Music, as well as basketball, has been an important component in Isaac Humphries’ life. The former Kentucky basketball player said he showed an interest in music at a young age. Like a real young age.
“As a 3-year-old, I was probably doing something,” he said. He began playing the trumpet in the third grade. He later took up alto sax, drums and piano. He also sings.
Of his interest in music, Humphries said, “I kind of put it on the backseat a little bit when I started playing basketball. Basketball kind of just took off, and I almost forgot about the whole musical side of it all.”
This musical side will be on display Sunday when Humphries performs in a concert at the Lexington Opera House. Proceeds from the performance, which is titled “Songs of My Life,” will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities. (Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.)
Humphries will play piano and sing. He’ll be accompanied by A Common Wealth Band, which coincidentally previously backed up another former UK player, Bobby Perry, who also plays piano. Humphries described his musical style as “more like John Legend. Kind of smooth, melodic, set the mood. So there will be a lot of mood setting Sunday night.”
During a rehearsal Wednesday afternoon at UK’s School of Fine Arts building, Humphries gave visiting reporters a taste of what Sunday’s audience can expect with a moving performance of Skyscraper, a song by Demi Lovato.
“She wrote that because she was really badly bullied in school,” Humphries said. “And it’s about overcoming hard times. And people can take things from you. But at the end of the day, you’ll stand up as tall as a skyscraper.”
Humphries said he was bullied in school, so he can relate to the song’s sentiment. “It’s been one of my core songs I’ve taken through my whole musical career,” he said.
Humphries does not read music. He plays by ear. He said he can hear a song and usually within five minutes be able to play it. His voice coach is Stevie Mackey, who has worked with such singers as Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Fergie and Lenny Kravitz.
Humphries was beginning his post-UK basketball career by working out in Los Angeles, where Mackey lives. Aspiring singer and accomplished coach connected through social media. “I sent him a message through Instagram as a super long shot,” Humphries said. “We just vibed and became really good friends. He took me under his wing and really took me around the music scene in L.A. . . . He opened my eyes up to a new world that I had never seen, really, from the inside.”
Early in his two seasons playing basketball for UK, Humphries discovered the rehearsal rooms in the Fine Arts building. A few times he came over and used the piano as a respite from basketball. “But then, honestly, I didn’t feel right doing it,” he said. “I kind of wanted to really focus on basketball. And, obviously, Kentucky is such an intense place. In my mind, I didn’t think I had time or I didn’t think I had the right to go and do that because I thought ‘I’m in a really awesome place, and I need to give this my all basketball-wise.’
“Sitting back, I wish I had used music more as a release in my Kentucky days. But I didn’t.”
Kentucky being Kentucky, the conversation turned to basketball. After leaving UK in 2017, Humphries played for a professional team based in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. He later played in Serbia. In the 2018-19 season, he split time with the Atlanta Hawks and their G League affiliate in Erie, Pa.
Recently, he signed to play with the Los Angeles Clippers’ summer league team, an opportunity he said he hopes can lead to a two-way deal with the Clippers next season or even a secure spot on the NBA team’s roster.
But first there is Sunday’s concert. His mother and high school music teacher were expected to come from Australia to attend. He also spoke of former UK teammates Mychal Mulder, Alex Poythress and Derek Willis attending.
“Sunday is a massive step in my music life, headlining my own show,” Humphries said. “After basketball, I would love to continue in music whether that is in singing or just being around it. There’s no reason I shouldn’t continue my interest after basketball or during basketball. I’m really working on that balance right now.”
‘Songs of My Life’
What: Concert by former University of Kentucky basketball player Isaac Humphries to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Lexington Opera House
Tickets: Prices range from $35 to $100. Available through Ticketmaster.