Written by FrontPage Detroit
Fans will say that Kem's sultry style of soul music is a sweet enough gift for any occasion. Apparently, though, the homegrown favorite has more to give. His Christmas album, What Christmas Means, was released Oct. 16 and the artist sat down with FRONTPAGE Detroit to discuss what makes the project special and why fans will keep this one in heavy rotation for many seasons to come.
What made you want to record a Christmas album?
Kem: The idea came out of a meeting in Atlanta with my team. It's been tossed up over the years by different people, including my manager, Toya Hankins. We were together and it started out as an idea about doing an EP, five songs to celebrate the season. We presented that to the label and they said fine. Then they came back around and said it would be better as an album. So I wrote five originals and the album has five covers.
Yours doesn't sound like a traditional Christmas album. Instead it's got an authentic Kem sound with a yuletide backdrop. How intentional was that?
Very intentional. I played it for Dave McMurray, who used to play with me and now plays with Kid Rock. And he said it perfectly. This is not a throwaway Christmas record. It's top shelf and thought out, extremely high-quality. If we were talking about collard greens from your grandmama's house, we'd be talking about her putting her foot in it. I put my foot in this record.
How did the writing and recording process compare to your soul records?
All the songs are co-written with (Detroit-area singer/songwriter) Melanie Rutherford. And my daughter Troi makes her writing debut on Glorify the King. There's also a duet called Be Mine for Christmas, which reminds people so much of Billy Paul's Me and Mrs. Jones that we had to get clearance. So that's different because I usually write a majority of my stuff. But it was a condensed time. We decided in the spring to do a Christmas record and you gotta get it done by August. This was done in 90 days so I was going whenever the clock was visible. But it's probably the most efficient record that I've recorded to date. It required an extreme amount of focus and it's probably my best work to date.
What do you want your fans to get from this album?
I want my friends and fans to make me a part of their holiday tradition. I got my Christmas albums in the crate and in there is stuff like Nat King Cole. I remember those albums sitting around and I hope mine goes next to those.
What's a Kem Christmas like?
I'll have some caterers come over and set up shop. And I'll have neighbors and friends come over and exchange gifts. For the last five years at least, that's been going on at my house. We get the house ready the day before and bring stuff in the night before. And everybody comes and I get to see everybody. I guess it's kind of selfish, how I bring everybody to me (laugh).