Brian McKnight has recorded four new songs to be part of a live CD/DVD package, "Just Me," which the singer, songwriter, producer and TV personality will be releasing in April, with a first single due some time this month.
"I'm really going back to old school R&B with these four songs," McKnight, who recorded the new material during January in Los Angeles, tells Billboard.com. He describes one, "Temptation," as "a real Marvin Gaye-ish style," with a message about "not succumbing to your desires and losing something that's very important to you. I did it with my oldest son [Brian Jr.], so I'm sort of passing down some knowledge from father to son... in a very slick way."
McKnight says another new song is "a real throwback. I've been listening to a lot of Ray Charles lately, and I wanted a song that really sounded like 1953 Ray Charles. It definitely sounds like 1953 with the production and the way I did it."
The concert portion of "Just Me" was filmed and recorded on Feb. 8 at the Avalon Hollywood and captures the solo show McKnight has been doing recently.
"It's a one-man show," he says. "All the songs I've written, everything I've done, they start the same way, either me sitting at the piano or sitting with a guitar. All the hits I've had have really come from that situation. So I'm basically going back to the way I started, playing in bars and then in hotel lobbies when I was 15, very intimately with just a piano or just a guitar. I've brought that back full circle, and I'm telling the stories behind the songs and basically giving a real insight into not only what I do but to how I do it, and why."
McKnight says "Just Me" may provide a new model for him to release new music in the future. "We are now a singles buying population. People aren't really conditioned to believe in full albums anymore," he explains. "So I'm experimenting. I have no idea what they want, but hopefully giving them four new songs now will get them ready for four new songs later in some other configuration. This is a record for the fans, and hopefully it'll change the format of how I do things in the future."
For the time being McKnight plans to concentrate on performing and recording, putting aside a broadcast career that includes "The Brian McKnight Show" on radio and television between 2006-2010. "I did so much for two or three years there, I'm just getting back to the grass roots of what I think I was put there to do, which is to stand on stage and entertain people," he says. "There have been other people who have approached me to do other things on radio, even in television, but I'm really trying to figure out what the best step is. And in the meantime, I'm getting back to seeing the people."