Interview Series: Brian McKnight Speaks to UB About New Album & Real R&B


As an artist who needs no introduction, Brian McKnight has earned himself a spot in contemporary music history. He has released 13 albums to date, 7 of them have gone platinum, with several going 2 and 3x platinum, and he has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. McKnight is also a multi-instrumentalist who plays nine instruments including piano, guitar, bass, drums, percussions, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn and trumpet.

In an industry known for a constantly revolving door of artists, McKnight has easily established himself with an enviable record of chart consistency, has toured successfully for over a decade, and has collaborated with performers across every genre including Quincy Jones, Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, Diddy, Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Rascal Flatts, Nelly, Vanessa Williams, Willie Nelson and Kenny G.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Brian’s musical career began in childhood when he became a member of his church, NY choir and a band leader for his high school, Sweet Home High School. By the age of 19, he signed his first recording deal with Mercury Records subsidiary, Wing Records. In 1992, his self-titled album “Brian McKnight” was released followed by “I Remember You” (1995) and “Anytime” (1997). Anytime sold over two million copies and was nominated for a Grammy. In 1999, McKnight released Back at One on Motown Records, which sold over three million copies.

Along with several Grammy nominations, Brian McKnight has been the recipient of American Music Awards, Soul Train Awards, NAACP Image and Blockbuster Awards, and Billboard Songwriter of The Year. He has crossed the boundaries of EVERY medium. He has hosted “Soul Session Countdown with Brian McKnight” on BETJ. In addition, “The Brian McKnight Morning Show” on KTWV the Wave Smooth Jazz radio station, was a Top 5 rated show 2 years running. In 2009 Brian started hosting his own radio show “The Brian McKnight Show” which ran in over 60 markets and was syndicated through ABC Radio. Brian also hosted his own nationally syndicated TV show “The Brian McKnight Show”.

Brian recently spoke to Aries from about his new album “More Than Words,” his accomplishments, industry politics, real R&B, his list of essential R&B albums and much more!

—————- First off tell us about the new album and what separates “More Than Words” from your previous releases?
Brian McKnight: I think the only difference is this album comes from a place that’s a little different. It’s a little faster, a little more fun. Not a lot of really slow ballads on this one. Because that’s not really where I am in my life. I’m just at a point where everything is real cool and happy. Well I wouldn’t say happy because that would be taking it a little to the extreme. But not where I’ve been typically, I’m just at a really good place. What was your goal when you went in to record this album?
Brian McKnight: I stopped doing that awhile ago. I think when you start setting goals for what it’s going to do…I just hope people listen to it and like to listen to anything that I do without some sort of prejudice. Just listen and if it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, I can take that too. Sometimes people put you in a box, then you stay in a box and people have to grow. I’m not going to veer too far away but you know, hopefully they listen and get something out of it. Sweeter is heating up, what made you decide that should be the lead single?
Brian McKnight: Oh yeah as if anybody thinks an artist has a say so in what they want to go with, then they need to go back to music business 101 (both laugh). It doesn’t matter that much to me, I mean I may have gone another way but the folks that decide what single is going to be released are the ones who actually have to go out there and work the single. So you kind of have to leave some of that up to them. Do you know what they’ve decided for the next single?
Brian McKnight: Do people actually second singles these days? Very true, it’s like one and maybe two.
Brian McKnight: I’ve done three videos and of course the label doesn’t want me to do any of that and release them. But for me because of social media and the way things are, the more you give…you have to get as many people as you can. And whatever you can do with the label, as much as you can it’s a good thing. What would you say has been the biggest accomplishment to you in your career thus far?
Brian McKnight: Still being here and still being around. You know, I think that speaks volumes more than any award. People are still wanting to listen and a lot of people don’t get 10 years and I’m 21 in. Actually 24 from when I started and 21 since my first CD. I’m thankful for that every day! As a songwriter, what method if any do you have when you sit down to pen a song?
Brian McKnight: No man, it just comes out. I wish there was some way I could tell people the way it happens. Just throughout the day, I’ve got all these things in my head, by the end of the day I’ll end up with something that didn’t exist that morning. That’s the best way I can explain it. With June being black music month, off the top of your head, what would you say are your top 3 essential R&B albums that everybody should own?
Brian McKnight: Wow that’s tough, not because there are so many but because what do people think R&B is? So if I was going to say I would say, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, anything by Stevie Wonder and maybe anything by James Brown. Because I don’t really consider a lot of music after maybe like the 80’s real R&B. Not as traditional R&B, but not to get too technical I would choose those. Who are some newer artists that Brian McKnight is a fan of?
Brian McKnight: What’s interesting is I hear songs all the time and I’m like that’s a cool song, it’s just hard to know who they are. I think of the newer people Chris Brown is at the top of that list. Because he can do so much as far as be an actor, being able to sing and dance and entertain. I wouldn’t consider Ne-Yo new because he’s been around for awhile. But he’s at the top of the list as well for being a songwriter and being on the cutting edge of what’s happening out here. You got amazing reviews recently for your NY show, when can fans expect a full out tour in support of this release?
Brian McKnight: We’re working on that now, most likely the fall. But I’m always on tour, but the national tour will be the fall. Any last words for your fans before we wrap?
Brian McKnight: Just thank you! I get to live me dream everyday and not because of what I do necessary. But because there are people out there who continue to support me. So it’s always about gratitude.


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