Prior to putting down roots in Bend, Oregon, singer-songwriter Kolby Knickerbocker developed his musical roots at various stops along the way to the Pacific Northwest.
While living in the Atlanta area from ages 11 to 17, Knickerbocker, already a Led Zeppelin fan, started listening to some of the band’s influences: acoustic artists, as well as what he calls “soulful, Southern, bluesy R&B kind of things.”
As a student at UC Santa Barbara, he found himself “drinking from a fire hose” of music — i.e., “anything that was a cultural or folk musical style from across the globe.”
And for his travel abroad to live in London and Poland, Knickerbocker brought along a Takamine acoustic guitar, and he says “the necessity of needing to traveling light” has kept him “in the acoustic space.”
Following stints in the bands Kitty’s Musicbox and Rodello’s Machine, Knickerbocker released the solo EP Kindness Courage in 2019. By that time, he and his family had settled in Bend, which he calls “a peaceful mountain town” with lots of open space.
“Being in nature, it’s just nothing — it’s like a clean palette. It clears my mind,” the 37-year-old musician adds. “Being in Bend has really created a new approach to music. It has helped me be in that space. … I’ll be writing a song, and I’m sitting outside, it’s peaceful and I hear a bird and the wind, and it’s like, ‘OK, will this song that I’m playing right now — this space that I’m experiencing right now, will [the song] improve upon it?’ It’s really honed down what’s essential and what I basically want to break up the silence for.”
Since having children, Knickerbocker says his music has been about family, relationships and being a husband — and proof can be found on his new four-song EP, Over and Over, due April 2.
The title song features Knickerbocker as a one-man choir. He researched gospel choir arrangements, then spent many hours in his vocal booth singing line after line, laying down many tracks before settling on 15 of them.
“I wouldn’t do it again,” he admits. “If someone said, ‘Do you want to …’ I’d say, ‘Let’s go hire a choir.’ ”
Then again, as someone who has described being a musician as “endlessly challenging and endlessly fulfilling,” it’s more likely that Knickerbocker would be willing to travel down that road again.
— By Chris M. Junior
Photo by Tony Gambino