R&B superstar Brian McKnight celebrates 25 years in the music industry this year and, after more than 25-million album sales, the Back at One hit-maker says he is still “just trying to get his song out in the world”.
In December, McKnight and fellow R&B legend Brandy will return to South Africa for four shows, in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
“I don’t really look at myself that way (as a legend),” he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
“When I think of legends I think of the Stevie Wonders and Marvin Gayes of the world. Maybe one day I will hopefully achieve that, but for myself I’m just a humble singer/songwriter who’s trying to get his songs out there in the world.”
Last month McKnight released his 18th album, Genesis, which he said is a combination of the artist he was and who he is now.
“Every record I have done has been a blueprint of my life at that time.
“This album is the real combination of the Brian McKnight you know and Brian McKnight of 2017. Technology-wise and musically, I think I finally got the combination right.
“It’s the same old Brian, just shinier and newer.”
“Other than my first two albums, every other record has been an autobiography.
“The only way you are ever going to know what’s going on with me is if you listen to the music I’m writing.”
With a successful career under his belt, including 16 Grammy nominations, it’s hard to believe McKnight hasn’t yet received his own gold gramophone.
However, for the man who gave us hits like Still and 6,8,12, watching his fans appreciate his music is a greater reward.
“You don’t win a Grammy, you’re given (a Grammy), it’s an award that’s given to you by the industry.
“I don’t make records for awards, except the platinum ones, those are the ones that really count and I have a bunch of those. If the Grammy Foundation sees it fit to give me one at some point, I will take it.”
Until then, McKnight finds comfort in the fact that his younger brother Claude V Knight III of a cappella group Take 6, “has 10 of them, so there is a few in the family”.
“I don’t worry about awards. I worry about that person who’s standing there looking at me as I am on stage, singing along to every word of my songs.
“That is far more powerful than any award that I can receive.”
In a world and industry that’s always changing, keeping up with the fans and how they receive your music can be difficult.
McKnight said: “Technology has changed because of streaming and the way people receive their music has changed.
“Even the way people create music has changed and if you don’t change along with it you become a dinosaur. You have to stay on top of those things as an artist or else you’ll be gone.
“You have to constantly put yourself out there through social media and every outlet you possibly can.”
McKnight said he keeps his music relevant by keeping his fans in mind and knowing what stage of their lives they are in.
“You always keep them (fans) in mind.
“I’m really not marketing myself to 21-year-olds - they have their artists. It’s difficult to hold on to the ones you have because they have other concerns now - they have kids going to college - so you have to think about them and you have to keep them involved in your life.”
The 48-year-old tenor said he was looking forward to coming back to South Africa.
“If we could play in South Africa every month, I’d love it. We get to come every two to three years and each time it’s just bigger and better. I’m really looking forward to it.”