Photo: Uri Schanker/WireImage.com
Struttin' With Lenny Kravitz
It's been 25 years since Lenny Kravitz made a splash with his 1989 acclaimed debut album, Let Love Rule, and, multiple GRAMMY wins later, his career continues to shine. His latest effort Strut, set for release on Sept. 23, has a sexy, '80s-tinged spirit that acts as a nice counterbalance to 2011's Black And White America, which explored racial themes and possessed a funkier '70s vibe. The new album also marks Kravitz's first release on his own label, Roxie Records.
Aside from music, since 2003 Kravitz has operated a successful design firm, Kravitz Design Inc., which handles commercial, residential and product design. In addition, he's landed supporting roles in major films such as 2012's The Hunger Games and 2013's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Needless to say, the musician never runs out of creative projects.
Ahead of his latest album's release, Kravitz participated in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview, discussing how the album marks a new beginning for him, jamming with fellow GRAMMY winner Prince and his future plans for his label, among other topics.
Has it been more challenging releasing Strut on your own label?
It's more challenging, it's more responsibility, and there's more risk, but I'm enjoying it.
Do you pay attention to what people say about you on social media?
I see certain things, but you can't pay attention to that. I make music to express myself, and it's my art. If people dig it, cool. If they don't, cool.
What would you say is the most personal song on the new album?
All of them. Absolutely. They're all snapshots of things that I'm feeling.
I'm curious, what inspired "The Chamber"?
Heartbreak, man. Classic.
I like "Frankenstein" a lot.
Yeah, that's one of my favorite tracks as well. That's about being misunderstood [and] misunderstood love. It was interesting using Frankenstein as the example because yes, he was a monster, but at the same time he wanted love and needed love like anybody else. He just happened to be in a really f***ed up situation.
It's been 25 years since Let Love Rule was released. What kind of life lessons have you learned since then?
Oh god, so much. It's been a journey, man. All the things that I went through are what are going to propel me through the next 25. It's been an amazing experience and a learning experience, and I feel like that got me over the hump and now the best is yet to come. It's in front of me. I dig [the new album], I really do. I think it's a new beginning, and I think there a lot of places that I'm going to go after this.
Do you remember when you were in a children's choir and recorded with rock band Angel?
Yes. The California Boys' Choir, that I was in at the time, was rated the second-best boys' choir in the world next to the Vienna Boys Choir. It was incredible, and being with them I sang with [conductor] Zubin Mehta on Mahler's third symphony, I performed with the [Los Angeles] Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, all kinds of things. I worked with great conductors like Erich Leinsdorf and Michael Tilson Thomas, [and] the Joffrey Ballet [in Chicago]. It was an incredible experience. One of the things that we did was sing on that Angel track called "The Winter Song." I remember the chorus was "winter winds on heaven and Earth". I do remember the session. I remember those guys with the long hair all dressed in white. They were like the anti-KISS.
I hear you have an appearance in the new documentary Holy Ghost.
I had a short interview for that. It's about the power of the Holy Spirit in creativity and life and all kinds of things, so they had some artists and musicians that were also interviewed. I talked about how the spirit works through me in my daily life and also my creative life. It's an interesting film.
Have there been opportunities that have come up in recent years that you were surprised to be involved with?
[Acting] was not part of my plan. And then to end up in Precious and [The] Hunger Games, then The Butler and Catching Fire, all of that was incredible. All four of those films blew through the roof and were my first four ventures in that medium. Also starting my design company and now having it be on the frontline of design firms and working on great projects alongside [French designer] Philippe Starck and people like that is incredible.
Is it true that you once jammed in the studio with Prince in Paris?
I remember us being in a studio in Paris years ago, but one of our main jams was at his place in Minneapolis. We actually recorded a track that no one's ever heard.
Is there a title?
No, not that I can remember.
I imagine that must've been a cool experience.
Oh yeah. He and I played all the instruments. It was fun.
Prince is known for having a huge library of unreleased music. I imagine you have some unreleased material as well?
Yes, I do.
Do you think we'll see that in a compilation?
That will happen.
Are there other artists that you're going to try to cultivate on your own label?
I am, and that will be the next thing, but right now I'm the guinea pig. Better to be a guinea pig on yourself, right? But yes, that is part of the plan, bringing up a few new artists.
(Bryan Reesman is a veteran entertainment journalist who contributes regularly to GRAMMY.com, American Way, Newsday, Inked, and Playboy.)