Kevon Edmonds: The Interview
Today I was fortunate enough to interview r&b veteran Kevon Edmonds. He discussed everything from his new album, to the change in the music industry, to staying true to his roots. It was a pleasure talking with him, and I hope you enjoy reading.
Thomas Leo: First of all, congratulations on the release of your new album.
Kevon Edmonds: Thank you very much I appreciate that.
TL: For this new album, when you began the process of making it, did you set to go off in a different direction than your first album?
KE: You know, it’s been ten years since 24/7 and you know sometimes you feel you need to connect to the last project you’ve done, but so much time has elapsed that I wasn’t quite sure whether or not that was going to be the approach, to try and tie this into 24/7 and all of that stuff. I thought that I would start out fresh, just really try and get back to my roots of kinda where my music started, and the mindset was that I wanted to bridge my world of where I start with the world of r&b music here today.
TL: In another interview I read that you did, you mention the industry has evolved in so many ways. Do you feel the way that the way it’s evolved, did that cause you to try and do anything differently or did you basically stick to your roots like you mentioned?
KE: Well you know this is the first time that I’ve ever been signed to an independent label. The industry changing that is one of the changes I’ve witnessed. Probably a lot of other mainstream r&b artists that have been signed to major labels have decided to go a different route, you know, and that’s because the times are different in terms of how labels and label executives perceive to be what is hip, hot or cool. They are looking for something different so shopping a deal at a major label, it proves to be a far more difficult task than it once was. At the same time, you kinda learn certain lessons, financial lessons. You know that you are going to get a greater benefit, it may require more work, a lot more leg work, and so on and so forth. In so many areas of when you are talking about working an independent project, the benefits at the end of the day can far outweigh those when you go with a major label.
TL: Now looking at your new album, one of my favorite songs is “April’s Fool,” does that evoke a certain memory for you or something from your past?
KE: Well it was actually written by a young lady by the name of Courtney Harrell, she’s a great song writer in my opinion, very talented. She seems to get a handle on just kinda how to tell a story of general life experiences. I didn’t necessarily identify with it at first, but the more and more I listened to it, I understood the story because you know, if you ever have been involved in relationships or had a thing for a young lady, it seems like it’s the one that you really really want, she’s the least bit concerned about you. She may like “Brutus” over here, she’ll go spend all of her time with “Brutus,” but then get over here with you and just, she just wants to be around like “I know you like me” but ok, and that’s enough. So I really didn’t understand the story she was telling, but then (Ping), a light came on, and it was like yea, we gotta tell this story.
TL: Do you have any personal favorites off of the new album?
KE: That is a hard one. Of course I love “Oh,” but I think one of my favorites….it’s a tough one. I really do like “Who Knew,” the title cut of the album. That’s just a special song to me, but so is “Oh,” so it’s really kinda hard to make a pick.
TL: Yea, that is understandable.
KE: Let me also add, I did read your review (Click here to read) and it was like, it’s almost like you were there. It really truly, in terms of understanding how we got to where we were with this project, it’s like wow, you get it, you nailed it, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Everybody didn’t have to be at the same opinion, because everybody feels differently about things. You seem to hone in on exactly what our mind set was. I was speaking with our management partner, a guy from Make Entertainment, and he was like “God this dude, he must have been there or something, I mean this is crazy!” That’s pretty amazing to me that you were dead on.
TL: Thank you, that means a lot to me. I really appreciate the praise.
KE: Thank YOU.
TL: You mention “Oh” as being one of your favorites, and that is the first single, now do you have anything in mind for a second single or are you not even looking to that yet?
KE: It’s too hard to call just yet. I do know that a lot of people are really into “Who Knew,” a lot of people like “Callin,” a lot of people like “April’s Fool” as well. So, it’s tricky business over here. I haven’t determined which one just yet.
TL: On the interlude on your album, there is a voice mail from Tyrese saying “you are about to bring r&b back,” which is very high and deserving praise. Do you feel you get respect like that from other artists around the industry?
KE: I think that other artists in the industry, they are aware of who I am, probably not much attention has been focused on me as a solo artist. They pretty much probably know me more as a guy from After 7 or Babyface’s brother or whatever. I think that there is a respect, it’s just that it is not as prevalent in the mindset with them. A hit record changes everything no matter what. Perhaps those are some of the intangibles that have to take place in order to maybe bring higher visibility; it changes a lot of things.
TL: Since it’s been ten years since your first album, did you always have plans to release a 2nd album?
KE: Yea, I did. Actually, I started the process of recording a second album shortly after, a year or two after, the 24/7 album, and then I backed away from it with 9/11 and RCA folding up, you know I said let me step away from this. Then, at that point, I knew I needed a break, and I wanted to kinda try some different things at that point. But I always sensed that I would get back and record again, I just had to step away from it for awhile.
TL: I read in another interview that you “are happy with the current state of r&b today.” When you hear some of the younger r&b artists coming up today using such devices as voice technology to basically help them sing, does it bother you?
KE: It is simply the sign of times and technology. You are gonna use what is afforded to you. I mean, there was a time when the only way that you were going to get a record deal is if an A&R guy happened to be coming through and someone that you knew that knew someone that knew someone would get the A&R guy to come into your town and see you, it was like “There’s a guy that’s gonna see us perform!” I mean that would be the only way you were going to get a deal. Now how many chances, how many opportunities do you have for something like that to take place? So this guy had to be moving around in order for you to be discovered. Can I complain? I got signed to Virgin records because my brother and LA were two of the hottest producers and we signed. Kids, young talent today, they can be in their basement creating something, and be on MTV within the next 6 months, I mean that’s how they see it, that’s their world, you now along with that there is all kinds of changes. Now I would love to hear real talent, vocalists, you don’t have to do the tricks. You can play with it, use it as an accessory if you will. But don’t let it become the primary tool by which you deliver your talent, to me. But you know, hey, this is what people are listening to. Can you mix it up a little bit? Yea I would prefer if they mix it up a little bit and gave me more. I have a nephew who also wrote on this record as well, and he was submitting some other music to me that he wanted to hear. I said, I like it, but the problem is I’m not hearing your tone. I’m more moved by your voice, but I don’t get a chance to hear it because it’s disguised, it’s covered up, and that’s what I said to him. You know, this technology and all these other tools they use, it does not resonate deep within. But a tone, well that’s something else. It gets beyond your ears and gets into your heart, if done right. There is a sincerity you can hear, the believability, the genuineness in the way that someone delivers something, that goes a lot farther than *imitates an auto tune noise* *Laughs*.
TL: Can you tell me some of your favorite artists to listen to in the music industry today?
KE: That’s doing stuff today? I love what Keyshia Cole does, she’s had some really nice strong r&b songs, I love what she does. I love the stuff that Rihanna does, and Chris Brown, and of course Jay-Z. There are some of the people that are still just doing what they do, or new at it, but just silent, solid performers.
TL: As a 2nd part of the previous question, are there any artists that you have not had a chance to work with that you would like the opportunity to collaborate with?
KE: I mean there’s so many because I have never really collaborated with anyone. Probably the only collaboration has been with my brother, who has joined me on my solo project and on some After 7 stuff and we had the Milestone with K-Ci and Jo Jo stuff. I’ve never done a duet with a female artist, it’s just going to be the right time, the right song, and the right person, and that could be anyone. Not just anyone, but I think there are some folks that I think our voices would compliment each other, but I shall not jinx anything! *laughs* When that time comes, we will cross that bridge if its possible, then hopefully they will be saying they should have done that a long time ago.
TL: While attending the University of Indiana, before deciding to go into a career in music, what did you have in mind for a career?
KE: It was telecommunications. Of course in college when you start out, you can have 15 different majors. But originally, it was psychology, and then it was telecommunications.
TL: Since you grew up with brothers who were very talented musically, and went on to also become artists, were there ever rivalries that existed between you or any sort of camaraderie?
KE: You know back when we were younger, there was never any rivalry I believe. My brother Melvin who sang with me in After 7, he was kinda like the frontrunner in terms of talent, and in terms of getting involved in music and really kinda exposing us to it by live performance, because he used to have a band and stuff. So that really kinda opened us up, it wasn’t just hearing music in the house, whether an LP or anything like that. My brother also, he loved it so much that it was something he inspired to do, so it kinda opened us up in a way. As far as rivalry, I would say there was none. Probably later on as Kenny learned to play acoustic guitar and he would often times play acoustic guitar and we would kinda do a little singing on the front porch, but that was it.
TL: I also read in another interview that this is the first project that you haven’t had a chance to collaborate with Babyface on. Has doing a full collaboration album with your brother Babyface ever been something you’ve considered or would consider doing?
KE: I would be open to it, but more importantly its gotta be something he is game to doing. Until that happens, I don’t know that it will. It has to be a consideration that he’s taking into account. Again, the right time and everything else as well, if we could put it together in such a way. It could prove to be something that we could have some fun with and create some special moments but its gotta to be that everybody is on the same page at the same time.
TL: You’ve been active as an artist since the late 80’s, what do you consider to be the key to your longevity in the music industry and do you feel you’ve needed to adapt a lot to stay successful?
KE: I think having a real love for what you do, and just being appreciative and grateful for having the opportunity to do something that you love doing can carry you a long way. But you still along with that have to have a spirit of, a willingness to have a strong work ethic, because you have to do the work as well. You can love it, but if you are not willing to do the work well, believing in something and having faith in something without work as they say is dead. So you have to do the work along with it. Change is inevitable, you can’t fight change, so if you try to fight change, you get left behind. You can still make adjustments but still hold onto the integrity of what you do, but being mindful that you can’t sit still and think that everything else is going to evolve around you. You have to be mindful of the fact that it’s always changing and make adjustments to stay relevant.
TL: How would you describe the style of music you make to someone who is listening to your music for the first time?
KE: I would say my style of music is, well……I would suggest that they would sit back and just listen to something that is going to tell you a story. I really kinda consider myself a story teller through a song. And my music is soothing, it can be sexy at times, it can be fun, its like be prepared to just enjoy a nice smooth ride, a nice journey if you will, of different tempos and different perspectives on love and relationships.
TL: Now that you have completed your 2nd album, what’s next for you?
KE: Still a lot of work to be done with this particular record, this CD if you will. That was the first phase, and like it is in all other projects, there are different phases of work that have to be done. We are out here pounding the pavement making sure that we are doing what we need to do in radio, and also gearing up to do live performances, we are out here on the road supporting this music as well just for the fan base. Really its kinda like reintroducing myself once again for those who have known me to get them reacquainted again and hopefully at the same time we may open the door to some new untapped fans who may be interested, who may see the live performances. But you know the next phase of work is on, that’s what’s up.
TL: Can we get a promise from you to your fans that they won’t have to wait another 10 years for your next album?
KE: I was about to tell you before you asked this other question that I can assure you that you won’t have to wait another ten. *Laughs* “Oh yes, new album 2019, I’m going to be dropping a new album.” *Laughs* No, I’ll be back long before, that is a promise.