Mike King always dreamt of playing for the NFL. But his aspirations came to a screeching halt when the Gar-Field High School running back tore his ACL during a game. King was crushed. “It was devastating to me,” he said.
The high school senior had reconstructive surgery and was told to stay away from the sport for one year. His plans to play football at James Madison University were put on hold.
While recovering from his surgery, he began to discover his love for music. King sang in the top choir at Gar-Field and was given the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall.
“When I tore my ACL and was taken away from football, I still had music to fall back on,” he said. “[Singing in the choir] sparked my interest into how music made me feel and how to go about trying to pursue something with it.”
But it wasn’t until the Woodbridge resident heard “Why Georgia” by John Mayer that everything clicked. He had wandered into Cheeseburger in Paradise for an acoustic show by musician Zach Winningham and was floored by his performance. “Once he played ‘Why Georgia’ I was like – that’s it,” he said. “This is exactly what I want to do. I want to be on stage. I want to play guitar.”
King became friends with Winningham, bought a guitar just like his and drove to Virginia Beach where the musician lived just to watch him perform. From that point on, he was hooked.
He taught himself how to play guitar while attending Northern Virginia Community College, where he was studying to become a music teacher. He soon realized that he wanted to play music instead of teach. He left school, started working full-time as a recreation specialist at Fort Belvoir and began pursuing music more seriously.
After playing guitar for two years, he performed at an “open mic” night in Springfield. The experience was eye opening for him and soon he was playing two back-to-back solo shows. “I did it just to say that I accomplished part of my dream,” he said. “I haven’t really looked back since then. I really fell in love with playing guitar and singing to people. I’ve been rockin’ and rollin’ ever since.”
King’s musical transformation continued when he heard “Gravity” by John Mayer, who is now one of the guitarist’s biggest influences. “I thought, ‘Okay, I have to buy an electric and learn how to play the blues.’”
Just as he was beginning to discover his true potential as a guitarist, King was asked to play lead guitar in alt-rock band In Remembrance. Frontman Nick Letendre approached him after the band’s previous guitarist quit.
“We were in a tight spot and I knew that Mike would be the only guy able to fill his shoes,” Letendre said. “He has a very distinct sound and impressive chops. Since the addition of Mike the band has taken off, not just because of his skill on the guitar but because of his personality on and off stage.”
King’s dream finally came to fruition when he played Cheeseburger in Paradise with In Remembrance last year. “I told the audience, ‘You wouldn’t believe it but four years ago, I told myself I would be playing guitar here for people and here it is,’” King said.
Looking forward, the 23-year-old wants to focus on blues guitar. He’s starting a blues-influenced band called State of Mind. “It’s more of a sound that I’ll be reaching for with my original music,” he said. “I’m searching for songs that I wrote in my living room or sitting on my porch.”
King is a glass-half-full kind of guy. “Some day, you’re going to come see me at the Verizon Center or Jiffy Lube Live/Nissan Pavilion,” he said. “I may be 25 when I get there or I may be 65 when I get there but I promise you I will get there.”