Singer, song writer and musician KEM has come a long way from his days of drug and alcohol abuse. Specializing in what I like to call “grown folks” music, he is back with his new album Intimacy. KEM claims this album is a reflection of where he is in life and what it took to bring him here.
Brown Sista: For those who may be unfamiliar with your musical background, can you tell me how you first got involved with music?
KEM: I started playing music when I was a toddler. I started playing the piano. It was the driving force behind my songwriting, which eventually led to singing and playing in bands. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was very small.
Brown Sista: Most kids don’t just pick up an instrument versus a toy. Do you remember what made you gravitate towards the piano?
KEM: My Grandparents had a piano. Kids like things that make noise. My first musical memories are of sitting at the piano and trying to play Gospel songs that I heard. My Grandfather was a Baptist minister and it resonated with me. The idea that I could somehow create music fascinated me at a young age.
Brown Sista: You have been through a lot throughout your life. You were also once on drugs and an alcoholic. How do you think those experiences manifested in your life?
KEM: I think that they added the element of humility. I guess if you call yourself humble then you aren’t humble (laughs). It gives me a different perspective on my life in general. I’m very grateful.
Brown Sista: Who inspires you musically?
KEM: I am a sucker for a good song so it can range from Smokie Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan. There are so many more artists. More than one. If I had to say one it would be Michael Jackson.
Brown Sista: Why Michael?
KEM: He was electrifying. He made you want to do what he was doing. He made you want to be good at what you did. Michael was more of the dancing and Prince was more of the multi musical side. They made you want to be as good as they were.
Brown Sista: The new album Intimacy. Is there an immediate difference that you can think of in this album versus the others? Did you approach it differently? Also, what does the title mean?
KEM: It is a collection of songs, which reflect a man’s desire to go deeper in his relationship. Recognizing that there are deeper levels of relationships with family and friends. It is not just about the intimacy between a man and a woman. It could be the relationship between you and your family and the closeness that your are building with one another.
Brown Sista: Is that something that you are currently going through in your own life?
KEM: Uhm , yeah. Always. We are always in a relationship. Whether it is good or bad. When we think of intimacy we think of a lover and it is only intimate if it is good. But it is also intimate when it is bad. You can be holding each other or cussing each other out at 3 o’clock in the morning. So that’s the direction of this record. It is different from the others because there is a co-producer on this record, Rex . I brought him down from Los Angeles. Some of the songs required a level of production that I was not able to foster which I can accept. Jill Scott is also on this record. There are other collaborators as far as writers on this album as well.
Brown Sista: Most celebrities prefer not to speak about their darkest moments. However, you are very candid about your battle with drugs and alcohol. Why is that?
KEM: If I can inspire someone else to overcome whatever they may be dealing with in their lives then that is what I want. When we are brought through something, it is not just for ourselves but to be a witness to other folks.
Brown Sista: Any idea when there might be a video for the first single “Why Would You Stay?”
KEM: We were working out the details for that today.
Brown Sista: I like to ask this to everyone that I interview. Can you tell me something about yourself that your biggest fan would not know about you? I asked this to Lela James recently and she told me she likes to smooch Doritos in between her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
KEM: Whoa! I used to eat peanut butter and Doritos when I was smoking weed (laughs). That’s a weed smoker’s meal. Lela might be hitting it. Nah, I’m kidding. She is disturbed though. (laughs)
Brown Sista: (laughs)
KEM: I eat chitterlings.
Brown Sista: Can you cook them?
KEM: Nah, there is only one source and that is Moma’s house.
Brown Sista: You don’t want to be over there picking and cleaning them but you want to eat them.
KEM: Absolutely. I would do that to if I was so inclined.
Brown Sista: Can you cook? Are you involved with someone? These are the things that the female fans want to know.
KEM: I can hold it down in the kitchen for myself. I do a nice salmon. I do a nice breakfast. I do spaghetti and pasta. Yeah I am involved. Everything is good for me on that front. She can cook too. (laughs)
La’Juanda “LJ” Knight