Updated: May 4, 2022
Keith Washington has achieved a number of milestones within the industry from nominations for Grammy awards to winning a Soul Train Music Award, an achievement few artists have ever been able to accomplish in the music and film business. A string of hit songs followed by an appearance in the television drama series Martin also ratified his undisputed success. It is safe to say that Keith Washington is an all-round talented individual, who is determined to reach even more than he has ever thought possible. The privilege I had of speaking with this amazing talent led me to share with you some of what he shared with me about his life and career.
It’s so good to speak with you! I’m a personal fan of your music! I think you are a phenomenal vocalist.
Thank you very much!
Keith, are you still living in Detroit? No, I’ve lived in LA for quite some time and just recently relocated to Las Vegas about four years ago. I still go home to visit my family in Detroit.
So how did it all begin for you? I am one of three boys and three girls. My sister, “Elaine”, who is passed away now, heard me singing in my room and told my mother when she came home from work. So, my mom told my aunt who was involved in the music business and was connected to various TV shows & nightclubs in Detroit.
Because of my aunts’ connections in the music industry, this opened the door for me to begin performing around Detroit around the age of 6. At that young age, I became world recognized. I appeared on TV shows in Canada, “Swingin Time” and I opened for lots of major acts that performed at “The 20 Grand” in Detroit like, “Brenda Russell”. That went on for a while. From that point on, my name began circulating around Detroit.
When I was around 9 years old, I remember my uncle coming to our house and having a conversation with my mom about going over to Motown. At that time, “Berry Gordon” wanted to have a meeting regarding me. But the meeting didn’t happen because my mom had bipolar and at that time her condition began to worsen. So, because my mother was always involved in my career, he didn’t want to take me without her. So, because of this, they decided to cancel the meeting. Consequently, it never happened. So, when I became a teenager, I became a part of a local group in Detroit.
Tell me about your teenage years? When I was around 16 years old, I went to live with my aunt and uncle. A few of the original members from group “The Dramatics” were her neighbors. My aunt’s house set on the corner. On the left side of her house about three doors down there lived,” Lenny Mayes” and on the right side of us was “Ron Banks”.
They went to school with my family. I went to “Persian High School”. So, my uncle and aunt kind of knew them, so as you can imagine, to meet the “Dramatics” at such a young age, was an exciting experience because “L.J Reynolds (LJ) was one of my heroes.
One day, while walking down the street, I ran into,” Lenny Mayes”. We struck up a conversation, they heard me sing and they really gravitated to me. This is what led me to going on tour with “The Dramatics.” I wasn't part of the Dramatics, but I was part of a team. I was part of the band. For example, in the middle of their show, they would have me come up and sing. They would feature me. That was the first time I ever sang in front of 6000 people. It was amazing!
Did you have stage fright? No, I didn’t have stage fright. I was past that point. At that point, I was accustomed to being on the stage I was used to it. So, I ended up touring with them for quite some time.
How old were you when you left Detroit? I was about 20 years old when I left Detroit. I met my wife, “Marsha Jenkins” around age 23. We then moved to Charlotte, NC. I never imagined that living in Charlotte, NC would be the very place that my success as a songwriter would begin. You never know where your success is going to happen. We moved there because she had to relocate. She worked for the airlines, got promoted, became an agent, and stopped flying.
How did you become successful in Charlotte? I ran into a few producers, Sonny More, Greg Shelton and other great producers like Paul Lawrence. Paul Lawrence was one of the producers for “Freddie Jackson”. That's when Freddie came out with, Rock with Me” and all those other hits. Paul Lawrence was one of the producers of that album.
How did you meet Paul Lawrence? Sonny Moore was a friend of mine, and he knew Paul Laurence. See, when I met Sonny in Charlotte, we started talking because we both had production studios in our homes. So, he and I started writing together and one day he called me and told me that Paul Laurence wanted us to write a song for Freddie. So, I wrote “Hey lover” by “Freddie Jackson”. It ended up becoming a huge record for him. That was my first wow! That was my first royalty check signing with ASCAP. It’s the best feeling in the world to get paid for what you love doing. I said to myself, now I am an official songwriter. My name was behind one of the biggest R&B singers of that time. I was very excited about that!
Because my wife worked for the airline, I was able to fly for free. So, I would fly back and forth from Carolina to Los Angeles taking meetings and so on. It was amazing because before my wife and I got married.
Tell me a bit about Don Davis? Don Davis was like my godfather. He owned a studio called “United Sounds Recording Studio” and owned the first independent bank in Detroit.
He was also involved in the dramatics career. When I was around 19/20 years old, he allowed me to go down to his recording studio and write songs. He had producers down there working and writing with me.
Well, one time, while I was in the studio, a bunch of people came in to listen to me while I was recording. One of the people there was one of Ed McMahon's daughters from the hit TV show, “Star Search”. Don rented them a big room for their auditions. They were looking for talent. So, they came in there while I was recording me to do star search, but I was not interested. The reason for my apprehension was that I felt that they had favorites. Plus, the guy who had been on there for a while, who was always winning, they wanted me to go up against him. I felt as though there was favoritism.
I wasn't insecure of about my ability to sing and perform well. I knew I was well equipped and prepared; it was just that I just felt as though there was favoritism. I felt that I will be fighting and losing battle. You know, the politics. But they convinced me to do it. So, I did.
At that time, I hadn't written any songs for Freddie Jackson or anything. So, Dan Davis suggested that we would sing in original song called “You Are My Life.” He wanted me to open with that song and then the second song would be a well-known pop song. He said that I will kill them with this song! There wasn't any question that I There wasn't any question that I could have out sung that man. The only problem was that, in general, people relate more to songs they are familiar with. I remember repeatedly telling Don, “They don't know “You Are My Life”, they don't know that song. He felt that it would be a good idea because my delivery of that song was so point on. He felt that I sang that song very well.
The judges must have relatability to the song as well, and I felt that we would not win because of that. I suggested that we do a song that they (the audience and judges) knew first. Then we could add a couple other songs in then include that song somewhere along the way as I’m winning.
Unfortunately, I ended up performing the original song first. The audience loved it! So much so that they gave me a standing ovation! So much so that they gave me a standing ovation! But somehow, I still did not feel comfortable. turns out that my feeling was accurate because one of the judges gave me a half a point. she told me that it's no question that I was good and that I was a star, reason that she gave me a half a point was because, they didn’t recognize the song.
The guy that had been on there for a while, sang a bunch of “Sam Cooke” songs. These are songs that people recognize. But at the end of the day, it turned out to be a good thing because it gave me lots of exposure. That was a great part of my life.
Thank you for sharing that experience. How did your career progress from there? Well, I got married in Charlotte. Also, Charlotte was the place where I wrote the song for Freddie Jackson. But I would fly back and forth to LA to network, meet people and get exposure. Eventually we moved to LA permanently. Amid that, I was signed to a little label that was distributed by a A&M records. “John McClain”, who was the executive producer for Janet Jackson's and so many other careers, he was the A&R director over at A&M records. John was friends with the owners of Calista Records. “Calista Records” was an independent label distributed by A&M Records. So, I was signed to that label at that time.
We had a great working relationship. I knew the three guys well. I believe they treated me a lot different than they treated the other acts because I knew people they knew. As we would say, street people.
However, despite of that close knit relationship, still one of them had an issue with me. He made a comment to somebody expressing his dissatisfaction in me for one reason or the other. He wanted me to comply with what he wanted me to do, and if I didn't do it, he threatened to shelf me. They had a satellite company in the front and a record label also. I doubt if they knew much about the record business at that time.
So, when I heard that, I met with John McClain and told him that, “I wanted to be free from the production deal I had with “Calista.” I gave him the choice to either sign me directly or I would leave.
John would always tell me that he wanted me to sign directly. But he also said that everything would have to be worked out first. His plan was as follows…. as soon as “Jeffrey Osborne” leaves and goes over to Clive Davis label, then I could sign with them directly.
What happened was, there was an international marketing for A&R meeting in London. “Herb Albert” the owner of A&M records was also there. So, John played “Control “by “Janet Jackson and my song, “kissing you.” At that time, both songs were only demos. He played “kissing You” three or four times because they love the song that much.
So, when they came back into the United States, John told me that “Herb Albert” was going to give me a call me upon his return. Herb Albert did call me. He set up a meeting with me and A&R records. I let him know how unhappy I was with the label that I was distributed by. I told him that I wanted to sign directly with them. See, they didn't want to lose me because of the response they got regarding me internationally. So, Herb Albert told me that he wanted me to meet a friend of his. He told me he was a manager. He told me that he was on the road with one of his clients but as soon as he got back in town, he wanted me to meet him. So, when he came back in town, he did introduce me to him and his name was, “Sherwin Bash.” Sherwin did become my manager. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2016. Sherwin's massive catalog of actors and artist that he's represented over the years is extremely impressive. He was a heavyweight. He told me that there was no question that “kissing You” was going to be a huge song for me.
He had a meeting with the same guy who introduced him to me. He went in and said, “here's the deal guys, I need $50,000 into his account immediately.” He wanted it within 10 days, and if that doesn’t happen, he would take full ownership. That's what he told everyone in the meeting, including Herb Albert. They told him that they wanted to work it out with me, but they were waiting for “Jeffrey Osborne” to go over to Arista Records. They were going to let Jeffrey go. they said as soon as Jeffrey is over at,” Arista” then we will work it out. He was not happy about that. He was a shrewd, but he was business.
Shortly after that, my new manager suggested that we and get out of that deal. I was apprehensive because heard that filing bankruptcy can ruin your life. He asked me, did I have credit now? I told him that I didn't. Then he said, “in that case, I didn’t have anything to worry about.” He then went on to say that he would show me the difference between having money in the bank and not having money in the bank.
So, we did file bankruptcy. It was a type of bankruptcy that you can list things that you wanted to file for. So, we got out of that deal. Shortly after that, he practically had every major record label’s contract on the table waiting for me to decide which one I wanted to go with.
What about Clive Davis? Was he interested in signing you? The only person that did not offer me a deal but wanted me over there was, “Clive Davis.” The two of them had known each other for quite some time, for years. These guys were the hot CEOs of these companies like my manager. They were not the A&R people. He told me that Clive was interested but, he did not want to get in a rat race. So, I took it upon myself to call Clive directly, but he told me that he did not want to get in a rat race with my manager, Sherwin. I couldn't believe I was talking to Clive Davis! It is crazy how life is. You never know what will happen in your life. What was funny was that I when I was on the phone with Clive, I was saying “Yeah Clive, yeah.” I was playing it cool. But, in the back of my mind, I was like, wow! I'm really talking to Clive Davis! This is amazing! I'm really talking to Clive Davis! This is amazing! So, I accepted what Clive said to me. I told him that I would have my manager reach out to him.
What was your next move? Who won the bidding war? Who did you end up signing with? Well, Benny Medina, who was an A&R director at Warner Brothers, was a very good friend of mine. In fact, the TV series that, “Will Smith” played called, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” That was his true-life story. He was the guy that they wrote the story around. Will Smith represented him, and the family represented the family that he grew up in. That was the Gordy family, as in the “Berry Gordy” (Founder, Motown Records).
But going back to Benny. Because he knew that I had gotten out of my previous contract, he wanted to sign me directly to “Warner Brothers.” “Warner Brothers” was one of the many contracts that was on the table. But “Quincy Jones” was interested in me also.
Now, before all that happened, I signed with “Elektra Records.” Although I was grateful for the opportunity, I didn't feel as though that was my resting place. At the time, “Anita Baker” was over there. She was one of Sherwin's clients. As a matter of fact, “Keith Sweat” was also on that label.
The A&R person, his name was “Raoul Roach.” So, I met Raoul over there. Before he became the A&R person at “Electra”, he was Quincy Jones driver. Because my manager (Sherwin) and was good friends with the CEO of Electra, “Bob Krasnow”, we ended up signing a $4 million dollar record deal with them. I was probably one of the first new and unknown artist to come aboard. Generally, it's difficult for an emerging artist to sign such a big deal but, that just goes to show you the power of powerful people.
So, my first CD was supposed to come out on Electra. Well, what happened was, Raoul received a phone call regarding “Quincy Jones” wanting him to come over to “Quest Records.” Quincy wanted him to be his A&R person over there. So, Raoul informed him that he was just finishing my record. I encouraged Raoul to go over there, and I assured him that I would be fine. After he leaves, a new person comes in name “Tommy” from “Sony Records” to replace Raoul’s position.
“Bob krasnow” let him hear the album. Tommy tells Bob, “It’s OK. You'll be lucky if you get your money back.” So, his statement put doubt in Bob's mind. weeks later, Raoul calls in to check on me. He asked Bob about the progress of my album. He told him that it was coming along very well but, he wanted to know why he asked? Raoul said, “Quincy is interested”. Bob said, “I'm sure he would be.” Then he asked Raoul to have Quincy call him.
Quincy had already heard the album and loved it! So, Raoul told Quincy what Bob said. So, we kept everything quiet because that's what Quincy Jones wanted to do. So, Quincy, did call him. Meanwhile, during all this, my friend, Benny Medina found out that “Electra Records” dropped me before the record was released. So, Benny asked me to come over to Warner Brothers. Now, keep in mind, Quest Records is distributed through warner brothers. So, my manager thought it would be a good idea to go to sign directly to Warner Brothers and then to Quincy as well. He felt as though we could get both labels. In the end, I wind up signing with Quincy. unfortunately, that kind of damage my relationship with Benny Medina. Because of that, we didn't speak for a while. So basically, that's how my professional recording career began.
Sounds like your manager was a great guy who made things happen! Yes, it’s like this, when you have Warner Brothers, Quest Records, and guy named “Sherwin Bash” on your team and in your corner, things happen! I thought that was really cool!
That’s a great story! So, tell me, how did your acting career begin? Well, my manager, “Sherwin Bash made things happen! One day he called me he told me that in executive from the TV show, “General Hospital” was at a hotel one day, saw my music video, and said that I was his,” Billy Dee Williams” for “General Hospital” and he had to have me. I couldn't believe it! I was like what? See my manager Sherwin, he was a sarcastic person but at the same time he was a very powerful in the entertainment industry.
So, we went to a meeting with the ABC network about General Hospital. I thought that we were going to get a script and read with the other actors. But that's not what happened. All the other actors came in and we all started mingling and interacting with one another. Next thing I knew, I was welcomed into the cast of General Hospital. Just like that!
I said to myself, “out of all these actors, that worked so hard to be here and who deserve this job, this fell in my lap. I'm a very caring person so it bothered me. When I mentioned it to my mother, she said why are you so bombed out about this? Why are you so bothered that they didn't get the job Keith? Why not you? I know that things can happen in crazy ways, but why not you? Why not my son? she lovingly reminded me that I had been singing for many years and that sometimes singers become actors. And after listening to her, I thought to myself yes, why not me? Why am I feeling like I took somebody's job? I concluded that I didn't take someone else’s job and that everything happens for a reason.
So, I was on General Hospital for a while and from there I appeared in the movie, “Poetic Justice Tupac, Regina King and Janet Jackson. I even appeared in the Martin Lawrence Show in which I sang a duet with “Tisha Campbell.” At the present, I'm working on a web series that is soon to come out. Additionally, I'm finishing my new CD. I'm very proud of it and hopefully my fans will be as well.
I can see how that would make you feel amazing! I'd love to go back and talk about a little bit about your “Grammy Award” nomination for, “Best R&B Vocal Male” for “kissing You.” I love that song. I wanted to know what goes through your mind or what does it feel like to receive these types of honors? As a child singing and seeing “The Dramatics” or people that you really admired, and now being in the exact place that they’re in. What’s that feel like? You know, it happened so fast that I never really marinated it. To be nominated for a Grammy. I've never been the type of person to be overwhelmed by it. Even though I was like, “wow!”, I had always been confident that that was going to be a part of my journey. Therefore, it never overwhelmed me. Some people couldn't understand why I was so cool about these things. Well, it’s because God already told me that this was a part of his plan for me. I want to get back to what you were saying, but that reminds me of a time when a particular magazine wanted to give us a cover interview. He wanted to hear my story. But unfortunately, he was only looking for the negative aspect of it. Although he pressed me, I told him, “There really isn't any bad things that I can share because everything that I did I enjoyed it.” the trials that I encounter in my life were all a part of the process of me growing and becoming the man that I am today. I enjoyed it. I can't tell the story that I've cried, and slept in the rain because, none of that happened to me! None of that! None of that! I had family in Lai was independent individual. I took care of myself. I stayed in a hotel and if there were times that I lacked financially, I would go downstairs in the hallway and I would say, “here's a jacket of mine that I paid $500.00 for. Would you take it?” And I would pay the rent. Occasionally, I had to do that type of stuff.
Go back to your question. In the moment, it felt like it was all happening so fast. Know what I can say is this; When Bob Krasner dropped me from Elektra Records, in Quincy, signed to me, I’ll never forget this one time when I was at the Grammys. Some of the lawyers and some of the people who were apart of Elektra Records ran into me in the Men’s room. They approached me and congratulated me for my achievements. They also informed me that they told “Bob Krasner” not to drop me from the label. I told them that I understood because it was business. Following that conversation, Bob Krasner walks into the men's room. We talk for a minute, and he also congratulated me. I told him thank you. Then he told me that's what makes race horses, horse races.
the way I interpreted it that is that when “Sugar Ray Leonard” got knocked down by Tommy Hearnes, he got back up on one. This was my interpretation of what he said to me, although he let me go, I got right back up and I continue my fight for success. I thanked him for that.
I chose to take the positives from it. If I looked at it in another way and compared to his analogy of racehorses, it kind of sounded like slavery, but I chose to take the positive aspect from it. As it relates to the advantage of a Grammy nomination, I was smart enough to take advantage of the opportunities that it afforded me. I realized that although this moment would soon pass, my legacy would live on. At the same time, I was careful to keep in mind that where my legacy ends up would be another story. In the moment I enjoyed it and I thank God for it!
You know one of the ways that I know that there's a God and He’s always listening? Because when I first started touring, I was on the Warner Time Jet with Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, my manager, Sherwin Bash, I believe, Steven Spielberg and comedian Sinbad.
Sinbad did “Star Search” while I did. Well, nobody knew it was my birthday. And I remember asking God that when this happens for me, I want to be in Detroit, MI to celebrate my birthday. I wanted to have a big party. So, lo and behold, they were going over my schedule with Quincy Jones regarding my schedule with Phyllis Hyman.
Well, I heard him say on November the 15th he'll be in Detroit at the Fox Theater with Phyllis Hyman. So, I interjected and said, “wait, did I hear you say that I would be in Detroit with Phyllis Hyman on November the 15th. I looked at Quincy and said, “wow! that's amazing! That’s the day of my birthday!” That's amazing! That’s the day of my birthday!” They were really excited about it! That’s the day of my birthday!” they were really excited about it! So, basically, it all came together. I did the concert, I had a huge after party, and the mayor gave me the key to the city. Everything I dreamed about all came to fruition. These are the things that make me a believer in prayer. I feel like if God is with you, you can't fail! You also must believe in yourself enough to understand what sacrificing is. A lot of people are afraid to leave off the porch. For me, I was always looking for a bigger porch.
Again, I was so grateful, and I was so proud to know that I was nominated. I went out and bought my mother a beautiful dress because of all the hard work and everything, I wanted my mother to share that moment with me. in the end she was not able to go, so I had to take my mother's brother with me. That was painful because I really wanted her to be there. But I understood that the condition that she was in was not the best. But it ended up being a beautiful day and a beautiful moment. It was part of my life, and it was part of my journey.
Has there ever been a time when you struggled with laryngitis while you had a big show, and how did you handle that experience? If I was experiencing throat problems and I wanted to perform a song that I knew my voice was not going to allow me to do as well, I would do a different type kind of note. But I would do the song because I know my fans love the song and they wanted to hear it.
Which reminds me of time I did the “Arsenio Hall” show and I just got into New York, and I had laryngitis or something of the sort. I remember Michael Jackson sending his honey down for me to take. I wasn't feeling well at all. They asked me that I want to cancel my show and I told them no. I didn't want to cancel it. I was prepared to sing my way through it. Arsenio even asked me if I wanted to cancel it, but I said no because I always believe in challenging myself. Even if I'm at my worst, I'm always going to make it my best. After all, this was national television, this was the Arsenio Hall show. So, I wound up doing it. Some of the notes that required a modulation. I changed it and turned it into a “ooh” or something like that.
After the show, I thought to myself that's the worst that I can give you. But it turned out that it wasn't that bad after all. Although I knew that I was, “under the gun”, at the same time, I also knew that I was capable. So, I never really changed songs, I just stuck to the gun and made the adjustments when necessary.
For example, I just did Denver. Personally, I felt as though I was not at my best, but when I heard the show back on video tape, said to myself, “wow!” every note in every song was flawless. I say this because in Denver, the air is thinner, and the altitude is high. But I can gratefully say, I haven't had many days where I felt like, “Oh no! I don't know how I'm going to get through this! I don't know how I'm going to get through this! I believe one of these reasons for that is because I always make sure that I take care of myself. Because of the dedication that I have to my fans, I want to give them what they want.
What are some things that you do to keep your voice strong and healthy? I take care of myself and workout. I train, do breathing exercises and I run. To me, I believe that's all part of taking care of your vocal performances. I don't scream nor do I holler. Before performances, I tell people, if you're not in my face talking to me, then text me. Screaming and hollering wear your voice down, and I don't want to do that. I usually drink tea and use throat coat spray. Also, I use menthol just to open me up. Although all those things are great, the most important thing I can tell any singer to get rest. If you don't get the proper amount of rest, when you sing, that strength will not be in your diaphragm. Not only will that strength not being your diaphragm, but you will feel exhausted. Knowing that you are not capable of hitting a certain note in your performance is the worst show. You have a sold-out show, yet you cannot hit that note. so basically, just take care of yourself. that's it.
What makes a song to hit? As a writer, we write what we feel. we write from our experiences, what comes from our hearts, and from what's going on in the world. If you’re writing youthful, contemporary music, you must understand what of music is doing. Ultimately, you want to write songs that you identify with. It's OK to be original with your creativity, but ultimately, you must make sure that the song that you’re writing can connect with the public. If the public cannot relate to it is not going to sale.
We've all heard songs on the radio that we didn't understand how that song could have reached that type of success. Most of today's music market is independent. But despite of that, you still have to have some form of financial backing to put the music where it needs to be. In other words, if I had a great album and I don't have the money to have them promote it, I have to find other means, like social media.
Another thing is that every artist wants airplay. so, if you have a bag or bank where you can finance your habit, which is your music, your music will be heard and played. Is so important that you put the promotional dollars behind your project because if you don't, how will people be able to hear your music? How can they get the record? Now, if I can get backing or a financial investor, then you can go to certain markets and say, “hey, here's $75,000.” When you come to them in that type of way, they will get your music out there, and make things happen for you. Especially if they have a good product to promote; a good song, that's a hit.
What do you think makes yesterday's music different from today's music? How does it sound? How is it marketed? For example, let’s use “Charlie Wilson.” Here's a person that was part of a group called, “The Gap Band.” Although years went by, and things slowed down for him, he found a way to become relevant again. He began to associate with artist like R. Kelly and working within the hip hop community with artist like “Snoop Dogg.” He even rebranded himself as, “Charlie.” When he came out with, “My Name is Charlie, Last Name Wilson”, his music was no different than what he was doing in “The Gap Band.” I believe that it's all about timing. Even today, I hear people say, “you have to be like this, or sonically sound like that in order to be relevant to today’s market”. I don't agree with that. I think if you have a good record that people can relate to, they'll buy it. But one thing I will say, your music should not be dated. You can have an adult contemporary album out, and still sound dated.
I surround myself with everything. I try to stay relevant when it comes to melody and production. But as far as how do you adjust? It's kind of crazy, because at the end of the day, music is music. I remember my grandfather encouraging me to listen to music that I've never heard of.
When I was younger, we would be around the house playing music from artist like, “Cameo, Con Funk Shun and Lionel Richie. My grandfather would say, “y'all need to take that junk music off!” He was accustomed to the music of his generation. Even though you may not be able to relate to the music of a particular era, keep in mind, those in that era that are buying it can.
At the same time, I believe that you should know your lane. I'm not trying to get out there and be 17. I'm trying to reach the demographic of people who still love the type of music I do. For example, if I put together a great song that is well financed, and its being heard, I don't care if the 17-year-old knows about my record. If they like it, that's fine, but ultimately, I'm writing my songs for my demographic. I make music for the people that support my style of music. My music is for the grown adult. So, if this sounds good, and feels good, it is good.
As a producer, I have quite a bit of sounds, but do I use all of that? No. The sounds that I use are the ones that I like. Over the years, I’ve listened to many great songs that have never been heard by the public. I couldn't understand why they passed on those songs. But, at the end of the day, there's levels to this. What one person likes; I may not like.
I totally understand what you’re saying because, it's really all about having balance. Staying true to who you are and what you like is key. At the same time, being open and willing to experiment with different sounds a good thing as well. I feel if you spend your whole career trying to be like someone you’re not, you will be extremely unhappy. I don't think if you're older that you have to try to act like the younger generation. I think that the generation that loves your music will follow you throughout your career. You can try certain things, and if it doesn't work for you, don't try to force it do. It feels natural to you. And what feels natural to your audience. I believe that's how you maintain a longer and more fulfilling career in music. Right! The worst thing you can do, is do the young stuff the kids are doing, then lose your audience. I believe that confuses your fans. They're used to the sound and style of music that they have been hearing from you for years. Then you come out with something totally different, and you lose them.
I could name a few artists that I know that has tried to do that. Unfortunately, they lost their audience. I know someone that sent their record to promoters, so that she can get her records sold. I know the promoters. Well anyway, she sends her record to these promoters, and they couldn't wait to hear it because they love this artist.
Excited to receive the CD, the promoter couldn’t wait to hear it. She told me, “Keith I had to lie to my friends when they asked me how did the record sound?” She couldn't even tell her friends because it sounded like an older person trying to do younger music. I refuse to do that to myself. For example, if I had to do a song with Chris Brown, the song would have to work for both of us. I refuse to do anything that's going to be embarrassing to me. I've worked too hard.
I think that a lot of younger people want to work with artists themselves because they like that sound. We see it time and time again them sampling music from the past. They're taking music from that generation and sampling it. In my opinion, that's a testament to how great the music from the before generation really was. I think they want you to be authentic. They don't want you to be like them. They love your sound, you know? I've been in a studio with a lot of producers. And what's so crazy about this is, today’s music is dumbed down. It's not a lot of stuff going in it. And the artist that are putting these songs out, I can count on one hand how many of them are really musicians. Basically, they buy a drum machine, put little things on top of it and rap over it. Now don't get me wrong, I love rap music. I listen to it. In fact, Tupac was one of my best friends. I listened to it, and I listened to the production, but the music is very simple. See, when I was coming up, we had real musicians writing bridges, putting in changes, choruses and so forth. but in today's music there is very little of that. And if you put a lot of stuff in it, it can become more adult contemporary.
Out of the grimness of COVID, how would you say it affected your life positively?
Covid gave me the time and ability to sit back, meditate, and do all the things that I couldn't do because of work. During that time, I also built a recording studio in my house. This gave me the opportunity to elevate my game. because of me building a studio in my house, it gave me the ability to become knowledgeable about things I wanted to do. I wanted to become a producer and engineer myself. So, I had the time to work on the skill of understanding all the inner workings of being a producer, an engineer. For example, I learned how to use Pro Tools and logic. I now know how to operate these programs by myself. This is the software that people use when they're cutting records. So, Covid gave me the ability to build a room in my house with some of the finest equipment and best microphones. Additionally, it gave me the time to become a more polished songwriter.
Now that I own my own studio, I don't have to go into someone else's studio to write songs. I can start a melody today, take some time, then go right back downstairs comfort of my own home and resume the next day. I'm no longer restrained by the amount of time that I've paid for to record in someone else’s studio. I'm no longer pressed for time to get it done within those three hours or so. In a multitude of ways, COVID has helped me creatively.
On another note, it has made may become more aware of not taking anything for granted. In general, we take people and life for granted. A friend of mine was with me two weeks before he went down. He caught COVID and died from it. I remember him telling me, “This is really bad, and you don't want this!” this is not your reality. You can't imagine this. But while listening to it, I was thinking, “wow!” Before this, I must admit, I was on the fence about it, but now I'm prepared to make a different choice. Because my girlfriend is a nurse, she tries to encourage me to make the right choice and do the responsible thing with my health. After taking some time to process all of this, my current thoughts are, don’t think because you haven't gotten it that you can't get it!
And for me, I sing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Although I have my views, I want to make wise decisions. I'm grateful to be healthy and not have any comorbidities. For me, I think me off about it was, it was introduced so fast! At the same time, I was divided. I say this because there were also things that read that made me feel the urgency to get it.
but more about the positive aspect of it, studio. I painted my own room and that was an accomplishment. I built my studio by myself. I had no help. I thought to myself it's been 30 years since success of “kissing you”. Before COVID, I never would have looked at it that way. I just would have kept moving. But now I take more time for reflection. I'm grateful that God has blessed me to be healthy enough to go out there and still do what I enjoy doing and that the people still enjoy and appreciate it my music. I'm grateful for the ability to give the people what they know and love. At the same time, I'm grateful that I can even look good while doing it. Now, I see the connection. I built the studio in my house and now I’m working on a new CD, I’m excited about that!
What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists? I try to give people my experience. I’ve never had a B plan I’ve never had anything to fall back on just in case my A plan didn't work. I've never had something that I was unable to put all of myself in because of a B plan.
But as far as advice, I would say, be true to who you are and your craft. Understand what you can and cannot do. There's a lot of artists out here that have people telling them who they are, but that's not really who they are. Understand who and what you are understand that! At the end of the day, you're the person that will be looking in the mirror saying why did I do that? What was I thinking? Be true to your art! no that you cannot sing when you think that you can, regardless of what your friends are saying. You know you get friends that will hype you up and say you're just as good as Chris Brown. So, you act upon that, get money going to the studio on record. See, everybody will take your money, whether you can sing or not. understand your talent. understand your strengths and your limitations. There are artists out there that cannot sing, but they have produced. There's that understand how to make them sound very well. There are gimmicks that people use to sell albums. These are called gimmick acts. These are people that look good but can't Sing. they have autotune and all sorts of things like that you sound good on record. Now, if you really, really, really believe in what you're doing, then do it, but understand what you can and cannot do.
Well said, can you share with our readers about any concerts or any new projects you have coming out? Right now, we're currently working on a web series in which I'm not allowed to talk about, because of what I've signed. I'm also finishing up on my new CD. Although we wanted to get the single out soon than later, we wrote something we felt was just as good if not better. Now we're torn between which one is going to be our first single. So, we're aiming to have something out within two months or so. The first single.
It's important to us that we have enough set up time. At the end of the day, it's all about timing. As far as shows, we have a lot of shows coming up. We also have a lot of spot dates or calendar such as Philly, New York, Chicago, and we recently did Denver. As far as the studio, we're finishing up my vocals and focusing on creating a great album.
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