The songwriting and musical genius that is Brian McKnight recently performed a whole host of European dates, ahead of the release of his new album.
Brian was charming and a total delight to talk to and he is certainly still a ladies man and we think that the word ‘smooth’, was practically made for him!
We caught up with Brian to see what he has been up to lately, his latest projects and to talk about his latest album – More Than Words, which is to be released next month.
Welcome to London, Brian! What kind of memories does London hold for you?
Thank you! London is one of the first places that I came to, outside of America to start my international career. I remember that when I first came here, I didn’t like it so much – only because London can be very clique – a lot like New York, so if you don’t know someone here, it’s not that easy to be here, but every time that I’ve come here, I’ve got to know more and more people here. Now I have friends here and we always hang out when I come over to London.
What do you like the most about the city?
I went sightseeing last year, for the very first time! I got to see the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and all of these incredible places. It’s ironic, because I used to hate history in school, but now, because I’ve travelled to so many places, I want to know about them more. You guys have such a rich tradition of history and it’s great to learn more. It sucks to not be able to enjoy the cities I visit sometimes, so what I’ve decided to do is, that pretty soon – I’m going to take a whole year off to go travelling. I’m going to get a map and just pick a place with my finger and be like – I’m going to fly to here today!
Where’s on the list?
Everywhere! I’m going to close my eyes and go – boom! Then off I’ll go!
That sounds exciting! On your last visit to London, you performed at the Jazz Cafe, how was that?
The crowd was great and it was very much a songwriters show! It was so much fun to do a show in a venue like the Jazz Cafe, because I got to perform the songs the way that I wrote them, as apposed to the way that I produced them and I got to tell the stories. It was equally a comedy show and equally a concert and people got to appreciate that, because people are so inundated with big productions in live shows these days. The people who came to see me love real music and I was able to really connect with them in such an intimate venue.
Can you tell us a bit about your new album, which is released next month?
The new album is called More Than Words and the idea there is, that as I’ve gotten older as a man, I’m trying to be more of what I say and I’m trying to do what I say, instead of just saying it!
How does the album differ to your previous records?
There’s a very fun feel to the album. I didn’t want to worry about radio or any of those things that I may think about. I went back and listened to my first couple of records and what I got from them was that I didn’t really know what I was doing, only creating music and that’s what this record was all about – going back to my roots and there’s an 80’s feel on there, but it’s a little faster. There are no really slow, love-songs on the album, it’s the same songwriting that I’ve always done, but done with a little twist!
You’re a multi-instrumentalist, do you have a favourite instrument to play?
My favourite is actually the bass guitar, but I can’t really sing and play bass guitar at the same time, but I did play bass in my show! I’ll tell you why the bass is my favourite instrument. I had a band in high-school and I used to sing and play keys in that band. Every night, we’d be playing in the bars and the women for whatever reason would always be looking at the bass player and he’d always get the girls!
Why did he get the girls?
Well, I had to figure out why they liked him so much and I did find out why! The reason was, because all night long he was doing this (stands up from the sofa and demonstrates playing the bass – with his hips moving form side to side!), so that’s why I learnt to play the bass and that’s why it’s my favourite!
He’s got the moves!
Who has been the favourite person that you have worked with in your career to date? I know that there have been many!
There have been many, yes. I would say that my favourite was probably Boyz II Men and Justin Timberlake.
What was it about Boys II Men and Justin Timberlake that made them so special to work with?
They had this vast musical knowledge and the same sort of work ethic and they wanted to create some really great work, not that the others didn’t – but I felt that those guys reached that extra mile. It was fun to be able to work with them and to produce for them and I felt that the sky was the limit. I really enjoyed working with them and we had a lot of fun together.
Who would you like to work with in the future?
I will work with anyone! If we both have the same vision and we want to work the same way and have the same goal, I don’t discriminate against anyone. I say no until we can get together and talk first of all, then I can say – yeah, you’re cool, we can do something together.
Amongst all the awards that you’ve won in your career – what do you do with them all ? Do you keep them all in a special place or are you one of those who hides them away in the bathroom?
I keep them in my house and in various other places. I don’t really have a lot of them on display though. I mean, I don’t do what I do for awards necessarily, this is my reward. The reward I get is being able to play my songs. That is my award.
In what way has the music scene changed since you first started out?
It’s changed almost in every way. It’s easier and harder to make it in the business I would say. There are less companies and more independent labels. There are way more artists out there today. There are a lot of people out there who are able to make and release records. I’m not sure if that is necessary a good thing. I could sit here forever and talk about the differences to be honest with you, but it’s changed in almost every way.
Is there anything you miss about those days, of first starting out in the music industry?
I long for the days where people had to wait to hear things about you, to wait for either a show or to see what you were up to. Now, between You Tube and social media, they can have you whenever they want, which to me isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Can you tell us what the 360 foundation is all about?
We are trying our best to get more and kids involved in music. Economics dictated things and took those resources out of school and kids had to depend on themselves in a lot of different ways. I found out that when kids have access to music and to the arts, that they are more attentive when they are in the classroom and they are more rounded individuals when they get older, so we are trying our best to find ways to get them back onto that track.
Can you tell us a bit about your new record label?
Yes, my two sons and I run the label. We are planning to put out a whole bunch of different things this year between us all. We’ll be sending our kids over to you – to promote the word and their work!
What are your plans for the year ?
To still be around by the end! I think that the biggest magic trick that I have done is to continue to make people still love me, twenty one years later!
Brian’s new album ‘More Than Words’ is released on Monday 4th March 2013.