The Chicago Tribune recently talked with Brian McKnight about his new single, “Forever” and the upcoming album, “Genesis”:
Nominated numerous times for Grammy Awards, singer-songwriter Brian McKnight has racked up other notable achievements, like releasing records that sell more than a million copies.
With a new album in the works, McKnight performs 9 p.m. eastern time Friday at Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Mich.
Titled “Genesis” and due for release Aug. 25, McKnight’s new recording is intended to more or less hit the reset button on a career that motored along back in the 1990s.
“It’s kind of a new beginning; not really starting over, but kind of a rebirth,” McKnight said in a phone interview this month. “I got a great single that’s going up the charts right now.”
“Forever,” the leadoff single from “Genesis,” is a crisp, contemporary love song with an upbeat rhythm-and-blues tone and a stylish accompanying video.
Last year, McKnight signed with the SoNo Recording Group (SRG).
“It is definitely a new start with a great new label,” the 47-year-old McKnight said.
The singer noted that being back on a “major label, with major distribution” has commercial advantages.
“You realize what you were missing when you thought you could do it without them,” McKnight said with a little laugh.
Known for the ’90s hits “Love Is” and “Anytime,” McKnight has been creating new tracks for the current era.
“I’m in the studio right now, recording,” the Los Angeles resident said. “Basically, I’ve been trying for a while to have the perfect combination between what I’ve always done, melded with today’s technology.”
McKnight cites a plethora of musical influences that swing from Stevie Wonder to Steely Dan and from Marvin Gaye to Kenny Loggins.
He also includes “all ’80s rock, all ’80s pop, Michael Jackson, Prince, you name it.”
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., McKnight has soaked up the enviable traits of artists as different as Sting and the Doobie Brothers.
“I mean, I’m a sponge when it comes to music, but I’m also a jazz musician on top of that,” he said.
His official biography states he can play at least nine instruments, among them trombone, tuba, flugelhorn and piano.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, the talents of McKnight have earned him 16 Grammy nominations, although he has never won.
“Let me start out by saying it’d be great to have one,” he said. “But at the same time, I prefer that my success comes from people knowing my music and patronizing my music, which they have from the beginning. So I don’t necessarily need a Grammy to validate my career.”
McKnight’s professional journey has led him to television, where he snared large-scale exposure as a 2009 contestant on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which starred Donald Trump before he won the presidency.
McKnight also brought his star power to radio, hosting a syndicated ABC show that aired in more than 60 markets.
It was 25 years ago, in 1992, that his self-titled debut album, “Brian McKnight,” was released to the public.
“I think that most artists will tell you that stickin’ around as long as you want to, and not when the industry decides you’re done, is the goal that we all have,” McKnight offered.
The versatile performer moved from childhood days in a church choir to stirring success at the end of the 20th century when he sold three million copies of “Back at One” (1999).
Issued by Motown Records, the disc spawned a love ballad with the same title, which was a smash on Billboard’s pop chart, and gave McKnight — who wrote it — his most popular single.
He is now eyeing a new-millennium renaissance.
“I’m still here, still making records, still on the charts, and that’s the thing I’m the most proud of,” McKnight said. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that it would go this long.”
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