On the Verge: Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka was all smiles as he set up in the WERS studio in a varsity sweater and a thick, shaggy beard. Kiwanuka, of the United Kingdom, has had a crazy and exciting year, one that any emerging artist would be jealous of. After playing in bands for a while before signing to Communion Records, who he released two EPs through, Kiwanuka started attracting major attention. He attracted enough attention to support Adele for the last leg of her tour through the UK in 2011. This led only to better for the young artist who signed with Polydor Records in 2011 and was then named the winner of the BBC Sound of 2012 poll.

In March he released his first album, Home Again, to much acclaim and popularity across the sea, as well as comparisons to legends Otis Redding and Bill Withers. The album features a great mix of soul and R&B tunes lined with soothing acoustic guitar. Recording the first album was “overall a really exciting and enjoyable experience” and “was nerve-wracking to be near the end and to finally put out after working for it for a while.” The long process has been worth it though, as Home Again has reached #4 on the UK charts and has has similar success in other European countries.

Kiwanuka played a couple stripped down songs from the album here in the WERS studio. First he played “Bones.” As soon as he began, his sweet voice captured all ears in the studio as it sang along to the soft guitar rhythms. Next was “I’m Getting Ready,” one of the singles off of Home Again. Another soft and thoughtful song, Kiwanuka sings “But if I hold on tight is it true?/Would you take care of all that I do?”

Even though Kiwanuka has achieved so much success so suddenly (success that he certainly deserves) he remains humble and grateful. He hasn’t had that difficult of a transition thus far, saying “you just kind of take it as it comes.” He says that he “tries not to think about it,” but when he does “it’s really like a dream come true.”

This should continue to be another big year for Kiwanuka. This summer he played at the Bonnaroo Music and Art Festival as well as Lollapalooza. As he laughes and dances his way down Tremont Street with his bassist buddy towards Starbucks, it’s obvious that Kiwanuka is modest, full of energy, and ready to take on America.

By Anthony Cantone Heinze
Photo by Sarah Ruggiero

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