Q&A: Catching up with Brian McKnight ahead of his SA tour

RnB singer Brian McKnight. (Reuters)

RnB singer Brian McKnight. (Reuters)

Brian McKnight launched his music career with his platinum selling self-titled debut album in 1992, which included hits One Last Cry and Never Felt This Way. The success of One Last Cry helped cement McKnight’s place in the music industry but many hit records were to follow: I Remember You (1995), Anytime (1997), and Back at One (1999), which is his most successful album to date. 

He has since released over 15 albums, selling over 30-million copies worldwide. For all his success as an artist, McKnight has never quite got the nod for a Grammy award. The Back at One crooner holds the record for having received 16 Grammy Awards nominations without a win.
This lack of recognition from the recording academy is quite a thorny issue among industry insiders and fans and the only person who seems to be graceful about it is McKnight himself. We caught up with the singer via email ahead of his tour, The Sequel Tour, in South Africa this month. 

This is not your first time in South Africa. What does this tour mean to you?
It means the world to me that people over there still want to see and hear me. 

What has been your prior knowledge on South African music? Are there any South African musicians whose works you’re familiar with? 
I still remember the first time I heard Jonathan Butler. I couldn’t believe how awesome he was and I tell him that every time I see him.

Can you tell us a bit about the band you are performing with during your South African tour?
My guys have been with me a long time. We are like brothers and it shows on stage. I call them the A team because they murder the stage every night.

A certain US singer you might know had a fan bring a pot of Chitlin’s to a show once. What have been some of your most interesting fan stories?
Let’s just say in 20 years I’ve seen it all and leave it at that.

You had an opportunity to work with United States pianist and producer David Foster who is said to have perfect pitch. What stood out for you about his work ethic?
David has always been a mentor of mine. He’s the bar that we all hope to reach for.

Over the years you’ve worked with famous a cappella groups such as Take 6 and Boyz II Men. Do the collaborations say anything about your love for closed harmony groups?
Singing in harmony - based groups is where I started and it’s always great to go back to my roots. 

For a keyboard player you have an amazing ear for intricate chord changes. Can you tell us about your training and your love for harmonies?
It’s really all in my ears. I’m an old Jazz cat and I’ve tried to incorporate that love into contemporary music a la Steely Dan.

Among the current crop of keyboard players and producers coming out of the United States, who do you think is worth looking out for?
Aaron Pearce. [Aaron Pearce is a Grammy Award winning Producer/Songwriter who’s worked with the likes of Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige. Pearce has also scored, produced, and written for Films like The Lorax and others.]

In terms of song writing, what’s your writing routine like?
All day every day any time anywhere.

For a performer do you keep any gambits or rituals before you come on?
Yes, chewing a stick of 5 gums.

Brian McKnight performs at Grand West Casino in Cape Town on September 17 and in Jo’burg at Carnival City on September 19.

*This article has been updated

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