Bowdoin Magazine

Coretta King ’12: Striking a Chord

Coretta King '12

Photo: Samantha Ruppert

Nashville singer-songwriter Coretta King ’12 recently released her first original music, powerful tracks that deliver the goods—and promise more.

I had a mini, wooden Steinway-like piano that I used to bang on when I was three or so years old. During a church service, my parents even brought it to church for my sister and I to play as we sang. My family still says that the music sounded similar to the real songs—even though I wasn’t fully aware of that—or was I?! I have a dated picture of me siting at that piano on my desk right now.

This past year I put out some original music for people to actually hear. That is quite a vulnerable step, one that took me a while to feel good about and actually act on. The music you make is a real-life baby—an extension of you. It takes courage to let people access that. A sense of surrendering to yourself.

At Bowdoin, the musical highlight for me was founding the Bowdoin Community Gospel Choir. I was involved in various musical outlets, like Miscellania. However, the gospel choir was me giving a part of myself to Bowdoin. It served as a safe space for the students on campus and a bridge with the community. It brought a diverse group of people together to serve others through inspirational music, which was honest and different.

I really like writing my own material, but it’s just something about the voice that brings the lyrics to life. The performer is the storyteller. I come from a strong musical family—on both sides. Singing runs warm in my veins—it’s natural for me. Even when I’m writing, I hear melodies running around in my head. Many times before I even have the words, I’m humming out what I’m hearing to guide me. It’s hard to think where I would be without my voice.

During my senior year, I did an independent study on how music affects your emotions. I’ve always marveled at music’s effect on people—even its healing properties. It is truly a universal language. Whether it’s chanting a song like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” during a basketball game or singing Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down” after a break up, songs like that really can pull at your heart strings in polar ways. I like that music can have that kind of effect on people. When people listen to my songs, I want them to feel some kind of emotion. I want my music to serve as a medium for people to keep on living and loving–even when life gets hard.

Prince’s song “Baby I’m a Star” brings back memories of my childhood with cassette tapes laying around the house. I see my mom dancing and laughing in my room. My parents censored my music a lot, but my mom was a big Prince fan so, she would make exceptions sometimes. I felt on top of the world in those moments.

Gospel musician Tye Tribbett has a song called “You’re Everything to Me.” It always strikes a chord with me nostalgically. I sang it one time at a late family member’s home going celebration, it was a no-gravity moment for me—musically and spiritually. I felt really at peace in the presence of everyone there—an out of body experience with the music. Every time I hear it, I feel the same way.

I’m an eclectic music lover. I love storytellers and live intimate spaces, so I am really hooked on Johnathan Reynold’s new album, “Life Room.” I love the simplicity of the album. Yet, he still creates these vivid pictures with his words, a fusion of old songs with the new, and his guitar playing. His songwriting really speaks to where I am presently in my own life.

I’m a student of my craft—trying to hone it and stay grounded and focused. But now, I am putting myself out there with the various outlets I am connecting with here in Nashville. I see more music coming soon and performing more outside of the Nashville scene. I see myself riding my own steel horse one day soon (Bon Jovi reference!).

Yes, I was named after Coretta Scott King. Forming a connection there, I grew up in a family with a rich civil rights history and also lived in Memphis during my adolescent years. I’m honored to have her namesake. It’s not a burden—it’s more of a passed torch with a fire burning bright. Music meant a lot to her as well. She was training in a Boston music conservatory when she met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have my own legacy to fulfill, and I am blessed to have her as my inspiration.

An abbreviated version of this profile first appeared in Bowdoin Magazine, spring/summer 2018.

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