Posts tagged Robin Thicke
[Interview] Hidden In Plain Sight: (Re)Introducing Kenna

It wasn't until I was preparing for my interview with Kenna that I finally sat down and did the math: I have been a fan of his music for over a decade now. This summer it will be 11 years since the day I first encountered "Freetime", from his 2003 debut, New Sacred Cow. I remember the day well. I was sitting in my parents house watching MTV2 with a notepad on the coffee table. This was my ritual when my friends were out of suggestions for new bands to listen to. Every few months, I would sit for about an hour and take note of any bands that were worth possibly buying CDs for and then go out and buy them, but only after quizzing myself a few days later when I would look back at the notepad and try to remember anything about the artist. "Freetime" easily passed my silly test. Soon after picking up New Sacred Cow, I set myself on a course that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would lead me to writing the words you are reading today. After moving to NYC in 2006, I would spend random lonely Friday evenings on my laptop, checking up on any bands in my 3rd gen iPod that hadn't released new albums in awhile. This is how I ended up on the Kenna message boards, which is where I met Rocko shortly thereafter, and around 3 years later, SKOA was born.

As a fan, it has been borderline infuriating to see such a talented individual as Kenna not get the recognition he deserves. Also during my MTV2 years there was another song that I remember taking note of, "When I Get You Alone" by the artist  eventually to be known as Robin Thicke. Back then, he had long straggly hair and went only by his last name, but he's been at this game just as long as Kenna, if not longer. Although Kenna has gained a lot of recognition in many musical circles, even receiving a Grammy nomination in 2009, it's hard to not go bonkers that both haven't seen the same level of mainstream success to date. Granted, I thank the universe daily that there is nothing comparable to the notorious twerking incident at last years VMAs synonymous to Kenna's reputation. Even still, I don't know how much longer I can handle introducing people to someone who has simply been hidden in plain sight for a decade now. Take for example that video for "Freetime" that I saw long ago. Typically, debut albums mean a lot of exposure for the artist, their faces are supposed to be plastered everywhere humanly possible. In the case of Kenna, the first and only time you see his face in this video is practically at the end of the song.

Fast forward to mid-November 2013, a month before my interview with Kenna, when I see this familiar-looking face while I'm waiting for the L-train.

Imagine my surprise that the man who can't seem to effectively get in front of a large audience to save his life is suddenly staring back at me like this. A month later, I anxiously got on the phone seeking answers. I had to know, how could someone who seemingly didn't want anyone to know who he was all of a sudden have such a dramatic change of heart? Why had he been hiding all of this time? After a nice chuckle at my reference to waiting for the subway with him that day, the artist I thought I had all figured out very calmly explained, "I wasn't hiding as much as I was mitigating. I wasn't keeping myself from everyone as much as I was waiting to be introduced." He noted that I didn't quite understand what he meant at first, but he went on to explain, "If everyone had song that represented them, mine would be 'Where The Streets Have No Name' [by U2], because it has an incredibly long intro. I'm just getting to the first verse of my life." He added, "As many things as I've done in my life, I've been present, I've been aware, I've been available, but I've also been selective. I think it gives me an opportunity when a lot of my peers have really run their course, reached their pinnacles, and have done really well. They now are left really trying to, like, reinvent constantly. I'm able to come with a fresh perspective, make something that I believe is important, and actually present it because of all the music and artists that have come since that have started to, "pave the highway," if you will, for what I'm going to create next."

"If everyone had song that represented them, mine would be 'Where The Streets Have No Name' [by U2], because it has an incredibly long intro. I'm just getting to the first verse of my life."

That's the thing about Kenna that people take for granted. He'd rather patiently wait for people to come around to the music he's been creating for nearly two decades now before he'd consider compromising what he stands for. Even after losing literally every idea or completed song including his Land 2 Air Chronicles EP series slated for release throughout 2012 to a hard drive crash, he took it in stride.

 According to Kenna, “The fact that I was willing to make a shift and be open to the message that the universe was clearly sending my way” actually led me to make better music in the long run”.  He added,

"I also felt like it was also a signal to me that I needed to work harder, that the universe or god wasn't going to let me put out something that wasn't to par and that maybe at that point that I had resigned a little bit. Even as the [releasing the L2AC series based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Self- Reliance"] idea was the reason why I was making this EP series, to bring this dream into a reality, I think I resigned to a little bit to the fact that there might be a chance that I wouldn't reach my destination. When that happened I just kind of decided, 'Even I won't have control over this destiny, there's something greater that me happening here, and there's something more important than me in this process. It's all the things I've been doing, whether it be philanthropic, clean water, technology, and music. All the areas that I work in, they all are comprised of so many individuals and so many powerful beings that allow me to be great at what I do. I think in that moment I had to realize that I can't do this alone, that I can't climb this mountain by myself again, and that I have to really pull together my allies. That's when, 'Nothing Is Greater Or Less Than Us,' really started to take hold in my world. I just kind of wanted to reiterate that in my actual life as an example."

I had assumed that he re-recorded the songs that he already had planned to release, but in addition to the previously mentioned hard drive crash, he writes his music asymmetrically. As he put it,

"Sometimes I'll be writing a song purely from a melody standpoint and not have any instrumentation and I'll have to build around it. Where I'm not as familiar with is how the organization of how the music was to that melody and then I have to re-devise it because it's not actually complete, like programmed in any way. That's what makes my music so special. It really is one of a kind and it's not something that you can really replicate without having the actual files and so that was the most difficult [about the hard drive crashing]…Those [old/unfinished] songs were great but I had to put away some of those ideas because I didn't remember them, you know?"

Since Kenna was presented with a clean slate for the EP series, he took the opportunity to amplify some of the components of his music. One of the key elements that he decided he wanted to change was his voice. "My voice coach became a critical and pivotal person in my life because I decided then to work really heavily on my voice and build my voice and make it so it was a lot stronger than it was on the first two records."  He admitted to having a "weak" voice. "When I say weak, I don't mean that I can't sing," he said, "I'm just not like Jennifer Hudson, you know what I mean? I don't have a natural voice that just comes to you." He recounted how in his youth that he was practically tone deaf. "I had to work to have a [good singing] voice…" he explained, "I almost couldn't hear things. I just forced it. I just taught myself how to hear keys and notes and I spent a lot of time training my voice." The incident with the hard drives shifted a lot of the way he approached things. "I thought, 'There's no reason why I can't have an epic voice," he said, "there's no reason why I can't have an epic album. There's no reason why I can't have an epic moment. There's no reason why I can't do it for something greater than myself."

This mindset would converge into what we now know as the first two volumes of the Land 2 Air Chronicle series. In their pre-hard drive failure inception, the series was broken into 3 “Volumes”/EPs based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's, "Self-Reliance" essay. Now in their new form, he’s taking advantage of the clean slate in order to more effectively introduce himself to newcomers as he preps for what is sure to be a big year for Kenna.

His latest in the L2AC series, Volume 2: Imitation is Suicide spans 3 Chapters in the form of EPS, which showcase his refined voice and his longstanding ability to write songs about, as he put it,  

“us…. journeys, the human condition, love, confusion, the search for self, [and] social conditions. I write songs about ‘us’ and how we are in all of those situations and how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive others, how perceive family, and whether or not it really is the journey vs. the destination. Sometimes for me it’s the destination and I forget the journey. Sometimes it’s all the journey and I could care less where I’m going. I write songs hoping that it represents, and this sounds really grandiose, the totality of mankind because I’m everybody and everybody’s me...at least I hope.”  

To get better acquainted to Kenna, you can befriend him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Feel free to have a listen to Land 2 Air Chronicles Vol. 2: Imitation Is Suicide (Chapters 1-3) below. If you enjoy it, consider picking them up on iTunes.

[Watch] Queens of the Stone Age in Radio One's Live Lounge

All this week in the UK, Radio One have been having what they call "Rock Week". This means that in the day they've had numerous more rock orientated artists sitting in the live lounge performing some tracks. It's cool, I guess, introducing some people sat at work to bands they may not have heard of before. They also put on bands doing full sets each night.

The one that made me prick up my ears up in the week though was a visit from Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age. They dropped by to perform an acoustic rendition of "My God Is The Sun" along with a cover of Robin Thicke's Pharrell and T.I featuring "Blurred Lines". Watch both of those right now here. If you want the full electric set from the evening you can head over here.

...Like Clockwork is out now.

[Listen] Patrick Stump - "Cute Girls" (Prod By Om'Mas Keith)

Patrick Stump, you're making my insides feel funny. Wow. Never did I think he'd be the Fall Out Boy who would come out on top of the breakup. 

"Cute Girls" sound ridiculously Michael Jackson/Robin Thicke/Prince/Pharell-ish. I just hope ol' Patty has been working on his live performance. If he can pull this off live... dang. 

Om'Mas Keith, if I had a hat it would be off to you for this track. 

Patrick Stump - "Cute Girls" (Prod By Om'Mas Keith) by Some Kind of Awesome

Mayer Hawthorne Announces Massive North American Tour

Okay, so Rocko and I are a little late on the Mayer Hawthorne bandwagon, but man are we glad to be on it now! Some days you don't want music that has been polished and shined to perfection. Not to say that this isn't gorgeous, but the very first listen you think you're listening to some timeless 1950s record. I think in my dream world I envisioned Robin Thicke eventually putting out an album that sounded like this. His debut album, A Strange Arrangement, takes your brain to a place where your worries melt away since you're not even in the right decade/millenium, after all. 

Fortunately for those of us in North America, Hawthorne will be heading out for a month long tour in March with his band The County. His tour starts in NYC at Webster Hall (yippee for me!), with Nikki Jean (pianist for Philidelphia band Nouveau Riche), makes a couple stops at SXSW, and then heads off to open for Passion Pit 2ish weeks before he croons the crowds at Coachella

I loveeee these songs, do you? 

"Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" 

"Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'"

 

Check Mayer Hawthorne And The County On Tour!

 

MH & THE COUNTY W/ NIKKI JEAN SUPPORTING
March 4th  Webster Hall  New York, NY 
March 5th  Ottobar   Baltimore, MD 
March 6th  Pearl Street  Northampton, MA 
March 7th  Paradise Rock Club  Boston, MA 
March 9th  The First Unitarian Church  Philadelphia, PA 
March 10th  Rock and Roll Hotel  Washington, DC 
March 12th  The Jewish Mother  Virginia Beach, VA 
March 13th  The Loft  Atlanta, GA 
March 15th  The Parish at House of Blues  New Orleans, LA 
March 16th  The Loft  Dallas, TX 
March 17th  Warehouse Live Studio  Houston, TX 
March 22nd  Proud Larry's  Oxford, MS 
March 23rd  Exit/In  Nashville, TN 
March 24th  Zanzabar  Louisville, KY 
March 26th  St. Andrew's Hall  Detroit, MI 
March 27th  Wrongbar  Toronto, ONT 
MH & THE COUNTY @ SXSW (MORE INFO TO COME)
March 18th  SXSW  Austin, TX 
March 19th  SXSW  Austin, TX 
March 20th  SXSW  Austin, TX 
MH & THE COUNTY SUPPORTING PASSION PIT
March 28th  Town Ballroom  Buffalo, NY
March 29th  The Pullo Center  York, PA
March 30th  House of Blues  Cleveland, OH 
March 31st   Newport Music Hall  Columbus, OH 
April 2nd  Congress Theatre  Chicago, IL
April 3rd  Turner Hall  Milwaukee, WI 
April 4th  First Avenue  Minneapolis, MN
April 5th  Beaumont Theatre  Kansas City, MO
April 7th  Ogden Theatre  Denver, CO 
April 8th  In the Venue  Salt Lake City, UT
April 10th  McDonald Theatre  Eugene, OR
April 11th  Commodore Ballroom  Vancouver, BC
April 12th  Roseland Theatre  Portland, OR
April 14th  UC Davis (Freeborn Hall)  Davis, CA 
April 15th  Warfield  San Francisco, CA 
MH & THE COUNTY @ COACHELLA
April 18th:  Coachella  Indio, CA