As a seasoned professional with a career spanning over two decades, Kenny Lattimore is a staple in the R&B landscape, offering poignant lyricism and delicate vocals to soothe the hearts of lovers— both new and old. Best known for his Grammy Award-nominated ballad “For You,” and his first Top 40 hit, “Never Too Busy,” his catalog also includes 2015’s The Anatomy of A Love Song and the 2016 holiday album A Kenny Lattimore Christmas. The singer recently returned to the scene with his first single “Push,” off of his ninth studio album, Vulnerable, slated to hit the shelves Oct. 13.
“Push” arrived as a sentimental takeaway of wayward love but also foreshadowed the transparency of his songs to follow. EBONY caught up with the DMV crooner and talked about Vulnerable, getting inspiration from raising his son, finding renewed passion in music and discovering faith, purpose and peace along the way.
EBONY: Prior to you dropping The Anatomy of A Love Song and your Christmas album, you had a pretty long hiatus before returning to music. You stated you were “falling out of love with the industry.” Has that feeling subsided over the last few years? And how did you find your peace?
Kenny Lattimore: I think I’ve found my way. I’ve found other partners and new excitement from others about my brand and about what I was doing. That made a huge difference for me. But ultimately, on a much higher level, I think that the purpose of me being on that hiatus was to take care of my son. I wasn’t smart enough to understand how important that was going to be when it was happening. But I did live in the moment. When I look back I think that it was foundational for my son—that I was there on the field trips, grading papers at school and taking him each day.
EBONY: That’s a pretty amazing revelation.
Kenny Lattimore: And not only was it significant for him but I think it was significant for even his classmates to see a Black man in a classroom, where he was the super minority. He may have been one of the three Black kids in the whole class. When I look back, I think the significance was to break stereotypes, to not only get him to understand who I am, although I think he knows who I am as his father from being at home, but for other kids to look up and see Black men differently.
In addition to raising your son, it seems like you found the your “center” and your “purpose” during your time off. What are some takeaways that you carry with you on your new journey?
One of my managers started to work on a new bio for me and it seemed very simple. But then the question came up: What is your musical legacy? And I started to pray because I really didn’t have an answer. And then all of a sudden it came to me. It was another God moment: “To the hearts of women and to the minds of men encouraging them in love.” That’s what the whole purpose has been about the whole time. When I found that as a new mission statement, I found inspiration in it. I just remind myself that you’ve got to sing to the hearts of women and to the minds of men and encourage them in love because that’s your purpose. It gives me a different kind of energy to go ahead and complete the task.
I think it’s great that finally you’ve found your passion within your faith.
It’s important. And a lot of people are like, “Well, I don’t know if I have faith.” But a lot of the times, we exercise that kind of faith on a daily basis. You’ve got faith in a lot of things, you just don’t consider it “faith.” When you go to sit down on a chair, you have faith that this chair is going to hold you up. Or walking through a door you don’t think about it falling.
Jumping in about your new track “Push,” it has a bit of a melancholy feel. How will it foreshadow your forthcoming music?
It really set the tone more from a creative standpoint and a message standpoint. But it goes back to talking about real stuff. It wasn’t until I heard this song “Push” that I was really motivated to finish an album, and what I got out of it was a couple of things. One, it had an ’80s feel. I thought it sounded like something out of 1985! It also reminded me of a single that I put out, which is “For you” and that track was never classified as an urban song. Similar to “For You,” “Push” can live in any format, pop, country and urban, too. It’s a great song, and I think everybody kind of has a “push” story. Most people do.
What would be considered your “Push” story?
I was dating a young lady when I first started my career and I was leaving Washington, D.C., to move to New York. When I made the decision to go to New York, I decided to end my relationship because I didn’t think that she was going to be able to deal with the grind. It was not a time where I could really continue a relationship because relationships require investment. Fifteen years later, I literally saw her and I told her that I should have never taken that opportunity away from her and made the decision for her. But I took that away so that’s my “Push” story. And some people probably have other “Push” stories. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to push people away.
I know you’ve been touring for the past few years. Do you have a lot of songs in your arsenal and how has performing affected your music?
Absolutely. After I got the song “Push,” I really went hard on finishing an album, Vulnerable, which is definitely how I feel right now. Just about life and about my career. I decided to partner with a brand new company. I am their first artist. The company is called Ligers Enterprises and they are owned by Ron A. Spaulding and Frank Thomas, the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer. The album is dropping Oct. 13.
That’s amazing! Congrats on the new partnership!
I’m really appreciative of both Ron and Frank. The other thing that’s big in my heart is mentoring and passing information to the next generation. There’s a gentleman named Dra-kkar Wesley, who I call the Creative Director for this album. I went to him and I said: “Look I’m going to give you a Jimmy Jam / Terry Lewis moment.” When the duo worked with Prince back in the ’80’s, the story goes that they missed a gig because they were working on a project called The S.O.S Band. It became really a solid project for them and brought them to the attention of Janet Jackson her Control album. Just like every artist needs a platform to establish their work to the masses, producers actually do as well. Sometimes one project catapults those producers to stardom where everybody wants to use them. I told him this is his “Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis moment” and he took that to heart. Immediately we started writing this album and I’m really proud of it. It’s more of a contemporary sound as you hear with “Push” and my approach to the singing and the production and all of that is coming from a younger producer.
I think that’s cool that you’re blending the two generations. As a seasoned R&B artist do you pull inspiration from today’s sound and is there any new age r&b artist you enjoy?
I have a 14-year-old son. So I’m listening to Daniel Ceaser and Bruno Mars and these are amazing artists. Bruno Mars has even found a way to combine three or four generations of music, which is amazing. I’m kind of like that in my live concerts. I’d do “Push” and “Love Me Back” and I’ll also do R&B from the ’80’s and stuff I grew up listening to in the ’70’s. I go all the way down to the American songbook from the ’40’s and ’50’s all-in-one because I’m a classically trained singer. I love the idea of being completely diverse and having no boundaries as a singer. That’s my passion right there.
Having more creative control with your sound, what do you want listeners to get from your music?
I wanted to make a statement of humility that sometimes, I don’t know it all, and from a creative standpoint, I can learn from the next generation. When I put my stamp on something, I do understand who I am but when I get a directive from the next generation I can listen to that as well.
I know that your son plays a huge role in your life. What have you taught your son about love and relationships?
Well, he’s 14 with little girlfriends and I really am not a component of or a facilitator of dating. I told him that I can’t facilitate that because I want there to be progressions in your life and an appreciation for things. And at 14, you can’t even appreciate who she is and how to take care of her heart.
If you’re coming to me to buy her a gift and I’ve got to pick her up and all that. I’m dating her. I want him to understand the sacrifice of love and relationships. That’s why you don’t date until later anyway! But what I try to be for him is an example of consistency. He has never seen me do anything ugly to his mom — ever. And I’m hoping that that translates. As a matter of fact, on this album, there’s a song called “More Than Life” that I wrote for him. The first line of the song or one of the first lines is that he was made with intention and he was made from love and he is the best part of his mother and me. I wanted him to know that about himself, even though I’m not with his mom, he was still made with intention.