Reviews & Dunn: What was the inspiration for you to purse a career in music?
Kenny Wesley: I thought that I had gift to share with people that I believed could empower and inspire them.
Reviews & Dunn: Unfortunately I missed the highly raved about tribute show to Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross and Prince that you did. Do you have plans to do repeat performances in the near future?
Kenny Wesley: Possibly, once the smoke clears with the virus. I am in talks with some concert venues.
Reviews & Dunn: Speaking of your tribute show, what was the hardest song to cover vocally by each artist at that show?
Kenny Wesley: Oh my, that’s a tough question. I made sure to pick songs that fit my style, but on a technical level: Stevie – “Ribbon in the Sky”; Luther – “A House Is Not A Home”; and Prince – “The Beautiful Ones”.
Reviews & Dunn: How did you come up with the term soulful nerd?
Kenny Wesley: I felt it necessary to create a brand that defined my artistry on my terms and not according to what tastemakers think. I am the artist so I should be the one defining my art. I am not limited to Black American culture and musical expression. I speak multiple languages, have traveled and lived all over the world and my artistic presentation and my personality are a clear reflection of this. I felt that the term Soulful Nerd would be a succinct way to encapsulate and brand that reality.
Reviews & Dunn: Can you give me some background on your time at the Montreux Jazz festival?
Kenny Wesley: It was an exciting time and a bittersweet experience. Claude Nobs, the founder of the festival passed away earlier that winter. So, Quincy Jones, who had a direct hand in curating the singers who were selected for the competition I was a part of, did not attend any of our performances. I get it though. I’m sure he was in immense pain about the loss of his friend. They basically co-created the festival. I was honored simply to be selected to represent the United States on such a legendary platform. The competition was nerve-wracking as all get out. The nightly jam sessions and getting to know some of the other singers were the highlights for me.
Reviews & Dunn: I understand that you spent time living in Berlin. I spent the early years of my twenties living in the UK while serving in the Air Force. One of the things I noticed was the British have a huge appreciation for old school R&B music. How is the R&B scene in Berlin?
Kenny Wesley: Wow that’s awesome! I really like the UK. I’d say the UK appreciates all forms of soul music and jazz. And much more than the United States! I loved my time in Berlin and Germany in general. There really is no “R&B scene” in Germany. Most of the music styles, even urban music styles, are more produced to sound like pop music. Much like here in the USA, jazz, soul, etc. have more niche audiences. Much like the UK, there is an appreciation for some classic R&B, but you won’t see those types of artists touring consistently in Germany. Of course, the big pop star level artists come through (e.g., Beyoncé, Lionel Richie, etc.). You might see Bilal or a similar artist perform at a smaller club or festival once a year. But other than that, you will see maybe one or two big R&B tours come through Berlin within a year that cater to the nostalgic concertgoers (e.g., Ginuwine, Blackstreet, etc.). And it usually features multiple artists on the same bill.
Reviews & Dunn: Space travel for civilians is now possible. You have been chosen to be the inflight entertainment for the maiden voyage and have the chance to build your dream backup band. Which current musicians would you pick??
Kenny Wesley: My current band because they know me best: Dennis Turner, bass; Zachary Cutler, guitar; Biscuit Bynum, drums; Boogie Greer, percussion. I don’t usually use background singers, but my dream singers would be: Nicholas Ryan Gant, Ashley Jayy, and Deborah Bond. If Dennis ever called in sick, I’d hire Thundercat 😊
Reviews & Dunn: What’s on your musical docket for 2020?
Kenny Wesley: Nothing to be honest. I’m always recording and releasing collaborations with other artists. I have a lot of unreleased recordings I’m compiling together as a series of Eps. Once I have enough saved up for the marketing, I’ll start releasing again.
Reviews & Dunn: Is there any musical artist you like to portray in a biopic or someone’s story you would like told?
Kenny Wesley: I’d love for the story of one of my mentors, Tony Award-nominated Queen Yahna, to be told. I met her while I was living in Germany. She is an electrifying performer and actress, and truly a living legend in her own right. She has paved the way for may Black artists and actors in Germany and Europe in general. And she is absolutely hilarious!!!!!!!!
Reviews & Dunn: One of the things I miss most about modern R&B is the male singing group. What’s one thing you miss?
Kenny Wesley: Beautiful phrasing and dynamics in singing without so many riffs. I think it’s a result of social media: people feel they need to do a lot in a short period of time to get people’s attention. I’m over it.
Reviews & Dunn: As a music fan, are you surprised to see that Vinyl is making a comeback?
Kenny Wesley: I am because I don’t know many people who actually own a record player! LOL I love vinyl though so I’m glad it’s back.
Reviews & Dunn: Where can new and old fans find your music?
Kenny Wesley: soulfulnerd.com, kennywesley.bandcamp.com, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Apple music, youtube.com, Tidal…all digital outlets, really.
Reviews & Dunn: Is there anything you would like to ADD?
Kenny Wesley: We are amid some extremely trying times. But remember God has brought us through plagues, recessions, depressions, earthquakes, floods and many other catastrophes in years past and historically. So, keep the faith everyone and remember that this too will pass. I hope my music can bring you some sense of comfort during all of this. May God bless and keep you all.