Funk soul-child and Prince’s other-dimension offspring, Kevin Michael, recently released a video ep for his song Sometimes from the Brainwa$h project. If you’re not familiar (shame on you!) he’s penned collaborations with artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Q-Tip, Wyclef Jean and RnB Diva’s LA star Claudette Ortiz. He’s also done some amazing covers including SWV’s “Use Your Heart” and Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones”. Most recently he’s released two LP’s Lisa and Brainwa$h in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Live Civil got a chance to chat with Kevin about the Brainwa$h project, some clarity on the imagery used in his “Sometimes” video and a few other things, check it below!
LC: At the top of the year you released Brainwa$h which was very different sonically from last year’s Lisa. The soul, funk and rock influences fans are familiar with were still there but what was the inspiration behind these largely experimental concept albums?
Kevin Michael: I usually go into the writing & recording of my projects with a definitive concept and/or tone that I’m trying to capture through the music. With LISA I knew for sure that the sound was going to be rooted in the 80s, and that the songs needed to translate equally as well live or played in clubs, but Brainwa$h was completely different. For one, I did the bulk of the album by myself…meaning I really had to rely on my gut instincts as to song structure, transitions & overall feel of the project. Secondly, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to talk about on this one…it wasn’t until I recorded “Sometimes” did I get the idea to center the entire body of work around aspects of my personal life. This mixtape is by far my most candid, and I think that’s largely the reason people gravitated to it.
Live Civil: It’s a lot of work having that type of creative control, what is your current label situation? Are you independent, still with Downtown Records, or some hybrid of the two?
KM: Currently I am independent. It’s just me & my MacBook.
LC: As an independent artist how gratifying was it for you to receive the type of love you did for Brainwa$h? Will this affect the way you approach projects in the future?
KM: I am always nervous when I release a new work, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. So for people to enjoy it the way they did, it’s really fulfilling for me. As an artist it’s my job to refine my own tastes, predict where trends are going and push the musical envelope in that direction. That’s my formula, and I’m sticking to it!
LC: You also released a line of soaps under the name “Brainwa$h” shortly after the EP came out as a sort of companion to the project. How well was this received from fans and what were/are your plans for the line? I.e. can we expect to see a more in-depth foray into bath & body or was this a one time thing?
KM: The line of soaps were meant to be a one-off product in support of the mixtape. I just thought it would be an interesting tongue-in-cheek way to play on the theme Brainwa$h. We only made them in limited numbers, but we sold out. The same thing with my t-shirt collaboration with iiiRDEYE. We took a lyric from “Sometimes” and put it on the front of a shirt. It’s not necessarily about money, it’s about getting out all the ideas in my head & materializing them…bringning positivity into the world. So yes, you can expect more from me in both the holistic & fashion worlds.
LC: Now moving to the video for Sometimes you recently put out, there was a lot of strong imagery used can you give us the official interpretation of what that video is about and how it relates to the song?
KM: I think people know by now, with everything I do, there’s a certain level of “openendedness” that I try to leave up to the listener/viewer’s imagination…so there is no “official” interpretation, but I can tell you what I got from the video. For me it’s a narrative of how I felt I was treated in the music industry; ignored, pushed around & stepped on. For so long I was chasing around a briefcase that may, or may not, have contained a record deal, money, corporate sponsorships, etc. It’s a way of liberating myself and declaring, “I’m here, I’m important & I have something unique to say.
LC: Speaing of having something to say, in a message to your fans who watched the Sometimes vid you used the phrase “…my way of closing the project on a high note.” You also mention moving on to new musical endeavors. What are some of the frustrations you faced with this particular project and how did these differ from other albums?
KM: I honestly have no frustrations about the project. What I will say is that this body of work was not an easy one, to create or to listen to. Brainwa$h was literally designed to make you stop, listen, think & reflect. It’s hard to stand out in a music/business model that is designed to do the exact opposite. And so this mixtape has given me an opportunity to observe what my audience wants from me as an artist, and how I can further get my message across, and how to deliver it in a more commercially acceptable format.
LC: Being commercially acceptable and remaining true to your artistry is something we’ve all seen so many artist struggle with, having “toed the line” so to speak, do you feel you’ll be able to more confidently satisfy the masses without compromising the integrity of your work?
KM: Well it’s my personal belief that “indie” is the new pop, so I think I’m ahead of the game in that respect. No…but seriously though, I am more than confident the next project will reach a more broader audience, simply by virtue of it’s content & look. Integrity & soulfullness are two things that I refuse to compromise on, so my audience never has to worry about that.
LC: What are the new musical endeavors you’re pursuing; what’s next for Kevin Michael?
KM: I’m actually working on securing some live dates for the fall. I’m finally ready to get back on the road! My supporters ask all the time when & where can they see me perform, so I think it’s only fair I do a few shows. Other than that, I’ve already taken the time to conceptualize my next project, so it’s just about putting all the creative pieces together. I’m really going to take my time with the next one though, so don’t expect it anytime soon.
A special shout out to friend of the site Kevin Michael for such a great interview! While he’ll be taking some time on this new project you can use this opportunity to enjoy and re-familiarize yourself with his work. Check him out in via Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp, Youtube, Soundcloud and Facebook! Oh and one of MY personal favorites is Lady Killer from the Lisa EP, get into it!
Atlantic RecordsBrainwa$hDowntown RecordsKevin MichaelLisaPrinceRyan SidesSometimes