The renaissance man of rhythm & blues
By Dave Dondoneau
Brian McKnight is a man of many talents.
Host of radio shows in Los Angeles and New York, and a syndicated television talk show that goes out to 225 markets, he's also the father of two blossoming R&B stars and had the fortune/misfortune of being the target of Donald Trump's infamous "You're fired"line while on last season's "The Celebrity Apprentice."
Then there's the singing thing.
McKnight's smooth R&B sounds make him the ideal performer to catch this Valentine's Day weekend. He'll be in concert Sunday at the Blaisdell Arena, with both of his sons — Brian Jr., 19, and Niko, 17 — joining him for the performance.
Later this year, the teens will be releasing their first CD as McKnight, the group.
"They produced it themselves,"McKnight said. "I'm very, very proud of them. If they weren't good, I would tell them to pursue other dreams. But they're leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at that age."
During a break between his radio and TV shows, McKnight took some time to talk about his music, family, golf — and The Donald:
Q. You had your music and radio shows already, but how much of a boost was "The Celebrity Apprentice" for your career?
A. It didn't hurt. If you look at the timeline, I knew "The Brian McKnight"TV show was on the horizon, and I wanted to get my Q rating up and get people acclimated to who Brian McKnight was.
Q. How was the experience?
A. Unlike most people who were on that show, I still do 100 or so concerts a year and was working. I was doing my radio show while I was on it in New York. So, I won some money for my charity (Youth-ville USA), showed the country a different side of Brian McKnight — and then I got out of there.
Q. Did you learn from Trump and the experience?
A. You don't spend a lot of time with Donald. But what you do see is his success, and I think success breeds success. If you're around that guy, you see what his work ethic is and what he's about. He's about success and broadening his own brand. You see him now on commercials that having nothing to do with "The Apprentice."He's been in our lives 30 years and continues to increase and broaden his brand.
Q. Your music seems to be a perfect fit for a Valentine's Day show.
A. Valentine's Day is a pretty big weekend for me. I don't want to say one place is better than the other, but I could have played Biloxi, Miss., for Valentine's Day or Hawaii. I chose Hawai'i.
Q. Good choice. Given your schedule, do you get out here much?
A. I think I've only played here twice in the last 15 years. The last time was maybe 10 years ago, and I don't even remember where. It's a blur. But I was on O'ahu four years ago when they had the big earthquake. A friend of mine was getting married, and the power went out for a couple of days, so we went and played golf. Almost all the power was out on the island, and the golf course was open. Go figure.
Q. Is golf your escape?
A. My life now is simple pleasures. I've done all the big things I've wanted to do, so now I just want to play golf and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. I've always loved the people from Hawai'i. My ex-girlfriend is from there. I love the atmosphere of the Islands. I love the attitude.
Q. People would probably be surprised to know you play nine different instruments. Do you play them all during concerts?
A. I tend to stick to the piano and guitar when I'm performing. The problem with playing the brass winds is I don't sing while I play them. I'll play some piano and guitar, but for the most part, I stand and sing.
Q. What else can people expect to see?
A. People think I'm a serious music guy, but I put on a show. I'll take you through every emotion while you're there. I'm gonna make you laugh, make you cry, just about everything. There's so much more to the show than what you think.
Q. Anything else in the works?
A. I'm doing a traveling play that opens March 16 in Washington, D.C. I'll play the lead role in it and do the music. It's called "Cheaper to Keep Her." I've got the TV and radio shows, and I'm scoring some movies.
A. Yeah, I'm all over the place, like the guy in the carnival with all the plates — and I'm keeping them all spinning.
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