Lenny Kravitz on His ‘Grit’n’Glamour’-Filled New Album ‘Strut’ and Starting His Own Indie Label
Lenny Kravitz has reason to walk tall these days. In recent years, the singer-songwriter has become more known for acting, thanks to his role as Cinna in the first two films of the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise. But on Sept. 23, Kravitz returns to music and hits the 10-album mark with the release of Strut -- the first for his own Roxie Records label (named for his mother, actress Roxie Roker) -- followed by a world tour kicking off Oct. 22 in Moscow. Before his whirlwind fall takes off, Kravitz talked about his new LP and plans post-Hunger Games.
Strut definitely plays to your rock side. What led you there?
I had nothing to do with it. It came together by itself. I really had no idea I was about to make a record. I was on the set making Catching Fire. Making an album was the last thing on my mind, and all of a sudden I started hearing this music at night, and it wouldn't go away. So, I have two choices at that point: Either I ignore it and lose it, or I pay attention. I decided to pay attention, and this is what came out, really fast -- like in two weeks, all of it.
Did recording and writing during filming help or hinder the album?
One side of me loves to do things quick -- boom, get it done. Another side of me likes to be analytical, take our time like Steely Dan or Pink Floyd and work on this thing for a year. But in this case I didn't have time to think about it, and that's part of the success of this record.
What sound were you going for?
I call it "grit'n'glamour” because it's rock, but there's polish to it. That's why I got Bob Clearmountain [Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones] to mix. When you hear records he does, he'll put that beautiful polish on it, but the guitars are huge, the drums are huge.
Why did you decide to cover Smokey Robinson & The Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby"?
I was actually in the trailer one morning getting my Cinna makeup, and "Ooo Baby Baby" came on the radio. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, and I was just thinking, "Oh, my God" -- the vocal, the strings, the drums; it was just so beautiful. I was touched. I thought that would be the perfect song to end [the album]. I sort of visualized it as the nightclub closing; they flip the lights on and the guy starts sweeping and the band stays on for one more song.
What's it like being your own record mogul?
I've always wanted to be independent. The last album [2011’s Black and White America], I had some really bad experiences. I came off of Virgin and went with Roadrunner, and it just couldn't have been more wrong. This time I put my own team together, and it feels good.
As The Hunger Games comes to an end, are you pushing for a Cinna spinoff?
(Laughs.) Oh, no. I'm on to other films. But it was a lot of fun. I enjoy being able to take time away from being myself and serving the character and director's vision and collaborating. It takes me out of my world, and creatively, that's really good for me.
This article first appeared in the Sept. 27th issue of Billboard.