One of the most exciting new artists to emerge on the R&B/soul scene has finally arrived. His name? Kevin Michael. The 22-year-old has already scored tracks with Wyclef Jean and Lupe Fiasco for his self-titled debut album, but even without the big name collaborators, strip Kevin Michael's new single, "It Don't Make Any Difference To Me," right down to the core and you can really hear the soul in his voice reverberate through your speakers. A refreshing addition to the music industry, Kevin Michael is sure to make waves across the globe -- and it's not hard to see why.WAIT... THERE'S MORE STUFF
BallerStatus.com gets talking to the boy wonder...
BallerStatus.com: You've just released your debut album, so tell us a bit about what people can look forward to.
Kevin Michael: It's definitely a mix of funk, R&B, soul... it's hip-hop, it's pop, it's a little bit of rock -- it's just me. I don't try to categorize it, I just make good music and hope people enjoy it. And if they don't, that's fine too. There's 13 songs on the album and I co-wrote nine of them. I love to write and express myself lyrically.
BallerStatus.com: Who or what were your musical influences growing up?
Kevin Michael: My biggest inspiration was my father. He was like my personal little celebrity. He played in a funk band, so a lot of Rick James, a lot of Prince, George Clinton and the Funkadelics, Cameo and you know, crazy people like that. I listened to a lot of what was on the radio then too, so definitely a lot of Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Erykah Badu, lots of different stuff. I enjoy all kinds of music, all across the board, so as long as it's good it doesn't bother me.
BallerStatus.com: You've already been hailed as the next great soul star, but you're only 22. Is that a daunting prospect for you?
Kevin Michael: Honestly, and I don't mean to be cocky, but it feels right. It feels like it's the right time because everything I've done in my life has led up to this moment, and I've never been more ready. I guess it's taken me my whole life to get to this point, but technically, I've been shopping for a deal since I was 16/17, so I've been grinding. I caught the attention of the guys at my label... I met the head of the label in 2004/2005, but even signing the deal took 11 months because they were working on getting money and distribution for Downtown Records. And then to actually negotiate a deal, it took four or five months, so I signed in January 2006.
BallerStatus.com: You've got a song dedicated to Michael Jackson on the album...
Kevin Michael: Actually, other people called it that, but I actually wrote it with Marvin Gaye in mind. I was trying to channel Marvin, but it's kind of Quincy-esque, kind of Off The Wall era, so that's why people have called it an ode to Michael Jackson.
BallerStatus.com: You've got about five different collaborations on this album. Was there anyone you wanted to work with but couldn't?
Kevin Michael: Oh sure, but we can't talk about that politically. Erm, my label would kill me. Nah, there were a lot of people that I wanted and if I'm really honest, there are some people on the album that... never mind. Moving on, moving on...
BallerStatus.com: OK... what about producer-wise? Who would you like to work with next time around?
Kevin Michael: I'd definitely wanna reach out to Kanye. And I don't know if he'd be producing or recording an album or not, but if not, I'd like to work with Danja (a.k.a. Timbaland's protégé, Nate Hills). I love Polow Da Don. I wanna work with Brian Kidd again, 'cause he's my favorite producer to work with so far. I'm into everything, I'm not afraid to give someone who maybe not the most famous producer in the world a chance.
BallerStatus.com: You mentioned Kanye West just then. I guess you were rooting for Kanye in the chart battle versus 50 Cent?
Kevin Michael: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I haven't even heard the 50 Cent album, so I can't tell you how that is, but I know I bought Kanye's the day it came out. I love the album. I got to see him in Las Vegas, twice actually. One was at the VMAs (MTV Video Music Awards in September ‘07), and he really sold it for me.
BallerStatus.com: Looking at today's music scene, who are you fans of?
Kevin Michael: I really love Beyoncé, I love Justin, what he's doing... Chris Brown is phenomenal to me. I can't wait for Usher to come back; I can't wait to hear what he's got coming. I don't know if Kelis is working on anything, but I love Kelis. Umm... Pharrell. I think T.I. is phenomenal. OutKast, I love them. I'm really into songwriters, so I like there's this new girl Cassidy who's on my album, she's amazing to me.
[With rock], I love the greats. I think a lot of what is classed as "rock" music now isn't really "rock," but we won't go into that. I love Led Zeppelin. I'm a Ramones fan, I love that whole beginning of punk era; Bad Brains; I love Nirvana; I love Nine Inch Nails, I think Trent Reznor is amazing. Umm, the Foreigner is great. Jimi Hendrix... Like, for me to hear Led Zeppelin and then hear what's on the radio today, I'm just like, "whatever."
BallerStatus.com: You're going on tour with Maroon 5 soon. How do you prepare for such big shows? Do you have a pre-show ritual or anything like that?
Kevin Michael: Hmm... I guess, drink a cup of tea? It's not a big thing, but I guess... I like to be by myself at least for about 10 minutes before I go on stage. I also like to be with my band, because I wanna feel the energy, get things right before I get on stage.
BallerStatus.com: What does your backstage rider consist of?
Kevin Michael: No certain color underwear, or just brown M&Ms or anything like that. Mainly fruit, lots of water... and that's about it, because right now I just get the short end of the stick, but that's alright.
BallerStatus.com: You've already made an impact on the U.S. market. How has your first taste of fame affected your lifestyle, if at all?
Kevin Michael: Oh God. Nobody knows me when I walk down the street. But I'm sure it will change soon. When I'm out, I'm never in "Kevin Michael" mode or anything.
BallerStatus.com: You've had a cameo on ABC's "Lincoln Heights" recently. Is acting something you aspire to as a career as well?
Kevin Michael: Oh yes, but no disrespect to "Lincoln Heights," it was cute and that was fun, but not that level of acting at all. I wasn't really taking it seriously and I wanna have the time to dedicate to it. I never want to do anything half-assed so you know, hopefully I'll get to take a year off or something, five or six years from now, hire an acting coach and learn the technique, and get in there. That's where I see myself in the long run.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think about R&B/hip-hop stars moving into Hollywood and the acting scene. Do you think it's taken away from the art at all?
Kevin Michael: Yes, I agree with that, but I think there are a few that are great. I think Ludacris is really good... so yeah, I guess it is a trend, but I don't like to follow trends. I like to make my own trends, so I'd rather be seen as a good actor.
Kevin Michael's debut album is out on Downtown Records/Atlantic now. For more information, check out KevinMichael.com.
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