The rocker-turned-actor turns rocker again with a new studio album

In the 25 years since Lenny Kravitz released his debut album Let Love Rule, he has released 10 studio albums, won four Grammys, and scored hits like “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over,” “American Woman” and “Fly Away.” After recent star turns in such films as Precious, The Butler and the Hunger Games franchise, the 50-year-old singer-songwriter returns to recording with a new album, Strut. Extremely hands-on in the studio, Kravitz tapped veteran Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Toto) to mix the record. “It’s good to have a fresh take on something you’ve spent so much time on and you’re so close to,” he says.

Did The Hunger Games fuel Strut?

I wouldn’t say it fueled the music, but the music happened during filming. I was making [The Hunger Games sequel] Catching Fire, working long days that started early in the morning, which was difficult for me—because if music came into my head, I had to spend my nights working with it. It was hard, but that’s how it happened. The music came when it wanted to come, and when that happens I’ve got two choices—ignore it and lose it, or take it. I chose to take it.

Do you like writing in a specific place?

I write when inspiration comes. My studio happens to be in the Bahamas, so that’s where I’ve worked on the last couple of records. And I write anywhere—I could be on the moon, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like, “Oh, I have to go to this location for work.” That would be horrible.

You titled the songs before writing lyrics. 

It made it more of a game. I named them whatever I felt they were called. It was very instinctual. Like “Happy Birthday” I didn’t understand at all. Why would I be writing a song called “Happy Birthday”? But when I heard the rhythm track after I cut it, that’s what it said to me.

Why decide to work with Bob?

Normally I mix all my records, but this time I felt his sound was what I was looking for. I was actually trying to emulate his technique and was getting pretty close, but then asked myself, “Why am I trying to emulate it when I can just call the guy?” I’d never done it before, but I thought it would be great to let go and put this in someone else’s hands. I called Bob and said, “I’m a huge fan of your work, would you like to mix my record?” And he replied, “I’ve been waiting for you to call.” We hit it off from day one. For someone who has issues handing things off to other people, it was a great lesson for me.

Do you embrace new studio tech?

I embrace things that apply to what I’m doing. I don’t just use new things because they’re new. They have to have a purpose—tools that will help me bring out my vision and sound. This record was mostly done in an old-school way with my vintage analog and tube gear. Strut isn’t a great example of new tools. It’s a pretty straightforward record—even the synthesizer I used on a couple of tracks is vintage.

Let Love Rule came out 25 years ago.

I can’t believe that. Looking back, there’s something special about that time. There are things that I would do then that I wouldn’t do now. But I believe that I’ve grown as a musician, so sometimes I’ll rework a song—and other times I get it as close to the record as possible. Depends on the situation and the mood.

–Katy Kroll

comment closed

Copyright © 2015 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·