With every grand entry, there usually comes a grand closing. In the case of R&B veteran Brian McKnight, it’s no surprise that he has decided to end his 20-album run of compilations with his latest studio album, Exodus. Although McKnight doesn’t consider this the end of his musical career, the singer-songwriter has decided to use this time to redirect his energy and time to truly living life and pursuing other endeavors.
“It’s not really retirement. It’s that I think that I’ve said everything I need to say as far as original music is concerned,” he says in an on-camera interview with VIBE. “And it’s funny because I have friends of mine that are calling like, so you’re not writing for yourself and well, can I have those songs that you’re going to write that you’re not going to use?
“I’m like, sure. So that’s another way to go, writing songs for other people. I just, there’s so many other things that I want to do. I want to wake up every day and my wife and I just do whatever makes us happy.”
With his single Earl Cohen-produced “Nobody” and 12 other signature, love tunes on the tracklist, Exodus serves as a solid body of work. The inspiration behind is last album of original work? The love of his life—his wife, Leilani—who he randomly crossed paths with at an event he was attending.
“I think the thing that people need to realize is that when you meet someone and all you want to do is give of yourself to them, then it’s no longer about you.”
Watch our full interview with McKnight where he talks about his new album, how he’s been managing the new normal, quarantine life, why he’s been able to stand the test of time and that thing called love.
On his own experience with police as a Black man:
I remember what it was like in the seventies. I remember what it was like in the eighties, in the nineties. I can remember getting pulled over. I mean, as recently as August being pulled over in my own neighborhood, driving an expensive car that a police officer pulled us over, just to see if I was the person that was supposed to be driving that car. Now, it didn’t go past that because he realized who I was. But my wife not being black and now learning that she is black now that she’s with me. It was something that was foreign to her. And I had to explain to her that this is what it’s like to be a black man. And it’s sad that that’s what we have to grow up with. But at the same time, I think that now we’re seeing that because of social media. I remember when Rodney King happened, It was pretty much on the news. It was the news. But now the whole world, because of social media, can see that things aren’t as good as we thought they were.
On whether he ever finds himself worried about his sons getting pulled over by police:
I think that what we have to do as parents is also to educate those that although something may not be fair, although something may not be the exact way you want it to be that, it’s hard to say this and I don’t want to get any flack for it, but sometimes it’s better. And this isn’t anything to just turn the other cheek and do what you got to do and stay alive at the same time.
On his cover of a song by Sting:
I did a cover for the first time in a long time. I very rarely talk about how much Sting has influenced me and I wanted to do something to show him the homage that I haven’t shown him. And I covered his song “Fragile” because I think that song really speaks to what I’m trying to talk about as far as how we treat one another. That it’s fragile, what we have here. And let’s not take it to the point of breaking. We can bend, we have bent, we’ve been bending, but let’s turn that thing around. And get back straight again.
On how his love for his wife inspired his album:
Since I met my wife, she has been the subject of every song I’ve written. And the funny thing about that is I’d never written anything about anyone. I’d never cared about anyone. I didn’t know love on any level till I met the love of my life when I was 42 years old. And I never believed in it. I know I wrote about it extensively. I know that I was the love man from Borneo when it comes to music, but I was really just faking it. I had listened to a lot of songs and I knew a lot of music and I could take from a book or I can take from a movie. This is the first time in my life where actual personal experience is coming out in the music. And it’s all because all I have to do is look at my wife, be around her, and she is the essence of everything that I want to say, everything that I want to be. And it’s a wonderful thing to wake up every morning with the most beautiful woman who ever lived.
On advice to himself as a new artist starting out:
The advice I would say to him is, is that when you’re 42 you’re going to meet a woman that’s going to change your life. You need to wait on everything till then. Don’t waste your time doing anything but counting the days until she shows up, because that’s when you’re going to start to live. That’s when your life is going to become everything you want it to be, period.
On who he’d take part in Verzuz battle/celebration with:
To me, the verses battles aren’t necessarily about going up against each other. It’s about the celebration of the music. And there are several artists. I think Joe and I could do a great Verzuz because I’m such a fan of him.