After five-time Grammy nominee Miguel rocked the house at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, Kelly Clarkson couldn’t help but gush about the soulful star during her own acceptance speech for best pop vocal album:
“Miguel, I don’t know who the hell you are, but we need to sing together,” Kelly said. “I mean, good God. That was the sexiest damn thing I’ve ever seen.”
Unlike Kelly, we have been following Miguel for a while now. We interviewed him back in 2011, when he was an up and coming singer performing at Rye Playland as part of their Summer Stage 2011 Concert Series. Read the article by Karen Croke after the jump.
August 18. 2011
Miguel, the new R&B-hip hop star, plays Playland Friday
Miguel Jontel Pimentel has come a long way from San Pedro, Calif. All the way to “106 & Park,” BET’s top music show, where he premiered his song, “Sure Thing,” this year.
The sultry R&B singer also performed the title track off his latest album, “All I Want Is You,” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Live! with Regis & Kelly.” On Friday, he’ll be performing at the Summer Stage 2011 Concert Series at Playland Amusement Park in Rye. Raquel Castro, the 16-year-old with the huge voice from this season’s “The Voice,” on NBC will also perform.
Miguel — who goes by just his first name professionally — is an accomplished singer-songwriter and performer who has written for Usher, Mary J. Blige and Asher Roth.
“I let my instincts do the talking. My music is really about my performance. I connect in a live setting in a very honest way and very unapologetic way. People can read that and when they feel the honesty, that’s key.”
The son of an African-American mother and a Mexican father, Miguel, 24, who was raised just outside of Los Angeles, says he’s been influenced by both his parents’ cultures and musical tastes, everything from Queen to the Police to Kurtis Blow. His sound, which he describes as “e-clectric ,” blends hip-hop, soul, R&B and funk, even a little classic rock.
All show up in “All I Want Is You,” a hypnotic R&B song produced by Salaam Remi and featuring J. Cole. “My music is edgy and sexy, and different,” Miguel says, “but not so different that you can’t get into it.”
Which is where those live performances come into play, including the opportunity to perform “Sure Thing,” live on “Regis & Kelly,” back in March.
“Regis liked the music, he was cool,” Miguel says with a laugh. “We had a lot of fun. I think they were impressed with the music, and like a lot of people, they were just starting to get familiar with my music.”
He’s been described as a mash-up of Prince, Pharrell Williams and Lenny Kravitz. Would he agree? “I think so,” he says. “The elements of who they are as creative individuals, inspiration and influences — absolutely.”
Miguel built his career initially as a writer before segueing into performing his own material.
He contributed to Asher Roth’s “His Dream” and “IfULeave” for Musiq Soulchild featuring Mary J. Blige. He also worked on Usher’s “Here I Stand” and “Raymond v. Raymond.” He was nominated for a Grammy for best R&B song as a co-writer on Jaheim’s “Finding My Way Back.”
He says the roles of songwriter, singers and performer are never mutually exclusive. “I’m creative at heart in general, whether it’s in music or photography — all comes under a creative umbrella. I’m an artist at heart. The music I got to co-write for people, those songs are valuable emotionally.”
But now he’s doing it for himself. Along with “Sure Thing,” and “All I Want is You,” which both went to No. 1 USA Today’s urban airplay chart, his recently released single “Quickie” — originally included on a 2008 mix tape called “Mischief the Mixtape” — has also been getting notice.
“It’s been a great experience this far,” he says. “I have the opportunity to introduce my music to a wide range of people and different audiences. Really doing it by live performances — that’s the platform.”
Performances like Friday night at Playland are part of the plan, and Miguel says it’s one of his favorite parts.
“I pride myself on my showmanship and my live persona,” he says. “Who I am as an artist comes through in my live shows.”
To get ready for a live show, he says, he has a routine: “I do push-ups, some curls, nah, just kidding,” he laughs, saying that his only backstage demands might include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “I love them.”
What audiences can expect is a great live show.
“We have a couple of set songs, there are songs we like to definitely hit, but the rest is improvisation and the rest is energy. Making memories in the midst of the show, is the most important to me,” he says. “I want you to leave and remember later ‘we saw him at this venue,’ I want you to walk away and remember where you were.”
“It’s still been about performing live,” Miguel says. “I love showing people what I’m all about.”
Photos by Getty Images