King Kyote. Photo by Jukebooth Productions

Being a musician is one of the hardest jobs out there and dream opportunities that have the potential to change the trajectory of a musician’s career are rarer than writing a hit song.

Except when they’re not.

Maine musician Jon King, who performs as King Kyote, will be representing our state in the new NBC show “American Song Contest,” and the first episode airs at 8 p.m. Monday, March 21. The show runs for eight weeks, and its hosts are Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson.

There will be three rounds of live competitions that will serve as qualifiers, then come the semifinals and the grand final, during which one state or territory will claim victory. Acts will range from solo artists and duos to DJs and bands, and you can expect to hear a broad spectrum of genres.

The prize has yet to be announced, but the experience for King Kyote will surely be priceless.

A couple of months ago, the Portland-based singer songwriter was contacted by the show asking if he’d like to be part of it. Realizing the potential the offer presented, King, who is 33, said yes. He’ll soon be getting on a plane to Los Angeles and will be performing an original song live in front of potentially millions of TV viewers. A publicist working for the show didn’t know how King was chosen.


What’s more, all of the acts will have their songs released as singles by the historic label Atlantic Records. This kind of exposure has been a lifelong dream of King’s. “A label like that comes with a lot of gravitas, and I think there’s something to be said for that, ” he said.

As for the competition, King has his work cut out for him. He’ll be competing against acts from all 50 states, five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. The list includes some already famous singers. King will have to conquer Jewel (Alaska), Michael Bolton (Connecticut), Macy Gray (Ohio), The Crystal Method (Nevada) and Alan Stone (Washington).

But King certainly has plenty going for him, namely songwriting acumen and one heck of a singing voice. Last year, he released the song “Gold Fades” featuring his warm, raspy vocals. His voice is tender yet sturdy, and when he wants to, King can wield it like a slingshot, propelling his words with unexpected force. “She was a songbird raised by wolves/With the hardest armor and a fire in her soul,” he sings.

The song King will perform on “American Song Contest” is called “Get Out Alive,” which he wrote and recorded about three years ago but never got around to releasing. King was able to go back and do some re-recording and fine tuning before sending it into the show for approval. At midnight on show day, the song will be available on streaming platforms.

King shared a preview of the track on social media platforms, and the footage shows him in a production studio talking about the song while it plays in the background.


NBC hasn’t revealed on which episode King Kyote will perform, but given that there’s three weeks of qualifiers, it will be either March 21, March 28 or April 4.

It’s also unclear what the voting format will look like, but there will likely be a viewer participation element that will be revealed during the show’s launch on Monday night, March 21.

The path that led King to this moment started in York, where he was born and raised. He started playing guitar and writing songs while in middle school and was part of the band Rocksmythe with friends during high school. Rocksmythe participated in the Maine State Rock Off high school band competition in 2006, and although they didn’t win, King was named best vocalist.

From there, he earned a degree in photography at what was then called New Hampshire Institute of Art, and after graduating, he worked in related fields. But all the while, there was another fire burning in him.

“Music has always been the biggest passion in my life,” he said. “I always knew what I wanted to do it.” It’s been a primary focus since his early 20s, and under his own name, King made an EP in 2015.

He adopted the moniker King Kyote about three years ago, after researching coyotes and gaining an appreciation for their scrappiness and liking the fact that they’re sometimes pack animals and sometimes off on their own. “I like how they’re able to push forward and survive,” said King. He realized that he wanted it as part of his artist name. “I was digging that vibe for connecting it back to an Americana, rootsy, rock ‘n’ roll thing.”


Since 2018, King Kyote has released an EP and a handful of singles and has performed on the Maine State Pier, Aura and the since-closed Port City Music Hall.

King feels humbled to be the chosen Maine act and was quick to acknowledge what he described as an “exceptional group of musicians” who call Maine home. He said he’s more excited than nervous. “All I can do is to my best.”

All we can do is cheer King Kyote on and hopefully cast our votes for him once details are shared. Win or lose, this is a huge deal, and having a song released on Atlantic Records is an incredible opportunity for him to reach an enormous audience.

Have your remote control ready.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.