Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau to play his first-ever full-length concert in the capital city. (Coutesy Photo | Jana Seale)

Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau to play his first-ever full-length concert in the capital city. (Coutesy Photo | Jana Seale)

This guy is Kray: Singer-songwriter returns to Juneau with songs about heroes

He lived in the capital city for years, but this is his first full-length concert here

Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau with a few hundred more shows under his belt.

Van Kirk lived in Juneau when he earned his doctorate and worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Now, as a full-time singer-songwriter, he resides in northern California. Although he told the Capital City Weekly in a phone interview his calendar typically includes more than 100 shows per year, he isn’t home all that often.

“Now, I’m just on the road full-time, and I just booked some shows in Petersburg, Juneau and Sitka,” Van Kirk said. “Then, I’m flying over to London and the Isle of Man for some shows in October.”

He will play a lobby concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Centennial Hall.

“I haven’t actually played a full-length concert in Juneau before,” Van Kirk said. “It may have two brand new tunes, maybe three depending on what happens this week, but I’ve got a couple new tunes in the hopper, and if those get done, the first time they’ll ever be played for an audience is on this tour.”

Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau to play his first-ever full-length concert in the capital city. Van Kirk said he’s hoping to play 150 shows next year. (Coutesy Photo | Adam PW Smith)

Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau to play his first-ever full-length concert in the capital city. Van Kirk said he’s hoping to play 150 shows next year. (Coutesy Photo | Adam PW Smith)

He’s excited for some of the songs on the new LP to stretch their legs for a live audience.

“It takes on a life of its own,” Van Kirk said of the first time a song is played live. “The first time you play it, it comes out, and it begins to take on its own form.”

[Designer from Juneau is heading to New York City for Fashion Week]

Van Kirk said being a touring musician is a lot different now than it was when he first gave it a go in the early ’90s.

“With the advent of the internet, there are lots of us out there doing it, so in some ways it’s a lot more intense,” Van Kray said. “It always ends up being fewer than I would like. It’s just an ongoing progression. Hopefully in 2020, I’ll have maybe 150 shows. I’ve already booked the first show for 2021, so they get booked pretty far ahead.”

Van Kirk continued to make music but put efforts toward being a full-time musician on hold for more than a decade for both parenthood and steadier paychecks as a state scientist.

“I ended up in Alaska, and I ended up being a single parent, so I stopped playing for a whole to be a dad,” Van Kirk said.

However, he released his third album, and first in decades back, in 2015 and is continuing to hone his craft.

“I was an OK statistician, I was a good coder, but I was not cutting edge,” Van Kirk said. “I realized I had a choice. I could either spend the next 20 years dedicating myself to good fisheries statistical models, or I could spend the next 20 years writing about Don Quixote and the hero’s quest, and I realized that I would contribute more to the world be writing songs than I would be writing stock assessment models.”

Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau to play his first-ever full-length concert in the capital city. He plans to debut a couple of new songs during his upcoming tour. (Coutesy Photo | Becoming Images)

Kray Van Kirk is coming back to Juneau to play his first-ever full-length concert in the capital city. He plans to debut a couple of new songs during his upcoming tour. (Coutesy Photo | Becoming Images)

He said that wasn’t to disparage people who do the latter, just that it’s something that could be done better by others.

[Auke Bay teacher is a finalist for Alaska Teacher of the Year]

“I don’t see a lot of people who do what I do in turns of the thematic content of my tunes,” Van Kirk said.

In addition to frequent touring, Van Kray said he has a new CD, “The Midnight Commander” in the works.

“The Midnight Commander is an insane old black man on the New York City subway who wears a superhero outfit made out of wool underwear and Xtratufs and a little kitchen towel,” Van Kirk said describing the titular character, “and he runs around and he stops people when he sees them doing bad stuff, but he’s insane.”

Like his past work, Van Kirk said the album examines heroes and a more gender-inclusive take on the Campbellian hero’s journey.

“The new CD is concerned with heroes and trying to make sure that everybody no matter what gender they are, whether they’re gay or straight, what race they are, what language they speak, everybody deserves to look at themselves and see themselves on the heroes quest,” Van Kirk said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

Molly Yazwinski holds a 3,000-year-old moose skull with antlers still attached, found in a river on Alaska’s North Slope. Her aunt, Pam Groves, steadies an inflatable canoe. (Courtesy Photo /Dan Mann)

 

2. A 14,000-year-old fragment of a moose antler, top left, rests on a sand bar of a northern river next to the bones of ice-age horses, caribou and muskoxen, as well as the horns of a steppe bison. Photo by Pam Groves.

 

3. Moose such as this one, photographed this year near Whitehorse in the Yukon, may have been present in Alaska as long as people have. Photo by Ned Rozell.
Alaska Science Forum: Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival

When a great deal of Earth’s water was locked up within mountains… Continue reading

FILE - Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1.  (AP Photo / Danny Karnik)
Congress votes to avert rail strike amid dire warnings

President vows to quickly sign the bill.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
Juneau state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, left, gives a legislative proclamation to former longtime Juneau Assembly member Loren Jones, following Kiehl’s speech at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon Thursday at the Juneau Moose Family Center.
Cloudy economy, but sunnier political outlook lie ahead for lawmakers, Kiehl says

Juneau’s state senator tells Chamber of Commerce bipartisan majority a key to meaningful action

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Dec. 2

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Hunter credits community members for Thanksgiving rescue

KENAI — On Thanksgiving, Alaska Wildlife Troopers released a dispatch about a… Continue reading

The snowy steps of the Alaska State Capitol are scheduled to see a Nativity scene during an hour-long gathering starting at 4 p.m. Friday which, in the words of a local organizer, is “for families to start their Gallery Walk in a prayerful manner.” But two Outside groups dedicated to placing Nativity scenes at as many state capitol buildings as possible are proclaiming it a victory against the so-called “war on Christmas.” The head of Alaska’s Legislative Affairs Agency, which has administrative oversight of the building, said the gathering is legal since a wide variety of events occur all the time, often with religious overtones, but the placement of a fixed or unattended display is illegal. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Scene and heard: Religious freedom groups say Nativity event makes statement

State officials say happening planned for Capitol relatively common and legal.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Dec. 1

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Steve Lewis, foreground, and Stephen Sorensen from the Alaska State Review Board scan ballots from precincts where they were hand counted at the Division of Elections office Nov. 15. Board officials spent the period between the Nov. 8 election and its certification Wednesday performing about 20 different to verify the results. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Election certified, but challenges pending

Outcome of at least two state House races unknown, which may determine chamber’s leadership

Most Read