Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
17 Sep 2015
8:00 am

Brian McKnight: new music inspired by a special lady

Nandipha Pantsi

When it was announced a few weeks ago that the legendary Brian McKnight would be coming to South Africa, not everyone was happy.

While some people took to social media to express excitement, others were disappointed that the R&B icon was coming to perform in the country when he didn’t even have a new album out.

Others even went as far as calling him a “has been”. But the 46-year-old singer, who performed in Durban last night, says he is only getting better with time, and this is mostly because of the special woman in his life. Leilani Malia is the inspiration behind his upcoming album titled Better. “She’s better than anything I’ve ever had before and she’s the best thing I will ever have,” he says with a smile.

“This album is going to be better than anything I’ve done before because life is better for me.” McKnight was married to his college sweetheart, Julia McKnight, for thirteen years before they got divorced in 2003.

Speaking on the album which will be released next year, McKnight says he went back to basics with it, creating music the way he did more than twenty years ago. “This album has nothing to do with trying to be current or trying to please people. I knew that if I focused on doing music the way music is being done now, people would say ‘But that’s not what Brian Mcknight does’ and if I just stick to making music the way I always have, they would say ‘but that’s what he always does’” he says with a laugh.

“So I thought ‘let me just make music that feels right to me’. Why should I try to be like everyone else when I can do so much more?” Despite being praised for being one of the greatest R&B musicians of all time, McKnight doesn’t like his music being put in a box.

“I grew up in a time when music wasn’t as compartmentalised as it is now. Music was music, we listened to everything and we enjoyed it all. But when I think about my music, the best way to describe it is soul music, not necessarily R&B.

Asked what he thought about the state of music right now, he said.