Late May, 88.9's Alex Waters got to spend some time with British songwriter Michael Kiwanuka live on WERS. Kiwanuka took the time out of his busy, mostly sold-out touring schedule to drop by and play a few songs, as well as talk about some of his accomplishments, the music that inspires him, and his British perspective on touring the 'States.
FULL INTERVIEW AND PERFORMANCE
ALEX WATERS: Thanks so much for coming out and playing some tunes for us this afternoon.
MICHAEL KIWANUKA: It's a pleasure, it's a pleasure, yeah!
ALEX: And congrats on the success of your latest album, Love and Hate. Obviously you've been on a sold-out tour and that's what brings you to Boston this afternoon.
ALEX: And you've been nominated for a few awards as well, including BBC Music Award for Album of the Year. So you've got quite a few accomplishments going on. I was curious - of everything that you've done so far in your career, what are you most proud of?
MICHAEL: Well I'd have to say it's probably just making the albums, you know, I've just done two albums now so I'm most proud of making those albums, 'cause it's nice. I've always wanted, since very young, to make records, but recently we also played my biggest show in London at the Royal Albert Hall… it's a pretty cool venue.
ALEX: That's a big deal!
MICHAEL: It's a nice venue, yeah, and that's definitely a bucket-list thing, so I was pretty proud of that, it was nice.
ALEX: I'll bet, yeah! So while you're on tour, it's been a big tour so far, and you've still got quite a bit left I assume. What do you listen to when you're on tour?
MICHAEL: Well you know it depends, sometimes it's whatever happening, that's been released or out and around, you know. But this morning - we had a border crossing this morning - so I couldn't get back to sleep.
ALEX: That's right, 'cause you were coming from Canada, yeah.
MICHAEL: Yeah, so I had my computer out; listened to some, well about two or three years ago I got really into obscure country music, so I listened to this guy Blaze Foley. He's dead now, but he was a singer-songwriter from Texas, around the Austin area, I think…
But then I've been listening to, you know, we've got playlists on the road that have got a lot of soul music, old Impressions stuff, you know? I've been listening to a lot of Eddie Hazel and Funkadelic, old stuff. And then whatever's new that's coming out on the radio as well at the time. So, all sorts of stuff.
ALEX: Yeah, oldies-but-goodies and some interesting cuts as well. I like it!
MICHAEL: And we played First Avenue in Minneapolis, which is where they filmed "Purple Rain," so we watched "Purple Rain" on the way in. So we listened to Prince as well.
ALEX: That's super cool. So you kind of get to live through some of your musical idols' history.
MICHAEL: Yeah. So that's pretty cool about touring the US if you're from the UK. A lot of stuff you read about or see in movies. I guess small things that people find really simple here maybe, for us it's like "Whoa!"
ALEX: And what's the most interesting thing that you find as a difference between touring in the UK and touring in the US?
MICHAEL: There's a few things, mainly like the roads and the scenery, 'cause driving around America's a cool thing, it's just different. It's like a whole continent even though it's a country, you know. So at one point we were going through Montana, and today, this morning was this quite nice view of Vermont. And then we were at the West Coast, so there's always beautiful things to look at.
Where in England, you've got this motorway called the M1, and that's not, really, you know, very interesting.
ALEX: It's not very beautiful? [Laughs]
MICHAEL: Not really, I mean, if you go off the beaten track it's nice, like Yorkshire and stuff, but you don't really go through there on touring, so you just have one motorway all the way up the country, which is pretty bleak. So that's one of the differences, and then the audiences are different people - just different characters, in the US. I feel like cities and countries have personalities like people, you know?
So playing out here is fun, people are way more, I don't want to say enthusiastic, but you definitely get more unique characters in the crowd. So it's definitely eventful, it's fun.
ALEX: So it's got to be inspiring.
MICHAEL: Yeah, it's good. It's really fun touring out here.