different dynamics that he used while he was onstage. When you have the crowd eating out of the palm of your hands, when you have them sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what comes next, that was Mr. Guy there. I’ve always tried to emulate that in a way.

Tell me more about your debut album.

With that being my first record, I wanted to show that I’m staying with my blues roots, but I also want to show that I can do some of the modern stuff too. I can add some of those modern elements and have a more contemporary sound as well.

What songs do you feel really connected to?

Some of the songs like “Outside of This Town” and “Been Here Before,” those are two good examples of me writing from my heart with my record, and showing everybody what was in my heart and where my head was. In order to have longevity, you have to have your own original music about your life experiences.

Both of those songs are very relatable, especially “Outside of This Town.” All of us have felt like we were limiting ourselves by staying at home, and we always wanted to leave. “Been Here Before,” there are a lot of young kids that feel the same way I do. They don’t associate with people of their age because they’re simply not into things that people of their age are into. That was me in school. I wasn’t into some of the new rappers of the time. I was always into old-school music. Sometimes, they would make fun of me because they didn’t understand it.

Are you getting other young people interested in blues music?

A lot of young people know me from the Luke Cage series. That was one of my first things was introducing blues to a younger and more urban audience. I always get messages on my Instagram from young people who are my age and under. “Man, you got me into B.B. King, and I know who Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters are because of your stuff.”

How does that make you feel that you are introducing them to the greats?

It makes me feel good. It also debunks that stereotype that all young people do is listen to what’s modern and that stereotype that all young black kids don’t like the blues and all like hip hop.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is scheduled to perform at The Rhythm Room on Sunday, November 3. The show is sold out.
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Laura Latzko