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Arts and Entertainment

On the record with KEM
Exclusive interview and video from Charlotte performance
Published Tuesday, August 12, 2014 11:06 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

KEM performed in Charlotte Sunday night during an invitation-only music showcase to celebrate the upcoming release of his new album "Promise to Love," which hits stores August 25.

It’s been a few years since we last heard from KEM. The multiplatinum R&B singer said that’s because it takes time to make great music.

“It has to be right,” he told Charlotte fans Sunday night during an intimate performance at Tempo Nightlife. KEM was in town to celebrate the upcoming release of his new album “Promise to Love,” which hits stores August 25.

During the hour-long set, KEM performed some of his classic hits like “Love Calls,” “Share My Life” and “If it’s Love.” He also performed his new single “It’s You” and the new album’s title track “Promise to Love.”

About midway through his performance, KEM, who openly shares his story of overcoming addiction and homelessness, took a few moments to praise God and share words of encouragement.

“I’ve struggled,” he said. “I’ve gotten eviction notices and slept outside. I ate out of trashcans… I’ve been hospitalized and in and out of jail… So when I say that God is good, I’m not saying it for your applause. I’m saying it because I want you to know that I’m qualified… I have not been to seminary, but I have graduated from the ‘University of Grace and Mercy.’”

He also showed his humorous side, cracking a few lighthearted jokes and at one point even coming off the stage and going up to a fan that was filming the show with a cell phone. KEM took the phone and began filming himself as he sang.

After the show, KEM invited The Charlotte Post backstage for an exclusive interview, during which he discussed the inspiration behind his music, the type of women he dates and his plans for the future. Below is an excerpt from that interview. Some questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. Plus, check out video from KEM’s performance.

TCP: What can you tell us about your new album?

KEM: It’s classic R&B, classic KEM, but recent. I’ve got Snoop on the album. Ron Isley’s on the album. L’Renee is on the album. There is no album filler. Every song is crafted specifically for this album. It’s not like we have 40 or 50 songs to choose from and weed some out. Every song was written for this record… It’s consistent with my body of work. I think that with every record, I evolve as a producer and a songwriter and a vocalist. You know that it’s a KEM record, but there’s always something fresh.

TCP: What was the inspiration behind the album?

KEM: Love is always the inspiration. Love is the first thing that I can’t get enough of, and I mean that in a positive way. It’s not just physical love. I mean that agape, unconditional love. I think that we are all looking for that. If we loved each other more, then the world would be a better place. I carry that message.

TCP: Was there a defining moment when you know that being a musician is what you wanted to do with your life?

KEM: I’ve loved music since I was a child. Since I was a toddler, music is something I gravitated towards all my life. It’s been a refuge for me. Just like any great relationship - it’s been a source of my greatest moments, greatest joys and my greatest heartbreaks. I feel like I’m living in my purpose.

TCP: What kept you motivated through the rough times?

KEM: People told me to quit, and I just kept doing it. [Music is] just something that I couldn’t put down, and I’m grateful for that. I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do… I think that people know what their purpose is, but at some place in their lives they bury it. Maybe it’s because you need to get a “real job,” or you just don’t think that this can happen for you. There’s nothing wrong with having a job and being a plumber or an electrician. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some of us are supposed to be doing something that we buried. I know people who are great artists but will never pursue it. I was just stupid enough to keep doing it.

TCP: What was that breakthrough moment like when you decided to get your life together?

KEM: In recovery circles, we say we become sick and tired of being sick and tired. And I gave up trying to fight my addiction on my own and operating on my own strength. That was July 23, 1990 (his birthday). Somebody told that when the student is ready the teacher appears. I was ready. I surrendered and gave up, and God brought some people in my life that helped me turn things around.

TCP: We don’t see a ring, are you married or involved?

KEM: No. I’m not married.

TCP: What type of woman do you look for? Sorry to pry, but the fans want to know.

KEM: I’m not picky. I just want to be loved. So pray for me.

TCP: You bring a lot of spirituality to your shows, even in the club. Why is that?

KEM: There would be no show without God. Faith is everything. It’s my recovery. It’s my life. It’s important for people of faith, I think, to carry that message wherever they go. I know I’ve got a secular job. Most people of faith have secular jobs. If we only stay in the church and preach to the choir, then how effective would we be?

TCP: After the record drops, what’s next?

KEM: More music. The day after we wrapped the record, I started cultivating songs and thinking about the next record, but I’m enjoying the moment.

We’ve got Mack and Third happening, which is a benefit concert that we do [for the homeless] in Detroit on August 24. It’s a food drive. It’s music all day. We feed the homeless. Medical services are available down there. I’ve got stuff for the kids. It’s a good look for the city and a good way for me to give back… This year, I’m performing, and my special guests are the O’Jays. It’s going to be a good time… You can make donations or get more information on it at www.mackandthird.org.

We’ve also got the Cancun Music Festival on August 31, and I’ll be on “Good Morning America” on August 27. On August 21, we will be on “Steve Harvey” promoting the record and keeping this R&B music alive.

Video from Sunday night's performance:


Follow KEM on all social media platforms: @MusicByKEM or visit his website www.MusicByKEM.com.


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