Posted on 12 September 2019 Return
Keni Stevens is a master of UK Soul and has been a key contributor to the Soul movement within the UK since the late 70’s. He’s still heavily involved in the music industry since joining the band ‘Raw Energy’. The most played album during his solo career was his incredible ‘Blue Moods’ album which literally stopped the UK in its tracks. Not only is he an incredible vocalist but a multi-skilled keyboard player that can be heard amongst some of the great songs from the UK group ‘Light of The World’ from which he was also a member of. He also session sang for the likes of Eddy Grant and Marianne Faithfull before going solo. We caught up with Keni for a brief interview a few days ago, enjoy.
1. How old were you when you first discovered you had a love for music and what type/genre of music was it?
"I remember singing along to Oh Carol, Neil Sedaka, my mum said I would always sing the 1st harmony."
2. Your first band was called 'Raw Energy', how was the grouped formed and why did the band disband?
"I came to join Raw Energy through a friend Sam Edwards, after signing to conflict records, which was Co-owned by Andy Sojka at the time, we were licensed to a German label Ariola Hansa, the 2 recordings, a funky version of Mack the knife and a song I Co-wrote with the band, Cherokee Disco, we just kind of drifted apart."
3. You were involved in Reggae back in the day, very different to much of the RnB songs you previously released, which do you prefer RnB or reggae and why?
"I was a big fan of Rock Steady prior to '68, when the genre transformed into reggae, I just love the simplicity of the songs and they were a big influence in my own writing style. Being Anglo African American, Soul was always my first love, it's in my blood but if we go back to me to, the R&B by the likes of Fats Domino etc. can be clearly heard in a Caribbean syncopation, so I guess the two are Intricately linked. By the way, I was fortunate to see Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett live in my youth."
4. Blue Moods on Jam Today originally released in 1987 was a success worldwide, what was the inspiration behind that album?
"I've always said Blue Moods was a life style record that brought together the diaspora across the UK, one cannot deny the Caribbean influence in UK artist soul, so my influence was the people I was amongst and the same people that accompanied me on my journey to this day."
5. You had consecutively released albums thereon after Blue Moods, the years 87, 88, 89 then there seemed to be a long pause before your recent album in 2017 entitled Out Of the Blue. Why such a long gap?
"Simple, I didn't feel I had anything new to say. OOTB (Out of the Blue), was just to see if people still wanted to hear from me."
6. Were you originally born in the USA as we heard that you are the son of a US serviceman, if correct, when and why did you migrate to live in the UK?
"I was born in Watford, (come on you horns) a few hundred yards from vicarage Road, my father was indeed a US service man from Philadelphia, my mother English."
7. We've heard that you’ve set up and started your very own record label recently, could you elaborate on that.
"The label is a work in progress."
8. As with your albums there were also consecutive releases of singles, are we to expect any more in the near future. If so, what styles, genre and attributes will it contain? Will it be the old Keni soul sound or will it be a totally new Keni Stevens?
"I loved what I did on the Lasperanza album, SEEDS, and the cover of my Cannot live without your love, so at the moment I'm gonna take some time to see where I go from here."
9. What do you think of the RnB music scene and industry today?
"I'm a big fan of Mahalia and Ela mae, I love how the UK influenced music of my contemporaries has seeped into what they do, EG the use of the 808 drums etc., as for the industry today? It's their world, it’s up to them to make the most of it."
10. What would be your advice to aspiring musicians who want to break it in the RnB/Soul scene?
"Own your rights, get your data capture, do the analytics, you don't need a major record label anymore, you can do it all yourself. Go where you're loved, stay true to yourself, be creative, the tech won't do it all for you, remember showbiz is 25% show 75% business. It's a new world, make it work for you."