William Kinard quietly removes his shoes and stares out at the water. It's a beautifully sunny day along the Battery, and Kinard sips his coffee before spreading several blankets on the ground at White Point Gardens. He mentions that his friend and fellow musician Joseph Stover will be joining us shortly and begins unpacking the instruments he's brought along.
When he was in his early 20s, Kinard hit a wall. He was lost. "I was getting over a break-up and my buddy said, 'Let's get a guitar,' and so I taught myself," he says modestly.
He shows us one of the many instruments he's brought along. It's a wooden, three-string, diamond-shaped piece similar to the Russian Balalaika. The instrument, which he calls "Heron," is adorned with crescent moon cutouts and produces a meditative and tranquil tone. Shortly before Heron was crafted, Kinard was just ending a three-year trek throughout Europe, where he played on the streets and in cafes after he sold his belongings. After leaving Europe, he stumbled upon an art gallery in Montreal. He noticed strange-shaped guitars — one even looked like a panda — hanging on the walls and became intrigued with both the gallery and its owner. Kinard ended up staying and working in the shop for a few months and built Heron using parts from a scrap yard. "One man's trash is another man's treasure," he says.
Kinard says he's very affected by the atmosphere and the vibrations of places and people. "How you feel is so powerful," he says before launching into a song he calls "Time Traveler." It's a transportive instrumental, and I'm not sure I've ever heard the sound he's producing with his guitar. He begins to explain that he actually tunes his instruments to the frequency of the Earth, which is something he says is mostly seen in Indian culture. Most instruments are tuned at 440 Hz, but if you tune to 528 Hz, you're tapping into the central frequency of nature. Pretty far out stuff. Regardless, the sound that Kinard produces is noticeably different. It's calming.
As for what ultimately brought him to the Holy City, Kinard credits "divine inspiration." When he first arrived, he was playing solo at a few open mic nights, and he also performed a few gigs for children at MUSC. He says that some of the mothers even told him that his meditative strumming put their child to sleep or made them smile for the first time in as long as they could remember.
For Kinard, cosmic interventions have become a theme in his life. A chance encounter at a potluck dinner brought him in touch with his current collaborator, Joseph Stover. The two played a completely improvisational set together. Kinard says, "Joe was playing strange Hungarian minor music at the time too, using Turkish instruments and what not."
Eventually, Joseph Stover arrives. He grew up in a musical house where his mother played piano and his father played several instruments, all by ear. As for Stover, he began playing piano around the age of five and later picked up the guitar. Several years ago, he tried his hand playing under a label with a jam band, but that lifestyle didn't work so he quit the band. Afterward, he became fascinated with Punjabi culture and began to play instruments in a new, more spiritual way. Stover takes out his violin, and the two gentlemen begin to play. It's beautiful. Kinard and Stover say that about 60 percent of what they play is built on a foundation and 40 percent is improv.
Lately, they've been playing at Saffron on Friday nights with Stover incorporating a double-neck guitar, split into a 12-string and a sixer. Stover explains that it produces an ambient sound that is somewhere between a harp and piano. He uses his left hand for the 12 and his right to play the six.
The two are just beginning their musical venture. Though they have yet to come up with a namesake, they've bounced around a few. "Gypsy Wind" is one that has stuck around. Their next gig will be at Troubadours Coffee House in Mt. Pleasant on Nov. 17. In the meantime you can check out their YouTube channels at youtube.com/voyagesinmusic or youtube.com/forestsofsongs.