Jul 21 2015

Michael Kiwanuka

Young soul musician Michael Kiwanuka talks about doing what you love instead of what is expected before his İstanbul Jazz Festival performance.

Su Sonia Herring

You might have heard British singer and songwriter Michael Kiwanuka’s name as the winner of BBC’s Sound of 2012. Although Kiwanuka has been compared to legendary musicians such as Bill Withers and Otis Redding, he’s more focused on writing and sharing his music with the world. The talented soul musician shared his thoughts on music, social issues and his upcoming performance on July 15th at Uniq Openair Stage where he’ll close the festival after Theo Crocker and Hiatus Kaiyote. You’ve struggled with coming to terms with the fact that you’re a black kid who likes acoustic guitar music. How did you come to terms and decided to do what you like?I just decided to do what I really wanted to do. I love music so much that it's really frustrating to play music that doesn't fully represent me. The acoustic guitar is a big part of what I like about music so I stopped worrying about being a bit different to what people expected me to be. What would your advice be to young musicians who are struggling, what made sure you kept going?My advice would be to always remember why you started making music in the first place. That's what will keep you putting in the time and effort into your music even when things aren't going so well.Like many new generation artists you have a sense of responsibility when it comes to social issues, what drives you to this?You sing and write about what's happening to you emotionally and also what's happening around you. I think it's natural for people to sing about social issues, especially if what's happening affects you directly.Your music immediately touches the soul. What inspires you the most when making music, how do you write your lyrics?Emotion is what inspires me most in music. The things that turned me on to music the most was how much songs and music can affect how we feel. I've always wanted to make music that would stir feelings up. Lyrics usually come when I have strong feelings about something or someone in my life.  
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What are the best and worst parts of being a musician in the digital age?The best part of being a musician in the digital age is you can get your music out to people so much easier. The internet helped me get into the music business and helped me start a career. The worst part is maybe that it's harder to earn a living from selling albums so as a result you have a much more rigorous touring schedule. That can definitely take its toll. However I love touring and doing gigs. It's hard when you're apart from people you love for a long time. Who are your idols?My idols are a lot of older musicians who have had long careers like Neil Young, Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan. Artists who are unique and forge out their own path as opposed to sticking to the program of what happens to be popular around them really influence me. I loved Kurt Cobain growing up and in terms of current artists I like Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and Kanye West. I feel like hip hop is the most creative music at present. They're not my idols but I definitely listen to and get inspiration from their music. How do you feel about performing all over the globe, did you see yourself where you are when you first started?I love travelling and touring the world. It's so much fun and every day is different. I definitely didn't see myself doing this when I was a teenager or in my very early 20's but I always wanted to be a musician so I did see myself being involved in music one way or another. You’re closing a festival who will host names like Marcus Miller and Jools Holland, how does that feel and what should the İstanbul audience expect from your performance?It feels great. I love performing. I think people should expect a soulful performance of new and old songs and hopefully a good time. What’s next?Next I'll be doing a few more festivals around Europe and finishing off my second album. I've been working on it for a while, so I'm excited to get it finished and out to the public. That’s what I'll be focusing on for the next few months. In November I'm going on tour with the Alabama Shakes which I'm very excited about. I love their new album.
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