K.Michelle’s Honesty ::: Annoying Comparison’s to Keyshia Cole, Music, Her White Boyfriend, Schwarzenegger & More!
I sat down with songstress K. Michelle for an interview to openly discuss her career, the music industry (that she’s very much frustrated with), her son (whom she’s very protective of), her boyfriend (who happens to be white with an interesting career) and that shocking choice of hair color. I’ll say that out of all of the interviews that I’ve had (and not like I’ve conducted a million of them), K. Michelle was the most candid and forthcoming. Peep the interview to catch a glimpse into this Memphis songstress’ head.
I know you write, produce and perform. Which do you prefer? “I would say, I like the writing part and being in the studio better because it’s just a time for me to get out everything that I’m going through. There are no distractions and I can do what I want to.”
Can you explain the concept behind “How Many Times”? What you were thinking when you wrote it and what is the song about? “I really wanted the video to be a performance video. I didn’t want to show him doing me bad. When I say “how many times,” I mean different things other than a man. So I really wanted a performance video. The movements and the video are just as dramatic as the song.”
What can we expect from your upcoming album and did you touch on men and relationships? “Well, it’s not a male bashing album; it’s a life album, things we struggle with from our sexuality to domestic violence. So this album is about life, it’s not about male bashing. Yeah, it’s a part of life; dating. But it’s not the whole album.”
So, you’re from Memphis, you’re a musician and you play the piano. How does that give you an advantage over other artists in this genre? “I think when it comes to live performing and when it comes to vocals and things like that, piano is the basis of a lot of music and I have a good trained ear because of piano. So, a lot of times, when it comes to recording and things like that, my melodies are different and it’s just easier for me to move within music.”
How long have you been playing the piano and does country music influence your sound or what you create musically? “ Wow, over 13 years; a long time. Country music tells stories and I like to tell stories through my music. So listening to country really improves my songwriting.”
I read somewhere, and I’m not sure if this is true or not, that you won Ms. FAMU…”Yes. I graduated in 2003.”
So were you really popular in college? “Yeah, I was really popular.”
Did people know you could sing and stuff? Or was that a secret? “Oh no! Everyone knew I could sing. I sang a lot around campus. I was Ms. Freshman my freshman year, and I was in the show choir group called FAMU Connection and we did a lot of recruiting for the school and SGA events. I also pledged Delta.”
So you work with R. Kelly, how did you meet him? “When my label signed me within a week they took me to him and we’ve been friends ever since.”
So is there anything, as far as work goes, that the public would be surprised about as far as R. Kelly’s work ethic? “No, he really works hard and he’s just a normal person. He’s a lot of fun and he’s a sweet heart but other than that, no.”
Is there anyone in your genre that you admire or that you would like to work with? “Well in my genre… yeah, there are a lot of people but I basically think my genre has been screwed up by my record label because I’m definitely not a full out R&B artist and that’s why you have to watch as an artist how you’re portrayed. So in the genre that I consider myself, I would love to work with Jessie J, I really like her.”
How would you describe your music and who you are musically? “Really musically, I love acoustic music with guitars and things like that. I listen to a lot of country music and that’s how I grew up, more of an acoustic singer. I’m more of a rhythmic artist; and this void that people are trying to put me in – Mary and Keyshia is really annoying. It’s really depressing…”
Really? Why? At least it’s not somebody wack…”Because I’m not any of them. So it’s really depressing when your label has put you out there wrong. And I don’t mind being the voice of women, because that doesn’t change me. I want to help women. But, for artists, it gets kind of discouraging when the people that they’ve compared you to really don’t even think like or relate to you.”
Well if there was someone, who would you say you were similar to? And I’m not saying you are like “Girl A”, but if there was someone that was a closer fit? “I really don’t know. That’s the problem. My label doesn’t even know. I just do music. I like a certain kind of music so when it comes to these songs, it’s just me being creative. Yes I can do R&B and I have and I love R&B. I’m not walking away from R&B but I just feel very unfulfilled right now. So, I really don’t know who I would be compared to.”
What do you mean by you feel really unfulfilled right now? “I don’t like it. I don’t like my job…
Is it, it’s the business behind it? “That, and I just don’t like it. I don’t like the job.”
So how would you change it if you could? “I would just not be so stressed and pressed with finding this radio hit and kissing radio’s ass and going through all that. I would just be music. That’s one thing I do like about R. Kelly. When I’m around him, it’s just about music and we create what we want to. It’s not about we gotta make this big urban smash or we have to make this big country smash. It’s just go sing. And I feel like after I got signed I lost a lot of that passion to just really sing.”
So how do you handle that? Like do you think some of it is pressure you put on yourself or is it just other people’s expectations on you? “Yeah, it’s a lot of pressure. I’m really not dealing with it well right now. I’m very honest. I’m really not. I really want to be set free so I can love music again. So, it is a lot of pressure when you build a fan base and you have a lot of women that look to you for a certain kind of music and it’s kind of difficult because you don’t want to abandon those women even though the topics are the same. But at the same time, you aren’t happy. But I’m just a big believer and a strong believer that music doesn’t have a color or a genre and it’s the same pain and it’s the same emotion that touches us all. It’s one common thread, it shouldn’t be about whether it’s R&B, if it’s rhythmic, if its country. So, I’m just kind of really just pulling away at this point in my career.”
Wow you are really honest. This is the first time anyone has ever said that to me… ever! You know, but from the outside looking in, we always hear there’s pressure from labels, there’s pressure to meet certain people’s expectations and I guess I never really thought about the fact that certain people do look at you like the new Keyshia Cole and you don’t necessarily want to let that particular segment down. “Yeah because now when you look at Keyshia Cole and people are on her case because she’s happy. Like, I’m definitely not gonna get stuck in that because I don’t even hate men right now. It’s not a Black male bashing thing because the man I date now is White, so I don’t even understand… I’m not like that. I just love music.”
So, I hear that women are very important to you as far as self-esteem issues–can you speak on how that’s important to you? “One thing I will accept is being a women’s advocate because I’ve just been through so much as a woman and learned a lot and I am a survivor of domestic violence and I am now working with the National Network to End Domestic Violence and that’s important. So, that’s something that I wanted to take on. I just love trying to help women. I don’t know what it is, I just love it.”
What kind of advice would you give to me who may or may not be in an abusive relationship? “You can’t give any advice to anyone like that because they have to want it to be over for themselves. You can only tell them and show them your story and other people’s stories and how they ended up. But you can never say ‘oh you gotta get away, you gotta leave.’ I was gonna say that but then I thought about my situation and you don’t hear that because it’s the common thing to say. It’s like you tell your daughter don’t go have sex or tell kids to go to school. They don’t wanna hear that. You have to take a different approach and the approach is basically, just saying “ok, you weigh your pros and cons. Either you’re gonna end up dead, or you’re gonna end up with a beat-in face.” You just have to talk to people differently.”
And so you have a son. How does having a child influence your career? Is being a mother hard to balance? “Well, my son is 7, so he sees a lot and he hears a lot. It makes me work harder. I don’t like sitting around. When I leave him to work, I actually work. It makes me work hard, it makes me more passionate. It makes the burden of music more heavy on me because it’s a job. It has to be because I have to feed him. So, you know it’s a good and a bad thing and then I’m still a young woman with a child so I still do young woman things that might not be in the eye sight of the public as the best things to do as a woman with a child but I’m still growing and he’s growing with me, he’s my son.”
So everyone’s talking about the blue hair… What made you want to get the blue hair?
KM: “Because I wanted it and I like it and I really don’t plan on changing it for a long time.”
You mentioned you had a White boyfriend. Is that experience any different from dealing with a Black man or a Latino man? “I’m happier. I never wanted to date outside of my race and this was my first time. To me it’s completely different, but that’s just the man I found. It’s probably not the same because all men aren’t the same; we’re all human. But this situation has been better for me. He’s more respectable. And it could be me just not accepting anything but respect in my life at this point.”
Is he in the industry? “No, he’s an Olympic gold medalist. He’s a swimmer.”
Do you know how to swim? “No, not at all.”
Is he gonna help you learn to swim? “He says he’s gonna help me girl, but I’m still black with my hair. I still be like “No, I look too good, maybe next time.”
Can your son swim? “Nope. Maybe when the time is right. I don’t bring men I date around my son until I’m about to really go in… so maybe one day he’ll teach him.”
Now this is totally non-related to anything but what do you think about this Arnold Schwarzenegger thing? “He’s human. He’s a man. Like I don’t know why we mess with people and their personal life, that’s where this industry got it twisted. What I do behind closed doors is what I do and as long as he’s doing his job… I never commend a man for infidelity, especially when a woman is so strong like his wife is and such an advocate that women look up to. That really pains me and bothers me a lot. But am I going to say he’s the scum of the earth; that he’s Bin Laden or anything? No. He’s human. He’s showing disloyalty but a lot of men still do it. It’s done a lot and just because he’s in a public position and he’s supposed to have that family loyalty and the All-American values… but he isn’t even American is he? So I don’t know…But it is what it is. He has to answer to God, I can’t judge that man.”
In whichever direction K.Michelle decides to go or grow in, I’m rooting for her. Truth and all. For all things K.Michelle, visit www.kmichellemusic.com/.