R&B Star Brian McKnight Talks New Tour, New Music, and Competing with Miley Cyrus — Exclusive
Proving you don’t need backup dancers, controversial lyrics, or a flesh-colored bikini to make a lasting impression in the music industry, R&B hit maker Brian McKnight — who first shot to fame more than two decades ago — is about to go on tour with his fifteenth album, More Than Words.
As someone who’s had such a long and well-respected career, we couldn’t help but wonder what his take was on some of the more, ahem, attention-seeking acts of today that seem to be less focused on the music and more on the shock value. He gave us his thoughts on Miley Cyrus, music, and life on the road.
Wetpaint Entertainment: How would you describe the sound of More Than Words?
Brian McKnight: I don’t think it fits into any particular genre. There’s some of it that has an '80s sound, because that’s my favorite time period. There’s a few classic ballads. It’s soul music, not so much in a James Brown sense, but in the sense that it comes from my soul.
And now you’re about to hit the road with it.
Well, I’m in the touring business. I do about a hundred shows a year. This is 16-city U.S. tour that starts in November, then we go to Australia then Europe then Asia.
What inspires you when you go into the studio?
My life inspires it. What happens to me and around me comes out in the music.
You know, I listen to the same music, like Marvin Gaye, that I’ve been listening to my whole life. The classics. So when I’m working, I try to create music that won’t be gone, say, five minutes from now.
So we have to ask, a lot of music today seems more about the show, not the sound. What did you think of Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance?
Well, what’s interesting to me is that on a night where Justin [Timberlake] gets back together with 'N Sync and does a performance where he basically brings the house down, you’re asking me about Miley. That’s why she did it. I have to think it was so calculated and at the forefront of her mind — that she wanted people to talk about her and not anyone else from that night. I think she accomplished what she set out to do.
Well, what do you think of that kind of strategy?
It’s about what’s trending — it’s the world that we live in. And I think for those people who are willing to do anything to capture that, there’s a place for them and there’s a blueprint for how do it and it’s called Kim Kardashian.
The problem for Miley is now she’s going to have to find a way to outdo herself. How’s she going to top that?
You’ve had so many awards and nominations. Does winning motivate you?
Awards don’t motivate me, they never did. But when someone comes up to me and says, "We listened to your song to make our kids," or "My wife walked down the aisle to your song," that’s an award to me. They’re still paying money to come and see me? That’s much bigger reward to me than something sitting on my mantle.