STORY WRITTEN BY JARREAU FREEMAN
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He’s stripping it down. No large band or fancy machines; just two friends by his side, doing what they do best — creating music.
Grammy-nominated R&B, singer-songwriter Brian McKnight is slated to take the stage May 8 at the Keswick Theatre as the Brian McKnight Trio in a performance that is sure to be as genuine and raw as the lyrics that inhabit his songs.
“A few years ago I did a one man show where I came out with a piano and a couple of guitars and told stories,” he shared during a recent interview via phone from Los Angeles, Calif. “This show was really well received and I wanted to do something similar by bringing out my two guys who have been with me forever.”
McKnight will be joined on stage by bassist Chris “Big Sexy” Loftlin and guitarist Tyrone “Gutt Bucket” Chase, in a minimalist performance, where musicality will be at the helm. McKnight will join in on guitar and piano, but as fans already know, his voice seems to be his true instrument.
“I wanted to do something people hadn’t really seen since Nat King Cole did it in the 1940s, where there was just a piano, a base and a guitar,” he said. “We just want to be musical in a world where being musical isn’t really rewarded. I just want to show people that it’s not just smoke and mirrors. We can still get down, we can still play, and that’s why we are stripping away everything.”
Loftlin and Chase have performed with McKnight for more than 15 years, which McKnight attributes to their on-stage chemistry.
“It’s like we have telepathy; we are all on the same map,” he said. “Plus, we are all really good friends; we love the same kind of music. We all grew up similar and wanted to change the world with our music.”
The crooner, who has been enchanting audiences with his smooth, soulful voice for more than two decades, has released 14 albums to date, selling an estimated 20 million albums worldwide. He released his most recent album in 2013 titled “More Than Words.” He has worked with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, Willie Nelson, Nelly and Rascal Flatts. McKnight has also received several awards including American Music and Soul Trains awards.
The songwriter explained that every song has a story and he will be sharing some of those stories with audiences during the show.
McKnight, who is known for ballads such as “The Only One for Me,” “Anytime,” and “One Last Cry,” said not all his songs have romantic origins.
“Back at One,” which was featured on his 1999 album of the same name that sold more than 3 million copies, came to him while he was assembling a DVD player.
“I’d just built the house that I live in and I was putting together my man cave, media room,” he said. “I was just reading the manual for the DVD player … and in the manual there is a trouble shooting page that tells you if there is a problem do step one, step two and step three and if the problem persists repeat steps one, two and three and that’s where the concept came from. It doesn’t sound very romantic. But that’s the way I write sometimes. It doesn’t have to be something personal every time. It can be anything that sparks that creativity and makes the song happen.”
However, these days McKnight’s creativity has been sparked by long-time girlfriend Leilani who’s been his muse for more than a year.
“She has changed my life,” he said. “I didn’t think this kind of person existed, especially for me after all the [expletive] I’ve done and been a part of. I just didn’t think the type of love that was expressed in movies, art and poetry actually existed.
“But when you find it, you have to recognize that you found it and that person has to feel the same about you. If you conquer those two things, you have found something that’s really special.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Brian McKnight Trio
Where: The Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside.
When: Concert is at 8 p.m. May 8.
Tickets: $35- $58.50.
Info.: Visit www.keswicktheatre.com for more information. For more on Brian McKnight, check www.mcknight360.com.