Master balladeer Brian McKnight brings his velvety voice to New Orleans on Saturday for a night of love and laughter as he prepares to open his "Just Me" tour and give fans a taste of what's to come when his 14th album drops this summer.
The show opens with sets by R&B singers Avant and Vivian Green and comedian Lavell Crawford. McKnight said the New Orleans date has been on his schedule for a while and is not a part of the tour, which begins May 12 in Phoenix.
"New Orleans is just getting me," McKnight said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "My one-man show. I'm coming to do what people haven't seen from me. I'll be telling a story, my story, from the beginning until now. People have heard me play with a band for the last 15, 20 years. This will be how I started, with a piano and a guitar."
The tour is a family affair. It will include the a capella, Grammy Award-winning group Take 6, founded by his older brother Claude McKnight, and his sons, 21-year-old Brian Jr. (known as BJ) and 19-year-old Cole Nicholas (known as Niko), who front the fledgling rock band BRKN RBTZ (broken robots).
McKnight, 41, a singer-songwriter who also plays nine instruments, has been honing the acoustic-style show for the past year and takes fans on a trip through his 18-year musical repertoire. He said he was a little skeptical of how the fans would respond, but has been buoyed by their reaction.
"I wasn't sure if people would accept just me," he said. "People's senses are constantly inundated by the Internet and I didn't know if people would be able to sit still and deal with me telling this story this way, but they have."
McKnight's latest project, entitled "Just Me," is set for release July 12. He said the new music will give his fans some of his signature, silky smooth sounds, but will also give them a little something different.
"For me it's never about doing the same thing over and over," he said. "I just do what I do."
McKnight acknowledges that his voice conjures romantic visions _ especially in his female fans _ and though most of his songs often tackle romance or the back-and-fourth of relationships, that's not him all the time.
"Unfortunately, I am the least romantic man ever," he said laughing. "I'm a guy's guy. But I'm not sure most women would want that `romantic' person 24 hours a day anyway. Too much of that would probably not be a good thing."
Still, he said, there's a time and a place for his type of music.
"My voice lends itself to singing a slower song," he said. "I still believe when you want to get close to someone, it's my type of music you put on. I doubt if they're listening to Jay-Z at that moment _ not that there's anything wrong with Jay-Z. He's great."
McKnight said he believes music these days "has lost its ability to connect emotionally with the listener."
"I'm not sure if that's the music's fault or the listener's fault," he said. "But I find there's a trend of not wanting to be vulnerable. Folks don't want to hear `love' songs because very few people find love. And hearing it over and over again, or seeing the happy ending in the movie over and over again and knowing that it's not true or unattainable can be draining. So instead, they want to go out and have fun and party and that's what today's music reflects.
"You have to sing a certain way because the audience wants what it wants and radio dictates that you have to try to fool people with a beat and a groove."
McKnight, who's been nominated 16 times for a Grammy without a win, said he's not sure what his next musical move will be. He'll be doing the U.S. tour through September.
"Then it's on to Europe and South Africa later in the year," he said. "But I pretty much live in the moment. I'm just really happy right now watching my boys' careers take off."
BJ's voice has been compared to his father's, while Niko also sings and plays guitar. McKnight said he's looking forward to exposing them to the world during the upcoming tour.
"I am so excited to be able to put this together. It's going to be incredible _ nine of the best voices you've ever heard assembled on one stage," he said. "It's going to be great."