Originally created 07/04/05

Q&A: Kem on voices, God and growing old



NEW YORK - You know you're big-time when counterfeit copies of your new album hit the streets before they hit stores.

Even with that bootleg move, Kem Owens, a.k.a. Kemistry, debuted at No. 5 on the album charts and on top of the R&B charts with his "Album II." He sat down with The Associated Press before an appearance on "The View" and the commencement of his 20-city "Find Your Way" tour:

AP: How are you handling the overwhelmingly positive response to your music?

Kem: I'm blessed. The music I deliver is a reflection of my soul. If you listen to my music there is an undertone of spirituality embedded throughout the music and that's one of the reasons it resonates with people the way that it does.

AP: Being from Detroit, how do you feel about hooking up with Motown Records?

Kem: While I'm excited about the legacy and the tradition, the selection of Motown was a business decision that is working out well. My influences range from Michael Jackson Prince, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker. I have all that stuff inside of me.

AP: How was it working with Big Stevie Wonder on "You Might Win?"

Kem: While we were working on the song, I tried a sax solo, a guitar solo and my engineer said, 'Stevie's harmonica would just blow this out.' And I said, 'That's a great idea.' And when I met Stevie, you know and everybody's saying, 'You should work with him,' but I'm just cool with having Stevie's number on my phone! I didn't want to approach our relationship that way, but I called him and he said yes. There is no greater honor than to have Stevie Wonder on my album.

AP: Tell me about your relationship with God and how that reflects in your music?

Kem: My career didn't take off until I realized I could use my music as a witness to people all around the world and letting them know how good God has been to me. I think we need it in this day and age. One of the greatest rewards for me is my music being the soundtrack for an event that helps the spirit of the people listening to it. There is something more than 'entertainment value.' There was a woman who was recovering from breast cancer and all throughout her treatment my music was the backdrop, and to be able to create music that serves as a tool to uplift people and to touch peoples lives is an incredible thing.

AP: Your album artwork seems to set the tempo for you music. On your first one you had your head down and your hands covering your face in frustration. Now you transition to having your face seen, humble and reflective. What are you saying with these pictures?

Kem: If I had my way, my head would still be down. (Smiles.) I always like to leave something left to be discovered, but now I wanted people to connect my face to the music this time with the second album.

AP: Did you select 'I Can't Stop Loving You' as the first single to drop?

Kem: There's always a concern that (an) artist would do something different and alienate the core audience. I wanted the people who fell in love with the first CD to know it's the same thing, that they knew that this new CD was in the same vein.

AP: On song 2, 'Heaven,' you open an octave up, and your bridges and choruses are lower. Like you're two different people, a duet with yourself.

Kem: Started out falsetto. People who know me know I got 30 different voices in me.

AP: You're at the forefront of a generation that created hip-hop and is now middle-aged with changing tastes.

Kem: When you're done doing your 'thing,' you start getting older and thinking about what's really important in life and what's of value, about the things you cherish. You're not listening to the same things. I'm grateful that I've been allowed to do the work I'm doing.