Kenny Fame is an award winning singer-songwriter out of NYC but currently based in London. Fame’s career began back in 2010 after he won the 10th Annual National Black Writers Conference’s Writing Contest 2010 for (Poetry). In the spring of 2014 Fame was selected as Indie Bands Guru’s “Artist on the Verge” at last year’s New Music Seminar 2014. In 2014 he won Gashouse Radio’s “Radar” competition with his song “Rejoyce”, which later reached #1. Fame was a recent semi-finalist in the Bands4Good Challenge and he currently is part of Hard Rock Cafe’s “Hard Rock Rising” competition. Kenny has written for everybody from One Direction to Rihanna and has had five #1 songs on Internet Radio; including the runaway smash hit “Julie”. In a recent interview Kenny gave us his take on the music business…and his business.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
Kenny Fame: I grew up singing on the choir as a small child. It was Mt Zion Baptist Church in Paterson, NJ. The singer Janice Robinson who had a #1 international ‘Dance’ hit called “Dreaming” with the Italo/House group Livin’Joy also sung on our choir; in fact Janice’s father Reverend Robinson, was not only our church’s pastor, but he was also the man that baptized me. He’s so popular in my hometown that when he died they renamed the block I grew up on & went to church on Reverend Robinson Way. When we sung back then they used to call it the church super highway. We used to travel all along the church circuit: Philadelphia,NYC, all around New Jersey where I am from. I was a kid as young as ten years old leading church solos. I remember Janice approached me once to do a duet of “The Greatest Love of All” with her in a talent competition; but my own personal church solo was called “He Did It All” & I still remember every word of that song. I always found that singing (style) and some of those singers to be the most amazing I have ever heard.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Kenny Fame: I hear Al Green. My grandmother was a big fan and allegedly his was the first style I began emulating. I was the biggest Madonna & Janet Jackson fan on earth as a teen; but as of late I’ve become more influenced by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder(classic period), Bob Marley, Lauren Hill, Gladys Knight, Laura Nyro, Carol King, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley; there is just too many. I grew up loving Robert Lamm compositions & Peter Cetera’s voice or Freddie Mercury’s raw talent, the musicianship of Earth Wind & Fire & also Chicago. The voice of Steve Perry; oh that voice – but I’m from New Jersey so you gotta love Bruce Springsteen & Bon Jovi & I did….
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Kenny Fame: I love Leon Bridges. I’m a fan of James Bay, Ed Sheeran, Laura Mvula, Years & Years. I also enjoy the music of Jake Bug, James Arthur & George Ezra. I love they style of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Emeli Sandé, Corrine Bailey Ray & Sade (always & forever) but Jack Antonoff is everything.
In terms of collaboration I would most want to collaborate with producer Patrick Leonard. I think musically he is both under-rated and amazing; but again Jack Antonoff is everything so that collaboration goes without saying.
- Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ from within the industry, and if so how have you handled that, and how do you handle criticism and naysayers in general?
Kenny Fame: I wouldn’t say its resistance. I just think that music has grown too fast for the industry. I doubt the creators of Youtube were even thinking of the explosion that they might cause. Back in the ‘90’s people were buying music at an all-time high, but now…. not so much.
- What are your thoughts on visual media and Youtube? Do think that video is an appropriate marketing tool for your music, and do you have any videos published for fans to see?
Kenny Fame: Oh my God video used to be great. I thought that Madonna, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Jody Watley, David Fincher, Herb Ritts, Mark Romanek, Spike Jonze & the often forgotten (for contributions) Paula Abdul made video mini musical theater; or just mini-movies. It was great back then; but now unless you’re attached with a major brand or have been on Youtube since before the bubble burst: Tiffany Alvord, Boyce Avenue, Justin Bieber; nobody will even see you video; there are just too many video’s to sift through.
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio setting?
Kenny Fame: I’m far more experienced in the studio; but live performing is what I have yet to conquer & I’m looking forward to doing just that.
- Tell us something about your lyrics and music production on your releases. Which part of these processes do you handle, and which do you outsource generally?
Kenny Fame: I’ve always written lyrics. As a kid I used to re-write the lyrics to every song. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t know what they were saying or because I wanted to.
When you grow up singing on church choirs you tend to learn to inflect your own ‘thing’ into every song; that’s the best thing it did (church choir). I learned to write lyrics & melodies by inflecting my own something into everything I had to sing & of course there was those vocal riffs & improvising – it all came from church singing.
In terms of production my lyrics always drive the production; whether it’s the lyrics or the quality of my vocal, it (melody) motivates whoever I’m working with on production & if it doesn’t I produce it myself.
8. What is the title of your latest music release and where can fans find it?
Kenny Fame: My latest CD was called ‘Fame Whore” and oh God it’s everywhere. You can find it on iTunes; you can just Google my name Kenny Fame_ iTunes, and all of my music will appear.
My upcoming release will be called “Soul of a Man (Volume1)” and that is my baby at the moment; but I am actually still in labor. Look out for that release soon everyone; but it doesn’t stop there. I may be releasing ‘Soul of a Man (Volume 2)” along with, as a sort of component – think “Use Your Illusions 1 & 2”; anything is possible.
- Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in a genre thriving with newcomers?
Kenny Fame: I actually love music; not just certain genres.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to be a part of this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
Kenny Fame: Passion. I am definitely passionate about all facets of art & I have always have been. My drive is to create musicals, because musicals incorporate: lyrics, rhymes, compositions, scores, acting, drama, themes…. All of my albums have always had a theme whether noticed or unnoticed.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Kenny Fame: I think being an independent both excites me & frustrates me; but the good thing about being independent is that you can become your own Basquiat or Picasso; and most artist do not become truly appreciated until after they’re no longer around & that keeps me motivated to know that the best artist, are sometimes the ones, that get overlooked, but make the biggest & the loudest impact over time. I was an English major in college and that’s where I learned that the way you give literature life, is by keeping the conversation going by talking about it. I love press because it keeps me on your mind, and as long as I’m on your mind my art will have eternal life; just like James Baldwin.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team or do you control everything by yourself?
Kenny Fame: It’s all me. If I had a team it would have to be like the early Madonna team of: Basquait, Maripol, Debi Mazar, Keth Haring, Stephen Bray, Jellybean Benitez, Erika Belle, Herb Ritts, Martin Burgoyne; a think-tank of wonderfully creative artist that had ideas; not imitation but ideas. That doesn’t exist anymore. People hate the 80’s but ‘be it right or be it wrong’… it was the last decade to introduce musical forms to the masses that was completely new (70’s Hip-Hop/Punk/SKA/House/New Wave); everything now feeds off of the past.
- How do you achieve your sound? Do you work from a private recording environment or do you use a commercial sound studio?
Kenny Fame: I usually do private home studios. I love home studios it’s the best way to connect with engineers, producers or co-writer (if that’s the case) one on one.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Kenny Fame: Never focus on trying to write a hit song; just write good songs.
- Has writing songs for One Direction and Rihanna changed your career in anyway?
Kenny Fame: No not at all. I always kind of feel like my music career is locked on day one, no matter what I do or feel like I’ve achieved I’m still Kenny What-cha-ma-call-it… The way it worked for me was that I was approached by an agency in Hollywood to write songs for some of their major clients; I agreed. Once the songs were sent my way w/ artist name & title & basically just an instrumental; I never worked like that; but it was a challenge I looked forward to & amazingly it came naturally. After I wrote the songs I returned them & I’m given little information after because I decided to discontinue working on those projects; I had my own. You always hope when you hear that Rihanna or One Direction is releasing a new album – or anybody that your song will make the final cut.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Kenny Fame: It’s definitely created a mass of mediocrity; but what can you do? It’s become the belly of this beast called “music industry”; but again giving a career life – “copy & paste” wouldn’t exist if radio wasn’t so quick to play copied & pasted songs. It’s all about what the industry wants versus what the industry needs.
- If someone has never heard your music, which 3 keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Kenny Fame: rebel, off the cuff, uncompromising; I refuse to allow Max Martin to write a song for me. I don’t care how guaranteed a hit maker he is #uncompromising.
- Which one of your songs would you describe as your most noteworthy so far?
Kenny Fame: I loved ‘Rejoyce”; unfortunately it was the first release & it’s always hard for a first song to go noticed but I thought it was great.
I’m a big fan of all of the four tracks on my upcoming (EP) “Soul of a Man (Volume 1)”. I believe that all of those tracks are simply smashing. They are very well crafted songs that if given a chance (radio) will become classics; just like Al Green.
- As you work your way through your career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or any other tangible milestone?
Kenny Fame: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the Songwriters Hall of Fame. We all have the same last name so I think it’s only fitting #Fame
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Kenny Fame: I feel like I may have already done it #TooLate J