Kenny Lattimore Talks UNCF's 'Empower Me Tour' And New Album 'Back 2 Cool'
For Kenny Lattimore, authenticity is about reaching his audience through song. And he is now reaching out to that audience in other ways. The Grammy-nominated singer is also extending his benevolent brand through his nonprofit organization, The Kenny Lattimore Foundation, and his involvement with the United Negro College Fund's fourth annual Empower Me Tour.
In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, the multifaceted singer-actor opened up about his role with UNCF's latest initiative, as well as dishing the details on his forthcoming album, "Back 2 Cool."
Can you talk about your role with this year's UNCF Empower Me Tour?
It's been really fantastic. I have a seminar that I host called "Game On," and it's really just geared towards young men who are facing challenges going to college. So I set up a panel where I have some other young men who have either attended or completed college, and they become a sounding board for the young men in our audience, a sounding board that is a board of encouragement for them to face their obstacles and let them know that, no matter what, they can achieve this high achievement of college degree. And it will help set them up for their future successes.
In what ways does the tour parallel the principles of your Kenny Lattimore Foundation?
Well, our three main focuses are education, arts and mentoring. So to a degree, partnering with the UNCF has allowed me to fulfill all three of those purposes in one. We have the entertainment angle and the arts, because we have these entertainers that are gathering to share information, which is a form of mentoring; but it focuses on education as well. So it's kind of an all-in-one thing for me, so I've been enjoying it.
In addition to your lecturing, is there a section for you to perform?
You know, sometimes I'll just break out into a song or something. There's no total platform for me to sing. At some of the locations there's cooking demonstrations and, for me, I'm a man of inspiration and I like to share inspiration through song. So a lot of times in my presentations, I give them something back that's just inspirational. And on my next CD, "Back 2 Cool," there's a song called "Built to Last," and a lot of times I'll give them a piece of "Built to Last" because it's a song that kind of goes along with the theme of what's happening.
Where are you in the recording process for "Back 2 Cool"?
I'm still putting it all together. I had the pleasure of meeting with EMI label distribution at the top of this year, and they were excited about the music and some of the things that I was doing. So we have partnered to put out this CD, it probably will come out around June, but my first single is called "Find A Way," and it should be added to radio sometime within the next week. So I'm really excited, there are a lot of great things happening at the same time. And having the history and experience of Capital EMI doing the marketing and promotion, in addition to partnering with my own label, Sincere Soul Records, has been pretty incredible.
I noticed that you posted a teaser clip of "Find A Way" on your site. When can fans expect the full version of the video?
I wanted it to get to radio first. I'm still in the editing stages, because, although we have finished the video, we're just playing around with it. And I thought I was going to be focused on it in the last couple of weeks. But since this is a new situation for me, the focus has to be the art, packaging and manufacturing of the single and getting it to radio. Occasionally you start something out and you have a couple of bumps here, couple bumps there. And we haven't had any major bumps, but they were significant enough to where I had to stop focusing on anything to make sure everything was right.
As for the album's subject matter, are you opening up about your personal life, such as your past marriage?
Not at this point. The album is not finished. Several of the songs are done, and I did not write all of the songs for this CD. I've been blessed with some really amazing writers and producers around me: Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barias [of production duo Carvin & Ivan] did the first single and several of the other songs. And then JR Hutson, who's coming off the success of Jill Scott's album.
But will some of the songs reflect my personal life? Probably not. I think that the songs are going to relate to aspects of my life, but it's not necessarily intentional. All of the songs will deal with some of the emotions that I've had over the last couple of years. You're absolutely going to hear about those challenges on this CD. But not because I sat and decided to write them about my situation, as much as some things that I will write or some things that others have written that when I listen to it I go, 'Oh wow, that is what I experienced.' But I have not been that person, to live my personal life through the music. And I know that works for a lot of artists and it makes them authentic and it makes it a very interesting experience for the listener. But Kenny Lattimore being authentic has been more using songs to touch the hearts of women and inspire them, and know that real love through men, African-American men in particular, does exist. So I will continue to be on that path, as opposed to using the music like a form of cleansing.
Are there any artists whom you look forward to or plan on working with?
We have some names of some people. I think that there will be some good surprises, but unfortunately I haven't done the songs yet. I would hate to put somebody's name out there and then it doesn't work in the end. But I can tell you who some of my friends are: Ledisi has a track that Dre & Vidal did that we're thinking about doing. There's a group called Naturally 7, that's an a capella group who's amazing. Eric Benet and I have talked about doing a duet, because I was like, 'It'll be interesting to do a male duet,' separated from all of the duets and collaborations that I've done with Chante [Moore], it would be interesting. So those are just three of the names that we talked about recently.
Can fans expect you to make a return to the stage as an actor?
Absolutely, if the right role comes. I love acting. I did my first film with Terri J. Vaughn and Kim Fields for the Gospel Music Channel -- just a small role. I did that this past year. I think it's debuting this month on the channel, it's called "A Cross To Bear." So I'm trying to balance it all.