INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL KIWANUKA

Michael Kiwanukas current European tour took him to Stockholm the other night, where he took the crowd by storm. For Swedish version, click here.

The British soul singer sold out Kägelbanan at Södra Teatern in Stockholm on Wednesday night and there’s no question regarding his talents as a singer or a song writer. Earlier that day, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael, who proved to be as humble and warm as his music.
The last year has been hectic supporting Adele on her European leg of the tour, signing a record deal, releasing a few EP:s, being chosen BBC Sound of 2012, releasing the album and now headlining his own tour, little time has been left to soak it all in.

Michael: I’ve been in Europe and USA doing promotion, so there hasn’t been much time for that, no. Which probably is a good thing. But I enjoy it. And we’re going back to USA in June touring.

Speedo: Do you remember a specific moment when you realized that this is actually happening?

Michael: Several moments actually. Maybe that was a bit early, but the day when the BBC Sound of 2012 happened and I was sitting on TV talking about my music. That was weird. And suddenly getting a lot of new followers on Twitter, and I’m hardly even there. Then hearing the music on the radio, mastering the album and then seeing it in the shops. But also in Paris, in the beginning of the European tour. This is the first time on tour with the album out, so the anticipation definitely felt different.

This about his parents being forced to flee Uganda, happens to be a factual error as a result of promotion material being produced in a rush and he has visited his parents former home country a couple of times, but growing up in north London not much Ugandan music was heard at the house.

Michael: I wasn’t that aware of Ugandan music growing up, so there’s no direct influences. Maybe by accident. When I visited Uganda they were mostly playing reggae on the radio and sometimes you could hear som old Ugandan music, but they don’t play that so much. It’s basically Western music being played. I had a clean palette to put things on, no bias to anything. The first thing I remember hearing, I didn’t know it was American music.

He discoverd folk music through a close friend at school, who listened to Bob Dylan and Michael fell in love with his music. Music that was all about the craft.

Michael: You try to draw someone in with the minimun amount, like your voice or a guitar. But the secret is what you can’t see, the emotion and the message. That’s really what matters and that’s what lasts forever. That’s why Blowin’ in the wind will be heard till the world ends. There’s that missing ingredient you have to catch.

In regard of the trend with a retro feeling to a lot music in the last few years, with artists in the likes of Amy Winehouse and Raphael Saadiq, Michael thinks it’s about good music. And good songs. We need it, alongside all the other music out there. He didn’t have a deliberate thought of avoiding to look back at his idols, neither consciously looking forward.

Michael: I was just trying to be as honest as possible and write the best songs that I could. Sing the best I could and play the best guitar I could. And then Paul (Butler, producer) produced the best he could. We just tried to do the best music we could do. And that’s what I’ll always try to do. In a sense I’ve looked back at the artists that inspired me to play, so that I’d know what I’m trying to do. In terms of doing something forward, I think if you’re being honest, you are going forward. And being in the moment.
You have to play as you play, that way it don’t sound contrived. If it’s planned and contrived, people will struggle to listen to it. My songs sound like that old style, they’re not produced like that.

Speedo: How much input do you have working with Paul Butler?

Michael: I have a loads of input. I could have tried as many things as possible, but I wanted him to be excited about it too, so I could get the best of him. He let me play a lot of instruments, but when I needed help, he would step in.

Speedo: Are you continuing your work with Paul?

Michael: I hope so. He may actually come with us on the tour in America and if we get free time, we could go back in to the studio and work on some new ideas.
But I’m quite hard on myself, because I want it to be good. If I creatively pressure myself too much or it is too hard, I’ll just stop. But at the same time I’ll work hard until it sounds good. 

Later that same day I have scheduled an interview with Jake Bugg, who’s supporting Michael on his European tour and I asked him, what kind of advise he would give Jake.

Michael: Just to keep doing what he is doing, cause he is doing it so great. He’s writing good songs, sings and plays really good. So don’t change that. It sounds almost too simple to belive, but it’s true.
He’s so fantastic and so young still. Go with your gut.

So with those words I leave you with a piece of magic, however not from his show here in Stockholm, but a fantastic performance of a magical track from his debut album Home again. The song is called Any day will do fine.

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