Brian McKnight | R&B Legend

“Back at One.” “Anytime.” “Love of My Life.” Those are just a few of the classic songs that Brian McKnight has entered into the collective musical consciousness during an entertainment career that’s spanned two decades since he first debuted in 1992 with his eponymously titled album “Brian McKnight.” Beyond just being sing-along fodder in the car, his tracks tell stories and evoke emotions: they’ve commemorated weddings, exhumed feelings for ex-flames, and have undoubtedly been employed as the backtrack to the end scenes of many a lovers’ romantic nights, among other things. It seems simple: Brian McKnight is an R&B legend. But is it just that simple? Lately, Brian has been assailed for being more than an R&B legend — for being a commentator, for being a self-publicist, for being a funny-man, and for having overtly sexual lyrics in humorous new songs that haven’t been received as the parodies they were intended to be. Read on for my interview with Brian McKnight, and to learn, among other things, what “If UR Ready 2 Learn” was really about, how he responds to Chris Brown and others labeling him as a “has-been,” his assessment of the state of music in the Internet age, and how f*cking is actually a part of his life (surprise!). Also: Brian “R&B Legend” McKnight shoots a whale.

Fun Facts

  • Who have you been rooting for in the NBA Finals? I haven’t been rooting for anyone. I have friends on every team. I was a Bulls fan from ’84-’98 for obvious reasons. Then I took a sabbatical from basketball for a minute. I want to see the game and every game played at its highest level. I think the word seeing in a lot of the games at least now, I’m not sure if last year’s playoffs were as compelling as this years, so I’m really enjoying just watching. When I’m watching football, and Dallas loses, my whole week sucks. It really does. Anybody that knows me will tell you that if Dallas loses on Sunday, you probably can’t deal with me until Wednesday.
  • You’ve had some really bad years then. Well, we’ve won five championships. Who’s your team?
  • Dallas Cowboys. I’m from Dallas. Well, there you go. Then you know.
  • Movies you can watch over and over again? There’s so many. I have 60 or 70 movies just on my laptop to make sure that I have them all the time. So I can watch “Braveheart” all the time, I can watch “Gladiator” all the time; I know the lines to all those movies. But then there are other movies like “Charlie Wilson’s War,” because it was so well-written, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was so incredible. I’ve watched that first scene he’s in the movie probably a thousand times. Because you know the first words out of his mouth are, “Excuse me. What the f*ck?” and then it just goes right on from there. There’s “Against All Odds;” a lot of movies from my adolescence, like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” There’s so many. I’m a movie fan for real. It’s all I do all the time.
  • The weirdest place or situation where a song idea or melody popped into your head: Sitting on the toilet. I used to keep a guitar in my bathroom because I can get a lot done in there. I spend a lot of time in there. I go number two about five, six times a day. So when I’m in there now–because cell phones are so awesome–I can play Temple Run, and I got almost 2 million sitting on the toilet playing Temple Run, because I might be there a while. You never know when it hits. That was probably the silliest place.
  • What songs have you written while on the toilet? got the inspiration for “Back at One” in this house right in the bathroom. They were putting together my media room downstairs, and I was reading the manual in there. I was on the troubleshooting page, and on the troubleshoot page it said, “Do step 1, step 2, step 3, and if the problem persist then do this, and repeat steps 1, 2, 3,” and the concept of that song came from the book that I was reading, sitting on the toilet.

Moving on from the fun facts, let’s first get “If Ur Ready 2 Learn” out of the way. The song was very clearly a parody.

Well, apparently not very clearly [laughs]. The interesting thing that I’ve gotten about whether it was a joke or not is that people say, “Well, you weren’t laughing in the video,” and every comedian that I love–none of them laugh at their own jokes. The fact that I was being serious is what made it so funny to me. That’s the kind of humor that I like. I don’t necessarily like the kind of humor that is so in your face that everybody is going to laugh. I tend to lean more cerebral and more “you’re going to have to think a little bit.” All you really have to do is listen to the words. On the other side of it, I truly believe that this is one of the most creative songs that I’ve ever written. I had a debate on Twitter this morning. A girl was like, “It’s no comparison to ‘Back at One.'” Well, I can show you a hundred songs like “Back at One.” There’s only one song out there that’s written from the POV of a vibrator for a girl that can take care of herself. You didn’t listen to the lyrics enough; otherwise, you’ll know that’s what I was talking about. You thought, “What makes you think you can teach women how to…” I don’t; the song is about a vibrator. It’s not me, but you didn’t want to listen enough to the song. That just shows you that people don’t listen to lyrics. People are always going to be swayed by somebody else telling them, “You need to listen to this because it’s the most horrible thing I’ve seen,” as opposed to listening for yourself. This whole month has been really about if I could change one person’s perspective on a lot of things. Actually, if we’re going to all sit by as a society and watch our society–the bar drop into the basement–don’t be mad if someone was to swim around in those depths. Go and pick at all those other people who do things that you think are bad so that we can get back to the wholesome family values that we used to have. It’s never going to get back to that. We’re at a point now where we say to our daughters, “Look, if you want to make it in entertainment, just go do a full-on porn, and you can put your whole family on, and you’ll be the most famous person in America.” And everybody is OK with that, so don’t be mad if I wrote a song about p*ssy. Really, let’s be real.

Even if you had been serious about the song, why isn’t Brian McKnight allowed to release sexually explicit material?

Well, because people want to compartmentalize where they get certain things from. If you’re going to get that from R. Kelly or Trey Songz and anybody else that does that, you go to them for that because you don’t expect a lot from them, which is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. If you’re going to hold people to a standard, then hold everybody to a standard. Otherwise, it’s not for you. If you don’t want to watch porn–which everybody does in their lives–then don’t watch. If I brought you over to my house, and I’m like, “I’m about to show you an adult movie,” you don’t think we’re going to be watching “Steel Magnolias,” do you? No, there’s probably going to be some sex. Probably. If you don’t want to watch it–“I don’t want to watch that! I’m leaving!”–then don’t watch. I have all these other records filled with all these nice love songs, but I said to somebody the other day, “Did you think that I wasn’t out there having sex with someone?” I’m single, I’m obviously good looking [laughs]. But really–honestly–I f*ck a lot. At the end of the day, if you don’t think that, then I’m sorry if I’ve broken the illusion for you. The songs that I write are moments in time. At this moment, I felt this way. At this moment, I felt that way. The rest of the time I was either having sex with someone or watching sports or playing a sport. That’s really it. I’m not unlike anybody else. Unfortunately, you don’t know me enough. All you know is this music of this box that you decided to put me in, but I don’t have a box. You have a box that you put me in. What I hope is that when people want to put you in a box, that you decide to not be in that box too.

Right, because you’re an artist, and you’ve written all kind of songs from R&B to pop to country.

The funny thing is really that if you look at it from an ethnicity standpoint, black people are much different than white people, much different than Asian people, much different than Latinos. I’ve studied a lot of history now; I used to hate history in school, but now I think it’s the only way to get to where we’re going is to know where we came from, and my people love to hate everything. I don’t understand why that is, but I do understand where it comes from, and I think at a certain point we as a people have to decide to do some thinking on our own and to start looking at things from a different perspective. That way, we won’t just be sheep and just be willing to follow whatever trends happen to be.

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[tweegi-button name=”Brian”]

I’ve heard that complaint before–how some black people say that other black people don’t support them.

I’m not sure if it’s necessarily that. I think what we have now is a society of “me.” Social media allows everyone to be famous at some level and to be relevant on some level. What that does for those people who are actually trying to cultivate their talents and to work in a medium where you can be famous–it actually diminishes your star power and your star quality because the person at home sitting in a dark room on Facebook or on Twitter says, “Why should I be enamored by this person when I’ve got the same voice? I’ve got my Twitpic, and I’ve got my @ address.” It’s a very interesting social experiment from a global standpoint. What has happened, and what will continue to happen? I say this all the time: I don’t do this for fame or for money or for anything other than the fact that I truly love creating something from nothing. When I woke up this morning, I had nothing, and by the end of today it’s quite possible that I will come in here and write and produce and finish something that wasn’t, and that’s the thrill for me.

Let’s say you’re much younger now, and you have to start your career today with the same talents that you have. How is it different?

Talent is the lowest common denominator, and I’m not saying that there are people out there that don’t have talent. I think that what ends up happening is they decide, “I’m going to be in this business by any means necessary.” I know it’s different somewhat on the black music side and then the pop music side, but because of hip hop and because of where music is, personalities trump talent. I only know that because I’ve sat in meetings with record executives that said, “Oh, I signed so-and-so, and it wasn’t even that he was that good. It was just that he had this great swagger.” I was like, “That’s what you’re betting your whole company on? That someone is going to buy the fact that this person doesn’t affect them emotionally in any way, just that they might be drawn to his whatever? Then you’re setting yourself up for doom.” When I started this business in that decade, there were several artists–there were 20 or 30 of them that sold 20 million more than once. It’s not by coincidence that they were singing about something that was near and dear to everyone’s hearts at the time. We’ve turned into a party society. We’ve turned into immediate gratification, and music is no longer the soundtrack of these kids’ lives, because you can’t tell me what the big hit was that had everybody moving last summer. No, because they are the ones that are this summer. Which is different than when people say, “Oh, I loved your song ‘Back at One.’ I played it at my wedding six years ago,” and they don’t realize it was 13 years ago when it came out. There’s a difference.

So do you think you’d be as successful as you are and you have been?

No, I would probably do something else.

What would you do?

I would be a gynecologist [laughs]. No, I don’t know. I still think that being a professional athlete is the best job on earth. What you put in–if you get there–is what you will get out. A lot of jobs are that way. I still think that if I were to put my mind to anything–just like anyone, you can accomplish anything. At first, you have to believe that you can, because nobody is going to hand you anything. No one is going to be there and say, “You know what? For some reason, I like you. Here’s a million dollars.” It’s probably not going to happen. Anything that is worth having, you’re going to have to work hard for. You’re going to be able to get past certain obstacles. The only way you’re going to do that is by believing in yourself, and believe in what you’re doing and love what you’re doing, because if you’re doing it for another reason – you’re probably not going to make it. I’d probably stay in school, and I probably would have done a bunch of other things. It’s tough. It’s hard to be a new artist. I have two of them in the house with me who are more talented than any other kids I know. But that’s probably one of the things that’s detrimental to them getting to the next level–because they play instruments, they write, and they can sing, which I thought music was supposed to be about. I don’t know.

What do you think has changed? What do you think you would have to do in this Internet age that your sons are having to do in regard to their band, BRKN RBTZ (Broken Robots)? What have they had to do that you did not have to do in the 90’s?

I think that if they were starting out in 1991 the way that I was, they would have been signed immediately. The would have had all those resources handed to them that the record company had at that time to develop an artist. You have to understand–all those record labels back then were privately owned. They weren’t having to deal with shareholders every quarter as to what the bottom line was. There’s a whole economic situation that has happened with labels over time that has caused music to be the way it is. They need a quick return right now. Then you add to that the technology of iTunes and one song at a time–99 cents at a time mentality–you know, there’s no way they could put out music at the rate that they have. Remember that the bands that we loved before would go away for two or three years to create a record. Why? Because that’s how long it takes to make something great. You can’t make something great in a couple of months when you have 10 producers on it and 50 writers; it’s too difficult. So what’s happening is that people have now decided, “Well, I’m not going to spend $20 on something when I only want one song on there.” That’s why iTunes is great–because they’re still going to make $5 billion a year selling one song at a time.

So do you think musicianship has gone down because the value of music has gone down?

Well, look at the 80’s. Every rock band you know, every rock song that you loved, had a guitar solo in it. Then, the minute grunge came along, that was the end of the hair band. No more solos. No more shredding. No more Eddie Van Halen. No more Steve Vai. It’s all gone to the wayside because it wasn’t important anymore. What was more important was the attitude behind “Teen Spirit” and those other things that became important again. “If I can play four power cords, I’m good. I don’t need to shred. For what?” It’s all become how can more people become “musicians.” In 1979, I think there were 7,000 records that came out. In 2007, there were 47,000 records that came out. That tells you right there; there’s a lot of traffic happening [laughs].

What’s your assessment of the state of R&B today? What’s that landscape look like?

Is there R&B today? It’s barren. It’s just one of those things, man. It’s almost like when rock and roll came about–then your parent’s music was over. The same thing happened in the 60’s with that movement. Every decade it’s going to change, and what you have to ask yourself is, “How many of these kids are really thinking about falling in love?” Because R&B is traditionally about being in love, or not being in love, or losing it, or being hurt. These kids today just want to party and have sex. So, there can’t be an R&B if that’s all they want. That’s just the way it is. But there’s a Justin Bieber; that’s not R&B. You see what I’m saying? R&B has to be mixed in with hip hop; they combined those charts about 10 years ago. So when that happened, you have to understand that R&B was automatically going to fall on the wayside.

It seems like songs these days don’t tell a story the way that older songs used to. It’s just about having fun now.

But I guess what they say is that’s the kind of song they want. Those songs are there. Luther Vandross records are there. Babyface records are there. Brian McKnight records are there. Why would you want to listen to them? I want to see this guy who’s singing about my generation. I have that argument with my kids all the time. Their whole thing is, “This is different–this is our generation. You don’t know because you’re 20 years ago,” and in some ways they are right.

Who are some current contemporary artists that are in the beginnings of their careers that you really admire or that you’re impressed by?

The problem with now is that I don’t know who’s who, because you may hear a song that you like; one, the radio station isn’t going to back-sell it and telll you who it was; number two, the next song comes on and that guy sounds like the other guy. Well, was that the same guy? No? Well, who’s this guy? Well, who’s the other guy? It’s very difficult to know who’s who really. There’s no distinction between when–you know, when you heard Lionel Richie and you knew it was Lionel Richie. You heard Stevie Wonder–immediately, you knew, because they were artists, they were songwriters, they had to learn their craft. These days, records are producer-driven and DJ-driven, so the artist isn’t the artist. The artist is actually the guy who put it together. It’s a very strange world to live in where that’s the case. Add to that that music is actually disposable on top of that. I think that Ne-yo is the closest thing to what it is because he’s still writing melodies, he’s still writing good lyrics, and he can sing, and he can dance. He’s probably a performer that embodies the same spirit and can walk both sides of the fence.

Do you ever get tired of touring and singing the same songs?

Never. You step on stage to a packed house, and you play a song that you wrote 20 years ago, and the audience is singing the song louder than you are: There’s nothing that can compare to that.

So, going back to “If You’re Ready to Learn”: When you did the Funny or Die video for it, what was your reaction when you saw the completed product?

Those guys are so good that they spelled out everything they wanted to do based on the song. Before I even saw it, I knew what it was going to be. I’ve always thought of myself as being funny. People have a very difficult time believing that you can be more then they think that you can be. “Oh, you’re an R&B singer. That’s all.” So you step on the basketball court, nah. You’re on a racetrack or a motorcycle–you’re just a singer. If you tell jokes during your show–you can’t be funny. I didn’t contact them; they contacted me after they saw the video that I did, so there’s validation there that, you know what? I might be kind of funny! These guys who I respect, who I’ve been getting their emails for 2 or 3 years now, are contacting me, and they want to shoot my video? So they could have shot anything and it wouldn’t have mattered to me, but they did a great job. I think it’s hilarious, and I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen.

Do you feel that YouTube and the Internet has democratized music?

I think it’s been the best and worst thing for music. Well, the best thing in that now you have an opportunity to show what you can do to the whole world. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to monetize that, so having all of these outlets and all these ways of people to see you for free now gives them the mentality that–a guy told me on my timeline the other day that he doesn’t buy records or music because he thinks artists make too much money. That’s the mentality that we are gendering, and that’s the part that kind of sucks, because for the new artist that can’t go out on tour, they now have to give everything away for free in the hopes that those people who get it for free will come see them on the road; because I’m not in the record business–I’m in the touring business.

How’s your label going?

Well, the label is basically myself and BRKN RBTZ. We’re taking it slow. What we have to do is to get as many people that love us in one place so we can sell them a song at a time. That is the future of music. Yeah, people say, “You have the Internet and all of these people.” Well yeah, but they’re doing their own thing. They’re on their own Facebook page. They’re checking their own e-mail. Well, you got your smartphone and when you become a member of–when I’m in the studio–you get an email saying, “Hey, you can interact with Brian right now in the studio!” and then you get another email saying, “Remember that song he was working on two weeks ago? It’s ready!” Your email address is the currency of the future. All these other companies know that. That’s why when you go buy something, and even if you get it for free, they say, “Well, you can have it–just put your email address right here.” You know why? Because that’s currency to them. Once they have a million people, then the advertisers say, “Oh!” That’s how it works. That’s Facebook. These guys in two days are now worth $3 billion. Why? Because 500 million people are part of Facebook, or more now. Mark Zuckerberg has shown us how you monetize the Internet.

So I see you’re on Twitter a lot, and you’re always interacting with your fans throughout the whole day.

Kicking and screaming. Janelle [Brian’s publicist] will tell you. I was like, “What? You want me to what? Nobody cares that I do this,” and now I realize that there are people that do. [laughs]

Does it come naturally to you now?

It does now. It can cause a lot of problems–you know, you’re out on a date. First thing you do in the morning, you should be brushing your teeth or getting up. No, it’s like, “OK, who’s on my timeline?” to get that good morning tweet. Here’s the other thing: people aren’t going to seek you out; you have to stay in their face. If I’ve learned anything from this “Ready to Learn” experiment is that you have to figure out a way, because when they’re by themselves, you’re not the only artist they love. They’re watching TV, they’re on the Internet. Because when you look on their timeline–yeah, they tweeted you, but before you, they tweeted Johnny Gill; and right before then, they tweeted Keith Sweat. So you’re going to have to go out and constantly be in their face, because they don’t listen to the radio anymore. Every city we go to, “Oh, you’re going to have something out new?” I just put out a new CD. “Well, I didn’t know.” Well, did you listen to the radio? “No.” Well, are you on Pandora? “No.” Well, then how do you know if anybody else’s music is out? “Oooh.” Another thing is that people don’t like when you point out how stupid they are; just on the side.

Obviously, your bread and butter is music. You’ve also been a television host, a radio host, you’ve had parts in movies. Are there any other challenges in the future that you’d like to do that you haven’t been able to do?

My next dream is to be a shepherd. I like me some sheep. Then, go to some mountains somewhere. I’m still looking for myself, and I think that way I can find myself. No, the problem now is just continuing to never have to work because I have to, and to still do it because I love to do it.

Have you been enjoying doing your jazz concerts?

Yeah, the stuff that goes down is amazing because you get an opportunity to be on stage with some of the greatest musicians in the world at their instruments. This may sound–I try to curb the things that I say–but as a musician, the records that I made only scratches the surface of what I can actually do. I am a jazz musician who masquerades in the pop/r&b/other kind of guy. I’m fully in my element with a big band. I often said that if I were born 60-70 years earlier I would have been everything that I could ever hope to be. Unfortunately in this society, jazz is a bad four letter word for whatever reason. So to have the opportunity to do eight to ten shows with those guys on a nightly basis is always amazing. (25:14-26:06)

Why is jazz a bad word?

I don’t know. It is the purest form of music that there is, because it’s hard, and you have to study, and it’s not something that comes natural unless you come from people that did that. My grandfather was a bandleader in the 30’s and 40’s, so it’s in my blood. It’s just one of those things. It used to be that if you were watching Miles Davis in 1959, you were in awe of him, because you couldn’t do that. We go to watch sports to watch Lebron James and Kobe Bryant and were in awe of them, because as many times as we can go down to LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, we can’t do what they do. Music is a strange thing; people only respond to melodies they can sing, and to musicians–chord changes they can play. It didn’t use to be that way. Somewhere around the 80’s, early 90’s, it began to change because technology became as such that it’s much easier for people to become a part. Drum machines, synthesizers; when I grew up with piano, guitar, bass, drum, violin, orchestral instruments that you actually had to learn to play. Now you can come in here and these computers will pretty much do everything for you, and you just sort of arrange them just as you would in an email. That’s what music is now.

So there’s less artistry in that?

I’m not saying there isn’t or there is but we are where we are. We all think we can do the math and figure it out.

So what projects do you have coming out?

This website and this label–as far as being here–is what’s first and foremost. To figure out a way to get these people who say they love real music, the people who come out and sell out all my shows, to get them to one place and to continue to create the music that I create. To be honest, it’s 5 to 10 to 15 shows a month.

**The proceeding portion of the interview was conducted as a follow up to the original interview above.**

Considering all the content that does make it on YouTube, why do you think your recent YouPorn song parody was taken down?

I have no idea. I didn’t realize it had been taken down because when I did that song, they sort of did their own imaging for it, and they put it up on YouTube. And considering that there weren’t any naked people in it, I thought it was kind of odd that they took it down considering everything else they have on there. But I dont know–you’ll have to ask them.

News outlets were reporting that you’re getting deeper into the porn business because you did that recent music video for YouPorn, as if you’re going to join them in a movie or something. That’s obviously not the case, right?

Obviously not the case, but what it does tell you is people don’t think ahead. Anyone that knows me knows that I play life like chess. I try to be 3 or 4 moves ahead. So you may not understand the moves that I just did, or what I’m about to do, but 3 or 4 moves down the line I will have your king. And then you’ll be like, “Oooh, now I get it.”

Have people’s negative reactions moved you to be more defiant?

No, what it did was–it wasn’t really about doing something for any other reason than what my end game is going to be. In this economy and in this world and in this society that we live in, the more people who have eyes on something that you’re doing, whether it’s positive or negative, at the very least, they’re talking about you. If you really do your research–and this is what I’ve been trying to explain to people–the guys at YouPorn get 12 million hits a day. 12 million. And that’s more hits than any other place on the Web, really. They get more hits than anywhere. Those people are consumers; these are people that make money, whether it’s on the Internet or whether it’s on something else. The idea is just to try to figure out something to sell once you have their attention. So I explained that; I’m gonna leave it at that. These guys are willing to be in the Brian McKnight business, and Brian McKnight will figure out a way to make that business–not from a porno standpoint, mind you–from a business standpoint how to maximize that. I don’t have to tell people that. They can think whatever they think. I don’t care, because guess what? Tomorrow, something’s going to happen, and they’re not going to be thinking about me anymore [laughs].

So why do you think people are still continuing to take your sexual parody songs so seriously and their perceptions of who you are so seriously?

That’s what they do. I think people tend to view life like they’re on the freeway looking at an accident on the other side. They have to stop and look. The only difference is that they want to get some recognition for it too. That’s why three weeks, four weeks later, you have people still reporting on it so that they can get more hits on their site because they’ve decided to blog about it. It’s an ongoing thing; they’re going to try use it for their own purposes. They’re gonna rip what I said, put it on their site, now they’ve got more eyeballs. They said that there’s songs about anal or this or that, but they didn’t say, “Hey, it’s an appetizer for X, Y, Z.” You see the headline, and it makes you want to read whatever it is. Now, they’ve just upped their viewership, which all leads to advertising. It’s all about the dollar.

And why do you think so many people were offended by your tweets that were maybe alluding to Chris Brown’s assault? For some reason, you’re not allowed the space to either “real talk” or be humorous to make a point, because people apparently can’t tell the difference.

Well, most people aren’t very smart. And when you think of it in those terms, what I got tired of doing was trying to explain every one thing like they were in second grade. What you tend to think is we’re all adults, we all should be able to read between the lines or at least get the gist of what I’m saying. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. People only listen to or look at what they want to see, and they expand and expound upon that. Or what they do is they get the story in the middle, and they’re not willing to go back to the beginning to see how it developed and are now creating their own ending. What ends up happening is, “Oooh, Brian McKnight said this about Chris Brown,” instead of saying, “What did he really say?” They never even knew what I said; I never mentioned anybody’s name. I didn’t say anything. All I said was that in this society we have a new mantra that says that anything goes if you’re famous enough, and we’re OK with that. Maybe I shouldn’t give an example, but there you go [laughs].

What’s your reaction to all the people that are so outraged and mad at you, calling you a “has-been,” and Chris Brown being upset and saying that you were irrelevant, and that you were dead and he was bringing you back to life?

I don’t have one, to be honest with you. Because I don’t feel like I should have to remind people of all that I’ve done the last two decades. And that just goes to show you how even other celebrities look at things, because I’m sure that he didn’t go back two decades either. All he did was react to what someone said to him to see what he was going to say. And then he goes to New York and gets in a bottle fight with Drake’s people. The next day, who cares? You’re on to the next thing. And if that’s what they think–they think I’m a has-been, and now he’s bringing me back alive when I did 125 sold out shows last year–OK, that’s fine. I let them believe what they want to believe.

Your “classless” songs are meant to highlight the lack of artistry and musicianship in today’s music and how much of the celebrity/music machine revolves around contrived controversy and image. What do you think the endgame is? Do you think people will get the point and it will make a difference?

I don’t think anything’s going to happen. All I did was expose it. It’s never going to change. It’s actually probably going to get worse, to be perfectly honest with you. Because technology is the way that it is, because the powers that be only promote the worst in us, we’re gonna see that it probably gets worse before it ever gets better. It really wasn’t a solution. What you find is that because of social media, anybody can be famous four, five seconds. Anybody can try to tell some witty anecdote and expect to be a comedian all of a sudden. And I always tell them, “Do you want to be funny? Do you really want to put your work on the line? Then go study to be a comedian. Go out on the road and try to be funny as opposed to sitting in a dark room at your computer and completely denigrating people who are actually putting something on the line all the time.” But they’ll never do that.

So do you think any of those people that are sitting in a dark room doing that and trying to gain fame, do you think any of them could be legitimately talented?

Brian: Everybody has a talent. That doesn’t mean they should all be in the entertainment business [laughs].

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Photography by Melly Lee