Brian McKnight Talks Broadway, Celebrity Apprentice, and His New Album Just Me

Everybody, from your momma to your 12-year-old cousin, loves Brian McKnight's "Back at One."

But don't get it twisted, the man isn't just an R&B heartthrob. Able to play percussion, string, and brass instruments, McKnight's also a one-man band. He's even hosted a self-titled syndicated morning radio program, scored his own late-night talk show, and appeared on the second season of Celebrity Apprentice alongside Khloe Kardashian, Tom Green, and Joan Rivers.

All hot and bothered for McKnight's upcoming performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach, Crossfade spoke with the soulful crooner about Broadway, the french horn, and why his newest release Just Me is something special.

Crossfade: You've been singing since you were a kid at your church. Do you have any spectacularly interesting memories of singing at that age with your family?

Brian McKnight: Spectacular? Not necessarily, only because everybody in my family can sing. If you were the one person who could sing, that'd be a different thing. It's what we always did. It wasn't even a choice. When you're born into our family, you sing. So I can't tell any incredible stories, because it's what we always did.

You also play a whole bunch of instruments. How'd you have time to learn all of them?

I had access. At the end of the day, I was a kid that when I had a toy that said it was indestructible, I figured out a way to break it. So, when it came to musical instruments, we had a piano in the house. I taught myself to play that. I got a guitar when I was 12, and figured that one out. The other ones, I played trumpet in band for a couple years. I picked up trombone, french horn and all the others. It was just a matter of... The drums took a little long because I didn't have a drum set. But once I got a band in high school, I had access to drums, as well. So, it's just natural to me to pick those things up.

You had a TV show and you had a radio show. Do you prefer those creative outlets? Or is singing still your favorite?

Really for me, it's about songwriting. Songwriting is what gets me off most. Singing in public is sort of the natural progression. But when people ask me what I do, it's not "singer." It's definitely "songwriter."

What was it like working on Broadway? Did you enjoy it?

I enjoyed it, most of all, because my aunts and uncles, who are classically trained singers would have loved to have been on Broadway in the '50s and '60s. But they couldn't because they were black. So when the opportunity was offered to me, I didn't say yes necessarily for myself, but I said yes for them.

When you were on Celebrity Apprentice, your charity of choice was Youthville USA, could you tell us about that?

It's a charity in North Carolina that placed kids in foster care, basically. It was a company founded by my ex-wife. And at that time, we were all still on really good terms. So I decided to make them my charity.

Your newest release Just Me is a double disc with 30 songs. Why so epic?

Originally, it was only supposed to be the live CD that's a part of that package. I [also] shot a DVD that's supposed to come out later this year. As I was editing that, I started writing some new songs. We live in a day and age where people are going to want more for their dollar, and I wanted to give my fans more than they would usually get. They get the live CD and the new CD at the same time. I wanted to do something special.

Brian McKnight. Friday, August 19. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $36.50 to $48.50 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.

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