Tropical Heatwave 2010 spotlight: Kevin So
(It’s time once again for Tampa’s biggest, most eclectic annual music festival, WMNF's Tropical Heatwave. All week we’re getting to know some of the most interesting artists on this year’s lineup. Today: Kevin So.)
His sound: Folk-pop with blues and R&B touches.
Check ’em out if you like: Gavin DeGraw, James Taylor, Marc Broussard, acoustic Bruce Springsteen
His story: Kevin So’s outgoing voice mail message ends with one word: “Peace.” But as an independent singer-songwriter, managing his entire career on his own (booking and promoting shows, performing solo, tracking his own bottom line), his life is often anything but.
“I’ve been managing my own career pretty much since ’95,” said So. “Until somebody can step up to the plate and say, 'We’ll take you to the next level,’ first of all, I’d like to know what that next level is, and is it consistent (with what I’ve done so far)?”
So has a point. The Chinese-American troubadour has earned a few nice breaks over the years, including touring with Keb’Mo. Throughout his career, So, 32, has been fascinated by what he calls “the roots of American music” — everything from the Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire to Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and George Jones. “I love exploring the lyrical part of it, the musical part of it — there’s so many layers to that onion, it excites me.”
For years, he’s also been working on an off-Broadway musical, Victor Woo: The Average Asian American, that won an award for music and lyrics at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival. This summer it’ll be workshopped in California with Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) on board as a story consultant. That connection, So said, is something that might not have happened if he was signed to a label.
“Being an independent artist, you’re not contracted to a company,” he said. “I call my own shots.”
This weekend: So performs at 7:15 p.m. in the Ybor Room. On Friday, he’ll perform at 8 p.m. at the WSLR coffeehouse at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, 3975 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. And at 4 p.m. Sunday, he’s performing a house concert at the South Tampa home of Gloria Holloway. For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 837.6572.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: John Mazlish.