Kicking off his tour after recently being robbed of the Mercury Music Award 2016, in Glasgow’s Art School, Michael Kiwanuka spoke to The Fountain about his new album and performing back in Scotland for the first time since King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in 2012.
With comparisons to such seminal musicians as Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers, engaging with the audience using his supreme-class stage presence at the art school, Kiwanuka not only played tracks from the album in question for the award, Love & Hate; he also performed tracks from his debut work such as I’m Getting Ready and Always Waiting, which highlighted the vast progression in this talent’s music.
TF: One of the key questions is in relation to being short-listed of the Mercury Music Prize. Would you like to elaborate on that experience?
MK: Yeah, yeah, well the night itself was really fun, and cause everyone performed. It was a shame Radiohead weren’t there, I didn’t know they weren’t gonna be there, that was annoying, but everyone else was there, apart from Bowie obviously.
TF: I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was resurrected from the dead or something.
MK: I know, there was someone there, who did perform something off Black Star, actor Michael C. Hall. That was good. Awe inspiring to see all the bands perform. And then, people were umming an awing about this, about David Bowie possibly winning. There was a nice camaraderie about the awards and it was great for the music. It was really cool.
TF: Obviously for your fans in Scotland it is great that you have kickstarted your tour in Glasgow. The last time you mentioned you had performed in Scotland was in 2011 or 2012. How does it feel to be back and playing here for your first gig of the tour?
MK: I was really nervous and it was really cool, the first gig. I haven’t been on the road in a long time, as I haven’t been in the UK for ages. It’s nice to be back though. It’s a bit nerve-racking when it’s been a while. Tomorrow (8th October) we play Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms and I have never played there before but I hear it’s mad. Venues like this evening, small intimate ones are my favourite ones to play.
TF: You could hear tonight when you were playing the tracks from your first album that you have changed vastly in style from where you are at now with new album, Love & Hate. Can you explain that development, that progression, that change?
MK: Yeah, it came about through putting out a second album and being honest to yourself. I think we have gone deeper with this one. The main goal is to keep it sounding like me. It’s about finding new sounds, deeper is the way I would put it. It came out sounding more soulful with more rhythm to it.
TF: Is that because some of your influences have changed over the years?
MK: Some of them have, yes. I listen to a lot more hip hop albums at the moment now, and the energy with those. Obvious sounds like Kendrick Lamar. It’s about trying to replicate that confidence in yourself but you are also making a second album, so it’s about making a different sound, so we picked up a guitar.
TF: What was your personal highlight of the gig tonight? I enjoyed that session guitar moment during Black Man in a White World – it just blew me away.
MK: Ah man, that was amazing! That was probably one of my favourites of tonight. I had heard that playing Glasgow was great and I felt it straight away but the warmth of the Glasgow crowd really came at that point.
TF: Are there any influences that you would love to collaborate with, dead or alive?
MK: My heroes like the older guys, I would never want to cover or work with. Collaborations at the minute? I would love to work with Kendrick Lamar lyrically.
TF: I would quite like to hear you and Kate Tempest collaborate.
MK: Oh, man, definitely yeah. That would be amazing. Huge fan of that girl right now, she’s lovely.
So not only is he a soon-to-be-soulful-superstar, he is a fanboy or girl like the rest of us with mention here of an appreciation of the music of Radiohead, Bowie, Kate Tempest, Kendrick Lamar and is blown by the warmth of the Glasgow audience. On a high from seeing this Mercury Music nominee perform I’m going to struggle to erase such affecting tracks like One More Night and Love & Hate from my memory. I am just not sure Kiwanuka is aware of the impact he has on the music-aficionados community himself.
Playing Glasgow again in May 2017, do follow Michael Kiwanuka and his current tour by visiting his website.