Smooth, sultry singer talks music, family and life off stage

Super-talented Brian McKnight returns to South Florida

D. Kevin McNeir | 11/7/2013, 9 a.m.
Anyone who has a passion for songs that focus on romance, heartbreaks and makeups — or what Shakespeare referred to ...

Anyone who has a passion for songs that focus on romance, heartbreaks and makeups — or what Shakespeare referred to as “unrequited love” — is no stranger to the musical genius of Brian McKnight — the younger brother of Claude McKnight III who formed the Grammy-winning a cappella group Take 6 in the early 90s.

Brian, 44, encouraged by his brother and following his lead, singed his first recording deal at 19 — now 15 CDs later, including his most recent “More Than Words,” and with 16 Grammy nominations under his belt, he brings his amazing falsetto voice back to South Florida with an impressive repertoire that includes “One Last Cry,” “Never Felt This Way,” “Back at One,” “Crazy Love,” and this writer’s favorite, “Home.”

We caught up with McKnight by telephone while he was in Jamaica a few days ago preparing for a concert and he talked about love, music and the joy he experiences each time he steps on a stage.

“I do about 100 shows a year and I do it because I enjoy it so much,” he said. “We’ve been on six continents this year and after a few more U.S. stops that of course include Miami, we’ll be on our way back to New Zealand and Australia. If people want to hear me why wouldn’t I oblige? I know which side my bread is buttered on. My brother and Take 6 are still touring a lot too and because we started so young and have been in the business for a long time, there’s a sense of nostalgia associated with our music.”

How has the industry changed? McKnight says it’s not as “congenial as it once was.”

“Making music in the 90s was so marvelous — there was a real camaraderie among entertainers,” he said. “We had Boyz to Men, Jodeci, Guy, SWV and Mary J. Blige all in the same R&B genre and we supported each other. It was like being in a fraternity. I don’t think it’s like that anymore.

His songs tell life stories

Since his second CD, McKnight has written all of the material for his releases — making him one of the most celebrated and prolific writers of his day. But how does he do it?

“When I have enough songs that’s when I put out a record,” he said. “It’s my therapy and while I won’t say it to you in words, if you listen to my music, you’ll know where I am emotionally. My songs are very autobiographical. When I look back at the ‘white album,’ it has some very happy songs as well as some of the saddest songs I have ever written. Incidentally, that entire CD was all about one person.”

“If I had to name a favorite song of mine, it would be ‘Anytime,’” he said. “It’s the kind of song that just about anyone can relate to — as much as we all want to believe in and experience happy endings in terms of relationships, and not just in love relationships — they don’t often turn out that way.”

McKnight adds that being referred to as an “old school singer” is something he actually likes.

“It’s quite fascinating because I don’t know what year it happens when you are suddenly considered ‘old school,’” he said. “But I guess the positive is that you are still around, still being creative, still being followed. But as a Twitter question I’d ask ‘why is it that singers seem to have a shelf life but rappers don’t?’ Now I’m working with my sons [Brian Jr. and Niko) — they’ve toured with me for about four years and are now writing and producing for others. I guess my mom would be pleased that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”

McKnight headlines a show with Music Soulchild and Avant at the Hard Rock next Friday.