Artist Interview: James Kinney

One of the most exciting aspects of following the music industry is bumping into an artist who seems right on the cusp of breaking out.  Very few people are naïve to the struggles that serious musicians undergo, but when all that hard work finally comes to a head it’s an undeniably refreshing experience.

So it goes for James Kinney, an Austin, Texas native whose soulful music spans multiple genres, including hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock, funk, oldschool soul, and most recently, opera.  Versatility plus talent equals imminent success.

jameskinney2“I think right now is the perfect time for what I would call the Classic American Entertainer to come back on the scene,” Kinney explained, adding, “I’m talking about the school of entertainers that America has always fallen in love with, from Sammy Davis junior to Frank Sinatra to Dean Martin—people who can get on stage, grab a microphone, and sing any song.”

Funny that a contemporary artist would compare his philosophy of entertainment to those Rat Pack legends, but he’s not talking about musical style.  It’s about the ability to reach a variety of people.  It’s about good, old-fashioned American entertainment.

“I’m no frills, the real deal in terms of putting on a show,” Kinney explained.  “I come from a church background, people that come from the background of putting honest integrity and sweat into what they do onstage.  When I leave the stage, I’m not dry.”

As 2009 draws to a close, Kinney is watching his career take off.  In the last year he’s opened for John Legend, been signed on to work with Violator Management, and been asked to help contemporize an operatic masterpiece.  His upcoming album, “Masterpieces of Simplicity,” is something Kinney is extremely proud of, and he hopes it leads to more great things.

At the end of the day, though, it all comes down the music.

”I want this album to be a breath of fresh air,” Kinney said.  “I want people to say, ‘Damn, somebody else is talking about something different than what everybody else is talking about.’  I want them to feel like I’m addressing them as a person, and that could be a 50-year-old black woman, a 13-year-old white kid, or a 30-year-old Asian female social worker.  My music is for everybody.”

So how does a musician like Kinney reach such a broad audience?  It all comes back to being stylistically diverse, which is something that seems to come naturally to him.

“I can’t write two songs that sound alike,” he explained.  “The reason why I think that’s important is because the music’s not B.S.  If they all sounded like it would just be like a factory.  I’d be churning out Model T Fords, and I’m not doing that.  One song is a Cadillac and the next song is a Benz.”

His catchy club track “Music Is My Therapy,” featured recently on our Weekly Jukebox, would probably be best described as a Mitsubishi Eclipse with a drop top, but no matter what automobile-related metaphors are used, the bottom line is still the same—this cat makes good music, no matter what you like.

And beyond that, he’s a bright, down-to-earth guy who does what he does for all the right reasons.  Even if he were to break out and sell millions of records, you get the impression that it wouldn’t put a dent into the man’s character.  That just makes him all the easier to root for.

“I’m not going to change,” he said.  “I’m a dude that loves people and invests in people.  We all have a job to do, and I’m just all about us as people making moves and moving forward.”

If 2010 continues along the same curve as 2009 did for Kinney, there’s no question that forward is the only direction he’ll be able to head toward.  In the meantime, it’s opera in El Paso, Texas, proving that Kinney takes the term Classic American Entertainer to a whole new level.

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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