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Interview:
KEM is all about the spirit of Christmas
 

By GARY GRAFF
21st Century Media/Digital Media First, @GraffonMu

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Last year, KEM released his first holiday collection, "What Christmas Means."

And Christmas continues to mean a great deal to the Detroit R&B singer.

"Christmas is special, and I really had a vision of 'What Christmas Means' as being one of those records you see in your house when you're growing up," explains KEM (nee Owens), 44. "You would see Andy Williams and Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis and (Frank) Sinatra, that stack of records my parents would pull out every year. I want to be in this generation's stack of records, you know? I want to be part of that tradition for this generation.

"That's what I set out to do, and my hope is that we're forging ahead in that direction. I think it's something that's worth revisiting every year."

The album got a boost this year when filmmaker Tyler Perry included the track "Doo Wop Christmas (That's What Christmas is All About)" on his "A Madea Christmas Album." But KEM's major move this year is a more extensive holiday tour, a six-city trek that includes storytelling and narration by actor/comedian Anthony Anderson and special appearances by Patti LaBelle and Ronald Isley -- who guest on the song "Jesus" for the deluxe edition of "What Christmas Means" -- at shows in Detroit and Washington, D.C.

"I've always wanted to do a big, spectacular Christmas show, and to have them with me...They're legends, man," says KEM, who duets with Isley on "My Favorite Thing" from the latter's latest album. KEM also plans to include the track on his fourth studio album, which is due out in 2014. "I've listened to them for all of my adult life and part of my childhood. And to be working with them is beyond belief.

"I think what I get most when I work with them is what I aspire to be as far as an artist and legacy and trying to create music that's important. They music they've done has not only entertained us but has also shaped the psyche of anybody who is making R&B music. You can't get away from that."

KEM & Friends' What Christmas Means show, with Patti LaBelle, Ronald Isley and Anthony Anderson, plays at 8 p.m Friday, Dec. 20, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $29-$99. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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