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Interview:
For Kem, "Intimacy" feels like success
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Kem is still deep into promoting his latest release, “Intimacy: Album III,” but he’s already got its successor in the works.

And the Detroit R&B singer promises there won’t be a five-year gap as there was between “Intimacy” and its predecessor, “Album II.”

“It won’t take that long. It can’t take that long, man,” Kem, 41 — who was born Kem Owens in Nashville before moving to Detroit when he was young — says with a laugh. “I’m already cultivating songs for the next record. I’ve got three or four ideas, and I think when we come back to do the Detroit shows I’ll be getting some cats in the studio and cut some things while we’re there.

“So, yeah, we’re thinking about the fourth album right now.”

But, he adds, that won’t come at the expense of “Album III,” either.

The 10-song set, which came out in August, clearly didn’t suffer for the wait. It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts and was nominated for a pair of Grammy Awards. Kem says it was “liberating” to finally put it out, and the reception has been nothing but gratifying.

“I think it’s a solid piece of work,” he notes, “and the two Grammy nominations kind of validated the length of time and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into making the record. And I don’t hear as many of the cracks in the veneer of the record as I did when we first got finished with it, so I’m very happy.”

That said, Kem is also happy to tinker with “Intimacy” even seven months after its release. He recently cut a new version of the track “If It’s Love” to be the third single, substituting Chrisette Michele for the duet part originally sung by Maurissa Rose.

“I just wanted to add another dimension to the record,” explains Kem, who also duets with Jill Scott on the closing track of “Intimacy,” “Golden Days.”

“That (song) ... throws you back to the days of Anita Baker or Gladys Knight or Patti Labelle, but I wanted something on the record that would be a little bit unexpected.

“Chrisette is a great vocalist and she’s a radio darling, so I wanted to open it up a little bit and invite some listeners who may not automatically venture to a Kem record. Chrisette did a great job, and I’m looking forward to seeing how people will receive it.”

Kem may not be done recording new versions of “Intimacy” tracks, either. “I’ve got this idea kicking around in my head about redoing one of the other songs,” he reveals, “but I don’t want to speak on it yet. It’s gonna require me bringing in some other vocalists, if I have my wish. It looks good on paper, but I’m not gonna say anything till it’s happening.”

Meanwhile, he’s been happy touring to support “Intimacy,” starting last year on the Budweiser Superfest tour and now with a headline show that Kem says is “probably the most involved, productionwise, that I’ve ever had.”

“I’m liberated on stage, just the energy and everything,” he says. “This is more of my show, and now, with three (albums), you have more songs, obviously, and more things that I like to sing. You don’t have to be as redundant. You can even switch the set list and change it around, which is nice.

“Right now it’s right where we’re supposed to be. We hit a sweet spot, and now the idea is just to keep it there.”

Kem — who has dates booked into the spring and late summer — also hopes that fine-tuning will extend to the studio when he starts to record some of his ideas.

“The songs write themselves,” he says. “I get enough songs together and the songs will dictate what’s going on and what the album will be. I think for me it works best that way.”

Music isn’t the only fresh endeavor he’s working on, however. Kem has been developing a women’s fragrance, tentatively called Secure, which he hopes to have out for limited release by Mother’s Day.

“It’s a warm scent,” Kem reports. “I love it. My mom loves it, so we’re very excited about it. Initially I’ll be selling it at my shows, just like my first CD, and online, and we’ll let it build from there.

“I’m very excited about branching out and flexing my entrepreneurial chops in a different arena ... but the music will always be first and foremost.”



Kem performs at 8 p.m. today and April 10 at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Musiq Soulchild and Ledisi open the show; Fantasia opens in April. Tickets are $30.50-88. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.



Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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