One of our favorite singers among the recent crop of male vocalists is Mr. Kenny Lattimore. For those who agree and are happy to see the talented young singer back with a new album - his first on Arista, entitled "Weekend" - here's a feature we did for Arista Records based on a recent interview conducted in Los Angeles...
It's a typically sunny morning in Los Angeles and Kenny Lattimore arrives for the interview. Untypical for many of the young, successful artists of his generation, he's on time, he's driving his own car - and there's no entourage of flunkies and hangers-on. That speaks volumes about the Washington D.C. native whose recording career started in 1996 with a much-acclaimed debut album for Columbia Records.
Dressed casually, Lattimore is a down-to-earth, approachable man whose soulful, gospel-rooted style has earned him a solid audience - particularly among female music-buyers who appreciate his silky smooth sound and handsome good looks. He's easy going and articulate and his lifelong passion for music becomes obvious as the conversation centers around the contents of his third album and label debut for Arista Records.
But before we delve into his comments on "Weekend," his impressive new record - which includes "Lately," a song co-written by neo-soul star Jill Scott and "Can You Feel Me," a duet with Arista labelmate Shanice Wilson - Lattimore addresses the tougher questions about the behind-the-scenes move from Columbia Records, who released his "From The Soul Of Man" album in 1998. In between a healthy breakfast that probably won't add an ounce of fat to Lattimore's slim physique, he shares: "In the fall of 1999, I started speaking with the folks at Columbia about what would have been my third record for them. At the time, I was on tour with Rachelle Ferrell and George Duke and I got a call from my management saying that the company had decided to let me go…"
Lattimore pauses to reflect for a moment, gathering his thoughts on the often-rough politics of the music business before continuing: "I was actually happy," he states. "I was grateful for what they had done but I didn't think the people at Columbia understood me as an artist and what it would take to propel me to the next level. Our parting was extremely gracious although it was extremely emotional - kinda like a divorce. But before I knew it, we were having meetings with (then-Arista head) Clive Davis. There was a lot to be excited about and immediately, we started about making an album that could satisfy my existing fans but also appeal to a younger audience without compromising my integrity as an artist…"
Lattimore was all set and Davis was beginning to find songs for the project when word came that the veteran executive was leaving Arista. "He called me one day and told me that the rumors I had been hearing were true and that if I had any questions, he'd be happy to answer them. I didn't really want to choose whether to stay at Arista with the new President, (hitmaking producer) L.A. Reid or go with Clive to his new company…I really wanted to be chosen by whoever. I felt that whatever would happen, it would be an incredible opportunity. When L.A. came to Arista, he told me he was excited about me staying with the company and it soon became obvious that I had fans at Arista and they were genuinely happy to have me there as an artist…"
There was gap between Reid's settling in at Arista and Lattimore's recording of his Arista debut but once they pair were in sync, the record was finished within a couple of months. "I had already done some work on it before L.A. got there," Lattimore recalls, "doing sessions with (producer) Shep Crawford who has worked with artists like Deborah Cox and Whitney Houston. I also had been down to Jamaica to record with (Philly-based production team) A Touch of Jazz and the musicians who have done sessions with Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu and others. And I had done work with Raphael Saddiq (of Lucy Pearl fame)."
To finish off the album, Lattimore worked with (New York-based producers) The Characters (known for hits with Toni Braxton and Aaliyah) and George Duke: "We got that younger vibe on songs like "Baby You're The One," "Can You Feel Me" and the title track of the album, "Weekend" while tracks like "Who," "Things I'll Do" and "Don't Deserve" will please the folks who have been with me since the first album…"
Lattimore is particularly happy that Jill Scott was able to contribute her songwriting skills to the album: "We were in the studio in Philadelphia preparing to go to Jamaica," he recalls. "Jill stopped by just before she started her promo tour for her own album and she heard this one track. She came up with the melody and lyrics for the song "Lately" right there on the spot. I was flabbergasted!" No doubt, Lattimore's brief stay in Jamaica was helpful in creating the vibe for the entire album and he enjoyed "working there without any distractions or pressure. It was a really good place to work creatively and I think the whole direction of the album shifted after we went there."
His health-conscious breakfast done, Lattimore - who collaborated as a songwriter on over half the songs on "Weekend" - sits back and smiles when asked how he would describe his latest project. "It's my fun album! It's funky, it has more energy and more uptempo music and more of a balance than my two previous albums. "From The Soul Of Man," my last record, made a statement about the things we don't say as men. It was about being vulnerable, being real. This new album expresses another side of me…"
Speaking of the different aspects of his life, Lattimore is candid as he reveals that "the last few years have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I was in and out of a serious relationship and although we're still friends, I went through different emotions and changes. There a couple of songs on the album that reflect that situation - "Come To Me" and "Lately." Then, the last song, "Healing" (produced by George Duke) really is my personal statement about all that I've been through since the last record. I always include a gospel-flavored song on each of my albums - I wrote this with George and I hope that when others hear it, they will be encouraged…"
L.A.-based Lattimore, who says he's "single again!" and describes the imagery for his latest album as "more casual and carefree" is upbeat about the initial response to the first single from the album which happens to be the breezy title track. "I almost feel like a new artist again! I haven't been on the road since the tour I did with Rachelle (Ferrell) and George (Duke) so I've got to get my vocal chops back up. I'm going to be doing some shows in the major cities to promote the album and I can't wait!"
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.