Entertainer Exclusive Part 1: Lenny Kravitz on Race, God & Spreading Love Through Music
Twenty-nine years after releasing his debut album, Lenny Kravitz is still letting love rule, but with an eye towards societal strife that continues to go unchecked. The multi-Grammy award winning musician brings forth a conscious body of work with Raise Vibration, his eleventh studio album, out September 7th. The first single off the Raise Vibration album, It’s Enough, is a battle cry against corporate greed, political corruption and racism. Kravitz switches gears with his follow up single, Low, exploring the perils of his near-mythical sensuality with intonations alluding to his past intimate relationships. For Lenny Kravitz, the art of the story is paramount, while pop music trends are immaterial. He tells stories through his writing, vocals, and the multitude of instruments he has mastered over the years.
Musically, Raise Vibration is an eclectic blend of the kind of stylistic rock n’ roll-funk sound that Kravitz is known for, with subtle nods to vintage R&B and choruses that sway towards pop appeal. His music puts you in a trance-like groove and defies all genre.
Lenny Kravitz, the man, is a veritable roadmap of his past experiences. From making his way in an industry that doesn’t always value individuality, to making his way in a world that begged to define and categorize him by race and ethnicity in his formative years, he wears his memories on his sleeve and they inform much of his artistic expression. Our conversation surprised me as it took a more intimate turn. He and I delved into matters of spirituality, racial identity, family and the rituals that aide him in creating his eclectic sound. We were very much on the same page as he shared his feelings about everything from racism and societal injustice to his personal spiritual journey, his family and his music.
AK: You’ve said you were born to make music. Can you share your earliest memory where you became aware that music was going to be your life?
LK: For me the pivotal moment was going to see The Jackson 5, live at Madison Square Garden, when I was six years old. I was in the first grade. I had already been intently listening to their record. But I went to the show, and the next morning that was it! I was completely sold. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
AK: What was it about The Jackson 5 that resonated with you?
LK: Number one was the music. The music was incredible. The music that was made by these kids was not elementary, it wasn’t bubble gum as they used to say back then about young artists. This was very sophisticated, high-level music with the best musicians, the best producers, and [Michael] was one of the best singers who ever lived and who ever will live. The level of interpretation and feeling and vocal range… it was a perfect storm for me, the way everything came together. On top of the music, the presentation and the showmanship were top level and soulful, and these were people that I could identify with. They looked like me. I had the same hair… there were so many things that came together in my mind.
AK: It’s interesting to hear you say that. My son is half Jewish and half Jamaican, and he does the same thing. He tends to gravitate towards people he sees on television, in film, and with music, who have his skin tone and his hair.
LK: Yup! I have the same background, except I’m Jewish and Bahamian.
AK: When and where do you feel most creative and musical?
LK: It could be anywhere, but it’s in the studio, so wherever that may be. My studio is in the Bahamas. It’s my favorite place to work; it’s my workshop. When I’m in the studio and I’ve got all my equipment and all my instruments, and everything is set up, that’s the magical place for me. It’s where I’m comfortable and where I can flow. When I’m inspired and in that flow, I can move. I jump around from instrument to instrument, and it’s wonderful.
AK: You are such a true musician in every sense of the word. Aside from singing, you play several instruments, and you write and produce. When you record your music, is it all you doing everything in the studio? Are you recording all of the instrumentals in addition to doing your vocals and producing?
LK: Yes, I start on drums normally and then I go to a guitar, a bass, another guitar, keyboard, percussion… I keep layering as though I was painting, until my picture is complete.
AK: Your upcoming album is called Raise Vibration and the first single, It’s Enough, is a call-to-action anthem about political corruption and social and racial injustice. Was writing It’s Enough a form of therapy for you, and a way of turning hopelessness into empowerment? For example, I live part of the year in Florida, not too far from Parkland. When the Parkland school shooting happened, I went into a depression where I was feeling helpless as a parent. Then I thought, “I’m a writer. I can contribute something by writing a piece about this.” Was it a similar process for you?
LK: I react to the world. Just as you say you did, I have a reaction. I actually recorded the song twice. I was trying to find the direction for the record. The way the song started, the first version of It’s Enough was a full-on guitar, bass, drum, punk rock song. It had an angry tone to it, because that felt like the proper reaction. And then I thought about it and ended up changing it and finding this groove, which is the polar opposite of what it started out as. I found that by being calm and by being centered and by being quiet, it was more effective. It brought out a whole new feeling in the song, and I think it enables the listener to hear the lyrics even better.
AK: And you feel it brings more of a positive energy, as opposed to the original version, which would have brought forth anger.
LK: Absolutely. I’m all about positive energy. I’m stating the facts, but in the end, I always take an optimistic and positive tone that, “People, we can do this!” We can do it. It’s just a matter of waking up.
AK: What does the title of your album, Raise Vibration, mean to you? And how do you raise your vibration? Do you meditate? Do you Pray?
LK: It means exactly that; waking up. I meditate, I pray, I try to be still, I try to be quiet… and listen. It means having the desire to learn, to improve, and to face my faults and learn from them. I’m always looking to go higher. And taking as much ego out of myself as possible.
AK: How do you define God?
LK: I believe that God is my creator, our creator. Whether we realize it or not, I believe we are all created by the same God. I believe we are all one creation, we are all connected, and I believe that God is the ultimate source of love and all we are looking for.
AK: Do you consider yourself an activist?
Check back in for Part 2 of the Entertainer Exclusive Interview with Lenny Kravitz
3X Platinum Lenny Kravitz GREATEST HITS album is now available on vinyl as a 2 LP set via Virgin/Ume at uDiscoverMusic. His 11th studio album Raise Vibration is set for release September 7th via BMG. Pre-order at LennyKravitz.com. The album’s debut track, It’s Enough, is available to stream at iTunes.