Interviews

Kentrell: Popular Soul

Singer/songwriter Kentrell is not your average artist. But when your label mates are Chris Brown and Ciara, you can’t afford to be. Singing since he was six years old, the Mississippi native has managed to incorporate his love of oldschool music with his desire for mass appeal to create his own sound; named “pop-soul.” This fusion of the soul of R&B and the appeal and edginess of pop music led him to the doors of Jive Records. His first single, “Encore” is currently gaining momentum. With every song he releases, Kentrell hopes to carve his own lane. It’s not going to be easy, but when you’re working for something you love, it never is!

Singersroom: Where are you from and what made you want to become a professional artist?

Kentrell: I’m originally from Mississippi. I grew up singing gospel in the church so singing was always a big part of my life. Almost my whole family sings so I was pretty much introduced to music at an early age. I was raised in Mississippi and then moved to Chicago and everywhere I went people were always drawn to my voice so I figured it would be a dope career move.

Singersroom: Was the move to Chicago for your career or just family related?

Kentrell: My career had a lot to do with it. Actually my father is originally from Chicago. My dad is really the one that introduced me to music outside of gospel. I was raised down south and I was just down there trying to find out what I wanted to do with myself; what to do after high school and music was number one.

Singersroom: The industry is really big on new artists having “ringtone” records; do you take that into consideration when you’re making your songs?

Kentrell: Not really. I really try to follow the path of those that came before me. I’m a big Michael Jackson and Prince fan and they have timeless music. Them, guys like Marvin Gaye and James Brown, those guys are my biggest influences. They all made great, timeless music and that’s what I’m trying to do. I want to bring a new flavor but still keep that same feel that their music had back then and hopefully that will keep me in here for a minute. If my music can make people feel how their music made people feel back then…well let me stop saying back then because I still listen to their music today. But just that vibe they had. You know how people always sample them in different ways when they’re making beats, trying to recapture that vibe, that’s my thing. I want to make big, timeless records with the same vibe and feel as them.

Singersroom: What song comes to mind when you here the term “big record?”

Kentrell: I’d say like “Man in the Mirror” or “What’s Going On.” I mean records that feel good and step outside of the usual. Any R&B singer can talk about sex and women all day long but…like I got this record called “Time” that was on Barack Obama’s first CD. I was mentioned in the liner notes as one of the inspirations for the CD. The song couldn’t get cleared due to the sample used but the record was along the lines of a “We are the World” or “What’s Going On.” I look at records like that and I strive to make records with that vibe. Even if you look at the single, “Encore,” it’s a nice, big ballad. It’s simple but it’s one of those records that will grow on people after hearing it once or twice. With the build and the dramatic ending, music like that is like going to church. Once the music starts playing and the singer starts singing it just feels good. No matter how long you’ve been away from it, when you go back to it, it always feels good so that’s what I want to do.

Singersroom: You’ve been quoted as calling your music “pop-soul” but what does that mean?

Kentrell: I get asked that a lot. I can just describe it like, I want the music to be popular but I want it to have an aggressive feel, an edge to it, but I’m a real soulful dude at the same time so if I’m singing over a “pop” track I’m still going to have that soulful sound. And I said that to someone one day and they were like “man, that sounds dope” so I’m just running with it.

Singersroom: There are a lot of R&B artists and a lot of pop artist all gunning for that number one spot, some are your own label mates, what is it that sets you apart from them?

Kentrell: Nobody’s really doing it like I want to do it right now. A lot of people sing soul music and a lot of people sing pop music but I do the soul music but add a popular feel to it. When I make records, when I perform, I want it to be entertaining, like you’re ready to enjoy life when you listen to it.

Singersroom: You’re from the south and raised in the mid-west. There is a rich tradition of both soul music and popular music that has come from those regions over the years; do you feel like you have to live up to that legacy?

Kentrell: I do. Being from the south, from Mississippi and getting what I got from being there then moving to the mid-west and soaking up all the artists from there, Prince, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, it definitely goes hand and hand when I’m creating my music. I try to recapture that but add my own swag to it to keep it classic but fresh.

Singersroom: With the industry being what it is today and artists saying that the money just isn’t there like it used to be, what is it that makes you press forward?

Kentrell: I been grinding for a minute man. It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally here so I feel like the timing is definitely right. People are ready for something new, something fresh and I bring exactly that. I’m a lover of music. I can’t really see myself doing anything but this.

Singersroom: People have heard the single, “Encore.” Would you say that song serves as a good introduction to who you are as an artist?

Kentrell: Any song you hear from me is a perfect introduction. Any song I do you can get a good idea of what this whole “pop-soul” thing means. Like I can be singing over a pop or up-tempo track but I’m still a soulful dude.

Singersroom: When coming to your shows what can fans expect?

Kentrell: I performed with a CD before just for the sake of that show but I prefer to have a band with me. I have been rehearsing with this band getting ready to go out and do shows. It’s one thing to hear the song, to hear me but it’s another thing to actually see it live. I can do the ballads and the up-tempos. It’s more than just singing with me. I give a show. When I’m on that stage I give it all and hopefully with every new city I’ll have more people following and rocking with me. —— By: Interview By Haaron Hines

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