Kevin Lee, lead singer of the Kings, was signed to Music Corporation of America (MCA) in the 90’s, with their debut single “Standing in the Line of Fire” releasing in 1992. The song was a huge success at radio, eventually landing in an NBA All-Stars Video and the Golden Globe-nominated movie “A Dangerous Woman.” During this time, he opened arena tours for Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Lou Gramm, Matthew Sweet and Pearl Jam. Enjoying sustained success to this day, Lee and the Kings continues to play throughout Midwest. Their most recent release is “Sticks & Stones,” be sure to have a listen to “On Top of the World” embedded below.
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Chris Remmers: Let’s start by having you telling us a little bit about where you grew up in the Midwest?
Kevin Lee: It’s kind of interesting for what I call home. I’m originally from Bloomington, Illinois, which is about three-hours south of Chicago. I actually moved out of that town the day I graduated high school and never looked back. I moved to New York, Chicago and I lived in [Los Angeles] for about six years. [I did] pretty much anything I could do to continue to follow my passions with music. I lived in Florida for a few years, and ended up touring all over the south. I got to play all those [spots].
CR: It certainly seems like you’ve done your fair share of traveling around the United States. Where was your favorite place to live thus far?
KL: I don’t know. It’s a weird thing. The weather is so bad in Chicago, but this is where I always end up coming back to. Although I must tell you, I really did love living in LA — the weather and the whole vibe of being there. I know so many people that have come here with the motivation and intent on “making it,” that have ended up living in apartments on the beach and it has just changed their lives. I lived in Hollywood the whole time, it’s hard to find your spot out there, but I would recommend anyone either visit or live there for a period of time. To answer your questions, when push comes to shove I’m a Chicago boy. I have moved out and come back so many times, but this is where I call home.
CR: If someone was coming to visit Chicago for the first time, where would be some of the places you would send them to get a real sense of the city?
KL: Very good question! Chicago is a big food town, a lot of great restaurants. I would highly recommend newcomers try as much food as they can. There are a lot of famous taverns like Tavern On Rush down on Rush St. It’s a great place to eat. I would also recommend Hairy Carries, there are just so many places I could go on for days. Another cool spot to take someone is to the Bean. It’s downtown by the art museum and other stuff like that. There is a boat called the Odyssey you can go on and it will take you on a tour around the outskirts of the city. They serve you dinner, it’s fun.
CR: What was your first real exposure to music? When did you decide you wanted to start creating your own?
KL: It was some time when I was a kid. Things were different back then, there were all these shows and bands like watching Jonny Carson. There were so many good shows like the “Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack.” Also, all the great 70’s bands like Aerosmith. That was really the golden age of rock and roll. I would say it was when I was around five or six, watching the Beatles on television, and thinking, “Wow! I want to be able to do that one day.”
By the time I was 10 or 11 I was playing the drums in the school band. That’s the time when I formed my first band. I was singing and playing the drums. My parents had a piano in the house, so I started tinkering around and coming up with melody’s. By the time I was 13-14, I was already starting to fool around with writing songs.
CR: Could you recall any specific influences along the way that helped to keep you motivated through out your journey?
KL: I loved everything from [Led] Zeppelin to the Dave Clark Five in the 60’s. I’m kind of a rock and a pop guy mixed in the same body. I was heavily influenced by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and just all rock that was coming out around the 70’s.
CR: Most people in the music industry are constantly on the go, traveling, exploring and seeing new cultures. What kind of impact do you think that has had on your motivation to do what you do?
KL: I would really consider myself a great observer. Everything inspirationally comes from observing, listening and relating to what is going on around me. I always have my writers hat on and I’m always paying attention. I actually try to work on songs every day. I would say anywhere I’ve been, or lived, I’m always writing down notes or thinking about what things have been said and turning those things into lyrics.
CR: How do you feel music and travel complement each other best in your life?
KL: It’s the ultimate combination of getting to be on the road and see all these different places and venues. I’ve personally always been a road guy. That’s really where I’m at my best. You can’t beat getting to see new places while doing the things you love to do, so it really is a win-win. It was always my goal as a kid to be able to tour and see the world. It’s nice that it has come to fruition. My inspiration a lot of the time comes from being out on the road, but it’s easier for me to put everything together when I’m in a home setting sitting a little more still. When you’re on the road you’re constantly on the go. You have to eat, prepare, play your show and then on to the next. But, overall, music and travel are the ultimate compliment to each other in my mind.
CR: Throughout all your travels and different experiences, where has been your favorite venue to preform?
KL: Wow, this is a really good one! I’ve played so many cool places over the years, but what comes to mind first is the Palace of Auburn Hills right outside Detroit. That was absolutely amazing. I got to open for some amazing bands, it was sold out with about 26,000 people. Just a total rush. I also played at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Bob Dylan owns that, and it was another incredible experience. If anyone hasn’t been to Minneapolis, you have got to make a stop there. You will not regret it.
CR: Transitioning into the more vacation portion of traveling, when you are looking for a personal getaway, are you interested in finding a quite beach? Hiking in the lush greenery of the mountains? Exploring a new city? Or, something different all together?
KL: I’m really not one of those kinds of guys that want to go on vacation and go hiking. I would say I’m more of a “hang around and do-nothing” kind of guy when I’m thinking about a getaway. Not that I’m a beach guy, but somewhere to just hang out and enjoy the sights. I went to Hawaii once and that was one of the ultimate forms of relaxation for me. It’s really an amazing place to let the stress of everyday life go. The main island was my favorite, because you can get that beach-bum, hang-loose feel. At the same time, there’s a little bit of a city to it. So, I guess that’s what intrigued me about that trip the most.
CR: When you’re either traveling for work or pleasure and touch down in a new location, what are some of the first things you like to do?
KL: I would say map out somewhere cool to go eat. That, and just weigh out how much downtime I have to go out and try to find some of the highlights of the area.
CR: Lastly, everyone has a few places they haven’t been to yet that they would like to visit. Do any places stick out in your mind?
KL: I would definitely like to get over and play around the [United Kingdom] and Amsterdam, and just get a few days off in between to see the sights. That would be absolutely amazing. A lot of my influences and heroes come from the UK area, so that would really be something I would like to do in the near future. I’d start in England and then just travel around to all the hot spots in Europe, where my albums have done well in, and just get to experience a different lifestyle. I’ve received several letters over the years by fans asking when I’m going to go over there and play, so it’s something I’m trying to make happen in the near future.