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Detroit's Kem used time to achieve "Intimacy" on new album

of the Oakland Press

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It’s been five years between albums for Detroit R&B singer and songwriter Kem, but he’ll be the first to argue that the results on “Intimacy: Album III” were well worth the wait.

“There was a time when everybody questioned whether or not it was taking too long,” acknowledges Kem (né Owens), whose first two albums — “Kemistry” in 2002 and 2005’s “Album II” — were certified gold. “But the time allowed me to write and really cultivate the songs. And my learning curve was higher on this record. I was really involved in the production of this album on a very, very personal and in-depth level, which I think speaks to intimacy.”

Despite that involvement, “Intimacy” — which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart — is also Kem’s most collaborative project. Guests include Jill Scott on the album-closing “Golden Days” and Melanie Rutherford on “If It’s Love.” Kem also brought in a co-producer, Rex Rideout, while Adam Blackstone produced the track “Share My Life.”

And the first single, “Why Would You Stay,” features a string section from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and an arrangement by Motown veteran David J. Van de Pitt, who passed away on Aug. 9 in Southfield at the age of 67.

“It was truly one of the last things he worked on,” Kem says. “He showed up to my house and had his briefcase and was taking notes and crafted the arrangement and wrote out everything for the orchestra players.

“That was the first time I ever had that type of experience and that caliber of talent and musical intellect and professionalism. I’m grateful and humble that I had the opportunity to work with him.”

Kem’s current run on the Budweiser Superfest 2010 tour is allowing him to expose some of the music from “Intimacy,” but he’s also planning a proper tour for the album in 2011. Meanwhile, he’s considering some sort of acoustic residency in the metro area that may yield a live recording. And even though he needs “a rest” from the arduous recording of the new album, Kem says he’s already hatching some ideas for his fourth full-length.

“I have some vision for the next record,” he notes. “I had a few song ideas that I was cultivating that I’ll continue when I come off the road ... as opposed to waiting until this album cycle is over and then sitting down and putting it all together.

“I’m really still in recording mode. We delivered (‘Intimacy’) on my birthday, July 23, and I came home and I’m looking at all my (recording gear) and thinking ‘Now what am I supposed to do?’ So it put me in a mind that I’ll always want to be in record mode and just keep everything a work in progress instead of having the pressure. I think I’m going to enjoy that process a great deal.”

Kem performs with Anthony Hamilton, Jaheim and Raheem Devaughn at the Budweiser Superfest 2010 at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $89.75, $69.75 and $49.75. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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