From the start, progressive/dynamic rock trio Little King has had a connection to Tucson.
The group’s singer and guitarist, Ryan Rosoff, moved to Tucson briefly in the ’90s to attend school at UA and recently returned to Tucson in August 2020.
For the first time since 2006, Little King — which includes Rosoff, drummer Eddy Garcia and bassist Manny Tejada — will perform in Tucson on Friday, Sept. 16. This time, it’s to celebrate its 25th anniversary at Edge Bar.
Little King rarely performs together as the musicians are spread throughout Tucson, El Paso and Delaware. Outside of the trio, Little King plays and records with cellist/violinist David Hamilton and vocalist Jessica Flores, who will be at the Tucson show.
Other collaborators include Rosoff’s son, Asher, on keyboards, singer Monica Gutierrez and violinist Christina Hernandez.
Since 1997, the group has released seven albums, all of which were recorded in El Paso. The latest releases are 2021’s “Amuse De Q” and the 2019 five-song EP “Occam’s Razor.” During the Tucson show, the setlist will include tracks from Little King’s last five albums.
“There’s something about that vibe there,” Rosoff said about El Paso.
“It feels like home. I know so, so many good musicians that live there. Imagine having a Rolodex of whatever instrument you are looking for. I wanted strings on the last couple of albums, a cellist and a violin player. I knew four of them that were all really good. I’ve got drummers and bass players, everything that I need. I’ve been making music there for so long that now it’s easy to connect with people.”
The group filmed conceptual videos for every song on its newest album, which they plan to play during their upcoming performance.
In 2021, Little King shot a video for the first song from the album, “Bombs Away,” at the Pima Air and Space Museum. The video, which takes an introspective look at the pandemic, garnered over 100,000 views.
“It seemed fit to have these bombers and these old jets with graffiti on them as the backdrop for the video,” Rosoff said.
“Amuse De Q” looks at the experience of living through the pandemic.
“The last album is all about living in quarantine and different issues people were going through, isolation, domestic abuse, substance abuse, lack of romantic relationships because of the isolation, the BLM movement and all the social media stuff going on,” Rosoff said.
It takes listeners on a journey through anger, sorrow, sadness, love, joy and bliss, and different tempos.
“I think what we are trying to do is create an experience that touches a lot of different moods,” Rosoff said.
A guitarist since high school, Rosoff founded Little King in November 1996 in El Paso, after honing his skills with the eclectic rock group Tweed Quickly.
In his life, he has been influenced by rock groups like Pink Floyd, Rush, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Iron Maiden, the Talking Heads, Judas Priest and the Rolling Stones. He also has an appreciation for reggae, jazz, classical and hip-hop music.
Along with music, Rosoff has worked in the past as a high school English teacher, publicist, hip-hop promoter and music columnist.
Rosoff chalked up Little King’s longevity to dedication and commitment.
“It’s important to me to leave a legacy. I created the name of my band ‘Little King’ as a joke back in the day because I knew that I was going to be the driver in terms of making projects come together…My name in Gaelic means ‘little king…’ So, I named it after myself without naming it after myself,” Rosoff said.
“But the goal is always to make records and record with my friends. It’s kept it fun. I love the process of writing, recording, getting that CD in the mail when it’s getting ready to come out, putting it in your car and hearing it all the way through for the first time.”
Personally, Rosoff has been sober for three years, since he had a DUI.
“Once I made up my mind, and I was done with alcohol, it was really easy. I’m around it a lot. My friends and half of my family members drink. I’ve lost my taste for it. I look at it, and I have no desire to do that anymore,” Rosoff said.
The artist recently began pursuing music full time after running and doing sales and marketing for his corporate team-building company.
He also was raising his family, which includes a 26-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.
“My life has been being a dad first because that’s my responsibility. And I’ve always worked… I’ve always had to support a family…So, it’s been really hard to make music a full-time gig. My thing was if you have the time and energy to keep recording songs, make records. Just keep making records, and one of these days, you will have the time to tour. I did the last four records knowing that someday we would go out and support them live,” Rosoff said.
The singer grew up in Seattle and lived in in Tucson for two years for school before moving to El Paso to be with his first wife. He graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with creative writing degree.
He lived in San Jose and Delaware before returning to Tucson two years ago to be closer to his mother. Over the years, the city had left an impression on him.
“We had been coming back every Thanksgiving probably for the last 15 years. Before that, when I was living in El Paso, it’s a 4.5-hour drive on I-10. I spent a lot of time in Tucson… Even though I hadn’t lived here since ’92, I still stayed in touch with it,” he said.
“There are a lot of things I love about Tucson. I love the big-town, small-city feel down here. Definitely, there’s enough stuff going on to make it interesting, but it doesn’t feel like a big city like San Francisco or Seattle. I dig that, and of course I love the weather,” Rosoff said.
“I’m a desert rat. Living here and living in El Paso for like 16 years, it’s in me. The desert beauty to me…I’ve been everywhere, all over this country, and I think Tucson is spectacular.”
For the last few months, he has been working on music in a studio space in Downtown Tucson.
The band’s newer songs are challenging because of unconventional time signatures. He’s written a new track, “Silver Tongue,” in honor of Little King’s anniversary. Rosoff has been putting a lot of effort into getting ready for live performances.
“I realized how hard some of these songs were. I’m like, ‘Damn it. You’ve made it too hard on yourself.’ But now, I’ve got it. The band is rehearsed,” Rosoff said.
For the next record, Rosoff expects the band will continue to push the musical boundaries while staying true to Little King’s identity.
“For the next album, we are bringing in some new instrumentation and production stuff that is going to push it in a totally different direction,” Rosoff said.
“I’m sure at the end of the day, it will always sound like Little King because of what we are, what our backgrounds are as musicians.”
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16
WHERE: The Edge Bar, 4635 N. Flowing Wells Road, Tucson