With a career spanning over two decades, highlighted by his 1996 breakthrough single "Never Too Busy", wedding staple "For You" and an NAACP Image Award for Best New Artist, Grammy nominated R&B singer-songwriter Kenny Lattimore returns with his 10th overall album Here to Stay available on all major music platforms via The SRG/ILS Group in partnership with SincereSoul Records. I caught up with the Washington DC native to discuss the album, his journey as an artist, upcoming tour and more.
TERRANCE: You recently celebrated 25 years since your self-titled debut album. What has the journey been like from then to now?
KENNY LATTIMORE: Wow! The journey has been so interesting. I'm watching an artist get comfortable in his own skin and watching an evolution. I also happen to be an artist that has recorded with almost ten or more different major labels. It was a journey that was really tough considering the fact most people don't have careers that have experienced that, because you're constantly starting over from zero to tell people who you are and to prove something over and over again, so when I think of those 25 years I'm grateful that through collaboration I was able to find people who respected my legacy, but understood the future of music and even when they didn't understand the future of music, they were able to give me just advice about different projects and how to approach albums, so that I could continue creating, because I have to admit there was a time where I just didn't know who I was anymore as an artist. People talk about cover songs and all that and thank God I had a lot of success with cover songs, but there was a time when I needed to do those cover songs because I didn't know what I sounded like anymore as a singer and once I gained my confidence as an original creator again, it allowed me to be in a space to create new music, but it wasn't until then that I was able to do like Anatomy of a Love Song. Since then I've done a lot of original music, but my Timeless project, I needed that project. I had came out of singing so many duets and covers after my first few albums, so this journey has been full of twists and turns, but I thank God for just having great people around me to keep me encouraged and allow me to be experimental in the process and not lock me in and see me as one dimensional because sometimes that happens too.
TERRANCE: Talk about the direction you took sonically for your new album Here to Stay.
KENNY LATTIMORE: The album as a whole put me in the position to be a student to the main producer whose Madicin aka Dra-kkar Wesley. We call him Madicin as an artist, and as I kind of sat at his feet making the project, he just kept challenging me to step outside of my comfort zone like, let's try this with this sound and that with this sound and each song was like a process of discovery and it took boundaries off of me which I've always wanted to be a singer that had no boundaries and when I say no boundaries I mean I was raised singing Jazz, Classical music and different things like that, so then when it gets into this modern day sound I was like, Hey how can I do it and not have boundaries in the modern sound? So that's what this whole process has been like, collaborating with people that are going to stretch me a bit. (Laughs).
TERRANCE: So give us a little backstory about the songs starting with the opening track "Nothing On You".
KENNY LATTIMORE: Well, the whole album is inspired lyrically by my relationship and marriage to Faith Jenkins, so "Nothing On You" really is about that. I'm just starting over and I didn't realize it would be as beautiful as it is, but I'm ready to give everything that I need to give because I look at marriage as a position of servitude and I wanted to come in healthy and whole and able to serve and give her what she deserved. I bring happiness, wholeness and healthiness and all of that, so that is where "Nothing On You" is.
TERRANCE: "Never Knew"
KENNY LATTIMORE: I loved going back and partnering with Daryl Simmons because I have had success with him with "If I Lose My Woman", so doing this song allowed me to just revisit some of the sounds of traditional. But even Daryl is evolving as a producer and surrounding himself with young producers to make sure the sound is today, so I loved the fact that he's given me all of the traditional elements like the hooks but with a little more subbase in it.
TERRANCE: "Only Girl"
KENNY LATTIMORE: This song was produced by Darren "Champ" Jenkins and what's beautiful about that is he was a baby, like a young toddler running around while his father did the demo for the first album at Columbia. His father had songs on my first album, so this is the second generation producing on this album which I felt was just a full circle moment. I held on to that song for about a year and a half prior and when I heard it, I was like, this I can do.
TERRANCE: "All In"
KENNY LATTIMORE: Madicin took his pen back to it. It reminded me of "Full Moon" by Brandy with all the backgrounds. That's what I loved about that song and I thought this is so great and then I wrote a little bit on too where I thought about my relationship again and then just diving in, but wanting to give back my audience the romantic sound.
TERRANCE: "What Are You Waiting For?"
KENNY LATTIMORE: That was my fun song and it was one of the last songs, if not the last song recorded for the album. I knew I had all of these beautiful ballads and I thought, let's do something funky and unexpected and different that would just break up everything, because I didn't want people to listen to the album and feel like it's just one thing. So I wanted to have a party song, but I wanted to make it inspirational, so lyrically it's like my inspirational song to tell people that if you're alive right now, you're not an accident. You are here and live life to the fullest and love to the fullest.
TERRANCE: "Lose You"
KENNY LATTIMORE: "Lose You" is my experimental song where another intergenerational kind of thing happened with Aaron Lindsey and his daughter Kennedy were working on music together and he had a track that he had started and it was nice and had this beautiful keyboard thing in the beginning and I said, I would do this, but when we took the track in and we started to write to it and all of that, it evolved to something completely different. Then Juan "Natural" Najera came in and started to play with it and give it all of these atmospheric sounds and all kinds of things, so he just took it to another level and honestly I didn't even think it was going to be something ever presented as a single. I just thought that it was so different for me, but it's so fun and so dramatic and I can see myself doing it live. I was like, I hope I get to do this live. It became a single and people are loving that song, so I'm just really happy that the experiment paid off.
TERRANCE: "Take a Dose"
KENNY LATTIMORE: This was the first song I recorded for the album and it was a little stretch for me at first. (Laughs). Because it was funky and it reminded me of something from the 80's or 90's. Some of the elements were bubbling under it, but then it had this 2000something bass groove going through it and Madicin has a way of creating the background vocals to compliment those tracks and making them still suttle and not overpowering, but somehow the contrast of styles work. They work really well together.
KENNY LATTIMORE: "Pressure" was a song that I had heard that Madicin was working on with this guy named Bizness Boi. I heard it one day and said, that's a hit song. It has this thing that reminds me of the UK and come to find out some of the guys were from the UK and there's a sparseness to it, but at the same time the elements work together where it's simple, but it's got a lot of little catchy hooks in there. When I went in to talk to Madicin, I said, we need a lead single for June which is Black Music Month and he said, what about "Pressure"? I said, what? I didn't think he was giving that to me. I thought he was just playing me a song one day while we were writing, but I loved that song immediately.
KENNY LATTIMORE: That song was all about the lyrics for me. I was like, oh my gosh. Then the futuristic sounds that were put together with it, I thought was really fantastic. It was one of those songs that allowed me to stretch out my range, falsetto and all of that. So I enjoyed recording that as well.
KENNY LATTIMORE: "Survive" was the greatest falsetto stretch for me. (Laughs). Another one where I was like, Wow!. It was really beautiful and sexy to me and it was a real showcase in my voice if I could pull this off. (Laughs). That's what I thought, because again, when I'm writing with some of the people there's a demo. Madicin is a great artist and singer, so I got to hear him sing it first. When I went in, I said, let me hear how my voice sounds doing this, and when I went in for the first note, I was like, I'm okay with me in this space. Because sometimes you record a song, it doesn't turn out right, so when I went in, he made me feel comfortable and I was able to lose myself and survive.
TERRANCE: Can we expect any special appearances or tour in support of the album?
KENNY LATTIMORE: Yes! I am putting everything in order now. The 16th of January will be my first show in Baltimore at Rams Head Live and that is my long form show with a band and from there we start to travel. We're just talking to folks and figuring out who wants to go on the road. I'm super open because I know a lot of great people are putting out new music from Alicia Keys to Mary J. Blige. Live music is back and I'm just excited and I'm hoping that I will be able to put together the right combination of shows that allow me to showcase everything that I really do. That's been the key for me, because sometimes you get to do shows and appearances, but when I get to do my live long show, it is so much fun, because I still love it and I'm passionate about it, and that's why we're working now just putting things together so that when people hear and see, it will be right.
TERRANCE: Any final words you would like to share with longtime fans as well as new ones?
KENNY LATTIMORE: Oh my goodness. The longtime fans thank you for just hanging in there with me through every transition whether you always thought what I did was great or not, it was my journey and that's what life is about, so I appreciate the longtime fans for being on this journey with me. In addition to that, I want to say to the new fans, welcome. Keep me honest. So what I'm gonna do is keep trying to just create music that I believe is authentic and the new fans to help keep that authenticity in that, so I'm appreciative that they're on board.
Follow Kenny Lattimore:
Instagram & Twitter @kennylattimore