Michael Kiwanuka’s star is on the rise. The UK singer-songwriter and former session guitarist, whose soulful sound evokes Bill Withers and Van Morrison, won the BBC Sound Of 2012 Award for his album Home Again, and was tapped by Adele to open for her on her 2011 tour. This summer, Kiwanuka will attempt to recreate his success United States, with high profile gigs at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.
Tell us a bit about your new album.
It’s called Home Again and it’s a blend of soul and folk music.
Who are your songwriting heroes?
Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield and Shuggie Otis.
When did you start writing songs? Were they good right away, or did that come later?
At about 20 years old. I’d like to think that they started out promising.
What sort of things inspire you to write?
Music and emotion.
What was the first song you ever wrote? Tell us about it.
A song called “The Rest of My Days.” It was just my version of a love song, really.
What percentage of the songs you write are keepers?
Probably about 40%. I’m quite hard on myself.
What’s your approach to writing lyrics?
My approach is just to be as honest as possible, and to try and give an image that can be as clear as possible for the listener to interpret.
Do you have any standards you try to adhere by when choosing songs for an album?
I like my songs to flow from one to another and create and overall mood and feeling.
What’s a song on Home Again you’re particularly proud of?
“Always Waiting.” I like the lyrics and the music.
What’s a lyric from the album you’re a fan of?
“You’ll always be part of the person I’ll become,” from “I Won’t Lie.”
Is it easier, or harder to write songs, the more you write?
It depends. When you’ve used one way of drawing inspiration till it’s run dry, it’s hard. But it just takes something small to ignite the creative juices again, and it can become like you’ve never written a song before.
What’s a song of yours that’s really affected people?
“Home Again” seems to be the one that’s affected most people. I’m not sure why, I think maybe the sentiment comes through well with the melody and music.
What do you consider the perfect song, and why?”
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan. The lyrics, melody and the guitar playing are just perfect. It just gets my imagination going every time I hear that song.