Having wrapped the second leg of Charlie Wilson’s successful 44-city Forever Charlie Tour in June, Motown’s Kem is ramping up for a third run — this time, his own headlining tour. The 16-date Promise to Love tour will kick off Nov. 6 in Los Angeles and make stops in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York and Detroit, among other cities, before ending its run in Southaven, Miss. Joining Kem as his special guest is Tamar Braxton.
“It’s a nice way to wrap up Promise to Love,” says the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, referring to his 2014 fourth studio album. Debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200, the set has spun off two No. 1 singles: “It’s You” and “Nobody” (which spent nine weeks atop the Adult R&B Songs chart). Kem notes that the album’s title track will be the last single, heading to radio on Oct. 5.
Chilling out before his upcoming performance at the Arizona Jazz Fest on Oct. 25, Kem chats about giving R&B a shot in the arm, celebrating 25 years of sobriety and being able to sing women out of their wigs.
Touring arenas with Wilson and fellow special guest Joe: “That was unprecedented for artists of our caliber. It was also a shot in the arm for R&B and the importance of live performance in this day and age.”
What fans can expect from the more intimate Promise to Love outing: “First and foremost, our set will be longer. On tour with Charlie, we were trying to squeeze everything into a 45- to 50-minute window. Now we’ll get to do the full breadth of songs I want to perform at this point in my career. And we’ve added some touches to the production to take our show to the next level. I’m looking to inherit that space filled by Charlie, the Isley Brothers and Frankie Beverly featuring Maze. If they ever get tired of performing, I want to be there to fill in the gap.”
Celebrating 25 years of sobriety this year and avoiding temptation on the road: “Recovery comes first before music. I’m still grounded and engaged in the recovery community. When I signed to Motown, I had already been clean for a decade. So in some respects I had a lifetime to lay the foundation for recovery. I’m so far removed from the idea of actually using alcohol and drugs. My struggle today is living life on life’s terms, dealing with all the stuff that makes you want to drink. [Laughs]”
Most startling fan encounters: “The most recent one was in Oakland, Calif. I was singing ‘Find Your Way’ while walking down into the audience. This woman took her wig off and gave it to me. I’m thinking, ‘For real? What am I supposed to do with that? Is that what I do to you?’ I didn’t keep it, but it’s definitely a highlight of my career. The band is still won’t let me get over it, teasing that I’m singing women out of their wigs.”