Guitar Legend Kottke Returns Jan. 11

Leo Kottke: a ‘walking contradiction’

With more than 30 albums to his credit, Leo Kottke has plenty of material for his concert at KCC’s Performing Arts Center

Multi-talented guitar legend Leo Kottke will grace the Island with his music at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Kaua’i Community College Performing Arts Center in Lihue. The vocalist, composer and guitarist will perform four shows across the state after the new year.

“I like to play everywhere I can,” he says. “The Islands are hard to get to, so I don’t make it very often.”

Best known for his agile fingers that move swiftly across the strings of a guitar, Kottke hasn’t been to the Islands since 2005.

“Leo Kottke is a walking contradiction,” says promoter William Kiely, whom Kottke calls the “Impresario, the Immortal and the Nutmeg of Consolation, as, without him, there would be no ‘twang.'”

“In conversation, Leo is slow-talking, thoughtful almost to distraction,” says Kiely. “Yet when he picks up a steel-stringed acoustic guitar, his fingers race across the strings with uncommon speed, developing a deep, churning groove that can at times sound like several people playing at once.”

Initially picking up the guitar at age 11, the self-taught Kottke says he has no idea where his passion originates from, but “it was there before I can remember.

“But I wouldn’t call it passion, it’s more like a part of me. Or me a part of it,” says the witty musician.

Playing the trombone and violin never really clicked for him, yet “the guitar took me over” he says when describing his instrument of choice. “It’s wonderful that it happened, but it’s a mixed blessing. It takes a lot for what it gives you.”

Showcasing his talents on his six- and 12-string guitars, he has been dazzling audiences for decades and has recorded more than 30 albums.

Kottke: ‘I hate goals’

In addition, Kottke is constantly touring.

“It’s where I live,” he says. “Mainly, I’m the one who has to have a good time,” he says when asked what he hopes audience members will take away from the performance. “The trick is not to have a better time than the crowd.”

And according to Canadian guitarist Don Ross, fans are not only in for a good time and a musical treat, they will enjoy Kottke’s personality as well.

“He’s got a wry sense of humor that seems to soak everything he does,” Ross says. “He doesn’t take himself very seriously. And he doesn’t really take anything seriously. When you’re around him, you feel like he’s almost an observer on this world, sort of standing back and laughing at what goes on. He’s not laughing at it, but finding the humor of every situation. That’s who he really is.”

For instance, Kottke jokes that he hopes to be dead when he stops creating new material because, after the guitar, composition has been his “hook.”

And fans can be assured he won’t put down the guitar either because he also “hopes to play until I drop.

“Willie Nelson says he’ll probably die in some Holiday Inn; I’ll probably die in a Best Western,” he says.

Though Kottke will continue to impress listeners as long as he is alive, he plans to remain free of future career goals.

“I hate goals,” he says. “What clown came up with that idea?”

Spend “An Evening with Leo Kottke” Jan. 6 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Jan. 8 at the Kahilu Theatre in Kamuela, Jan. 9 at the Hawai’i Theatre in Honolulu, and Jan. 11 at Kaua’i Community College Performing Arts Center. For more information visit, call 800-992-8499 or visit the artist’s website at

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