January 28, 2019 Interview – Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds
When thinking of some of the best songwriters and producers in modern R&B music, you would be remiss if you did not have the name Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds first come to mind. A pioneer of the New Jack Swing, the artist known as Babyface has a résumé so long and impressive, most probably do not even realize he is one of the leading forces behind the scenes for many well known artists. Writing and producing for the likes of Bobby Brown, Toni Braxton, TLC, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, among many others, Babyface’s fingerprints are all over some of the best R&B music of the last 30 years. Also one-half of the joint venture LaFace Records, along with Deele bandmate L.A. Reid, all together, Babyface has compiled over 26 number-one R&B hits throughout his career, and has won 11 Grammy Awards.
Extremely impressive and inspiring, the talented musician has also made a strong solo career for himself, striking hits with memorable records including 1989’s Tender Lover, 1993’s For the Cool in You, and 1996’s The Day. Diverse and unique, in truth, he is one of the most prolific artists of our time. Conjuring new magic in 2015 with a new solo album, entitled Return of the Tender Lover, he now plots for more touring in 2019, and yes, plans for a new album. Energized and ready to go, Babyface recently sat down to chat about his career, the writing process behind his new music, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – Building an amazing career in music, you excelled as a performer, writer, producer, and leader of LaFace Records. First, briefly tell us, how would you describe your journey in music?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – Long. (Laughs) It’s been a joy ultimately. It’s hard work with a lot of up and downs before things happen. Sometimes things go great, sometimes they don’t. I think throughout my career I have always felt like everything is not always going to be perfect, but it’s not always going to be bad, so you have to just keep working at it. Go through slow times, keep working at it, and things will turn around.
Cryptic Rock – You certainly have accomplished a great deal through the years. What is truly inspiring about your work in music is it has never been one dimensional, both as a performer and writing/producing for others. Is that diversity a driving force for you?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – I think it is in fact what has kept me here for so long. I think it just comes naturally by being a musician first. Which means you should be able to do more than one thing, and if you are inspired by things, you should go for it.
Always keep reaching for other things when you can, that way it opens other doors for you that you don’t even know might be available. As long as you are opening doors, and open to things, the sky’s the limit.
Cryptic Rock – Right, you never know what may be around the corner. As a songwriter, you have remained very active through the years, whether writing material you perform, or for others. That in mind, you returned with a new studio record in 2015, Return of the Tender Lover. Your first studio of new material in some time, what was it like to get back in the studio and record again?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – That was a fun experience. It’s actually an experience I am going through now because I’ve been working on new material for about a year. The interesting thing is that this time I have paid attention to what is out there and what works with radio or what the trend of things are. You can’t completely ignore that ever, you have to consider that in your writing – whether you are writing for yourself, but especially when you’re writing for others.
It’s a fun process in that way, but that’s why it is also a long process. You certainly second-guess yourself in terms of things that feel right and things that don’t. That’s what takes a minute to get it out there and get a hold of it.
Cryptic Rock – It will be exciting to hear the new material. Return of the Tender Lover was more of a throwback R&B record. A very good record, but felt very old school.
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – No question, yes. That was definitely by design. This new record will be a little bit more… not so much throwback as it is very much myself, but also feels a little bit like today.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. You are actually out on tour for a list of shows in February and March. Seeing you have such a wide variety of material at your disposal, what can those coming out expect from these shows?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – We always have a good time when we do our shows. Part of the fun is, besides doing my own songs, I also usually go through a medley of songs I wrote and produced for other people. That always seems to be a really fun part of the show, because it takes everyone down memory lane. It takes me down memory lane every time I do it as well. It’s a lot of fun because it’s full of energy.
Most of the time, when people come to a Babyface show, they think it’s just going to be slow love songs and ballads. It’s actually a lot more than that, it’s a lot of fun and a lot of energy. I’ve been having a really good time doing these shows. We never take it for granted. Every time I go out at the top of the year, I revamp the show a little and try to stay as current as I can to put on a good show. I never take any of it for granted, we work very hard.
Cryptic Rock – You certainly have a lot of material to work with, so you can change it up pretty easily.
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – Sometimes the hard part is trying to figure out what to change up and what people want to listen to. You only have so much time, so you have to do some guess work.
Cryptic Rock – Understandable. Seeing you have written so much for others as well. as a songwriter, what is it like putting feelings on page for others to sing opposed to you singing it yourself?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – Well, I often have said that’s kind of like my artistry as well. It’s a great feeling to be off to the side of the stage seeing other acts perform songs I’ve written for them and seeing people sing along. I feel like that is part of me up there as well. It’s a great feeling, it’s the same kind of feeling as if you did it yourself.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. You have also collaborated with others as well, including Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, etc. What do you take away from all those experiences?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – That comes down to the first thing we kind of mentioned. Being in a position early on as a musician to make sure you can do everything that you can do, play every kind of music that you can play, and keep all doors open. Suddenly you find yourself sitting next to Eric Clapton, you find yourself in a room with Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, or Bruno Mars.
All those things you work on ahead of time, as you are honing in your craft. As long as you keep in mind – don’t be just single-minded, but look at everything and love everything. That way those doors open up and you find yourself in those situations.
Cryptic Rock – Those are some great situations to be in! Beyond music, you are also very involved in projects that help others. What organizations are you currently working with right now?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – There is never one particular organization. There are things I do yearly – I go to Barbara Davis’ Carousel of Hope and work with the United Negro College Fund as well. There is Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which there are hopefully fastly trying to find a cure to Alzheimer’s and brain diseases such as Parkinson’s. My mom had Alzheimer’s, so I am very involved in that. I also get calls from a lot of people for different things. The one thing my mom pushed on me was always when you can give back.
Cryptic Rock – That is great, and working in entertainment, you have a wonderful vehicle to give back too. Out of curiosity, seeing your vast experience, have you considered writing a book?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – Yes, I’ve been approach to do it a number of times. I get close to it and I pull out. I don’t necessarily like sitting around talking about myself. Maybe I will get to it one day, I just haven’t done it yet.
Cryptic Rock – Well the story is still being written for you as you continue to write and record. With the pending new album, are you perhaps doing any collaborations with other artists for these recordings?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – Not sure yet, there might be. I put the basic down, and then if I want to throw something in on there I do. At this point there hasn’t been.
Cryptic Rock – Excellent. Seeing you had a lengthy hiatus of releasing music up until Return of the Tender Lover, what inspired you to go back into the studio again?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – I was getting calls from the record company that they needed another record. (Laughs) That was mostly it, to be honest.
For this one I’ve been wanting to do some new music. When you’re out on the road and you get a sense of how people react to things, that does inspire you to write things from a different perspective. That has a lot to do with being out on the road which helps push that.
Cryptic Rock – It will be compelling to hear it when it is released later this year. Last question. Beyond music, Cryptic Rock also covers films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. Let’s open up the question though, what are some of your favorite films in general?
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – My favorite film is The Godfather (1972). I’m a film guy, but it’s kind of a hard to think of my favorites, because there are so many movies I like.
I do like Horror movies as well. I usually have to go myself, because my wife won’t watch them, it stays with her. I am a fan of this new film that came out on Netflix, Bird Box. It was a great film.
In my spare time, I try to see movies when I’m not working on the weekend. If I’m not watching them at home then I try and go out to see them.
FEB 7 New York Community Bank Theater at Westbury Westbury, NY, United States
FEB 8 Prudential Center Newark, NJ, United States
FEB 9 Heinz Hall Pittsburgh, PA, United States
FEB 14 The Fox Theater Atlanta, GA, United States
FEB 15 Chaifetz Arena St. Louis, MO, United States
FEB 16 Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land Sugar Land, TX, United States
FEB 17 Bridgestone Arena Nashville, TN, United States
MAR 3 Microsoft Theater Los Angeles, CA, United States
MAR 15 Bakers Life Fieldhouse Indianapolis, IN, United States
OCT 25 Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya Puerto Aventuras, Mexico
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