The neo-soul crooner, whom we all fell in love with back in 2000 with the release of his single “Just Friends (Sunny)” is back with his sixth LP. He released “MusiqInTheMagiq” in May and recently authored the book “1-4-3” which discusses — you guessed it — love and relationships. The Philadelphia native arrives at the Howard Theatre on Monday. We spoke with him about his name-change contemplations, tapping into his inner talent, and why he’s not counting himself as a member of the “love guru” club just yet.
With your sixth album under your belt, your music has explored numerous channels of emotions in relationships. What type of place are you in now musically?
I’m sort of in an awkward position right now, simply because I’ve learned so much about this music game.The reason why I say “awkward” is because here is a name and a brand and a reputation that I’ve established for myself that I’m very proud of, however it’s only a fraction of what I’m capable of doing and what I have to offer to my audience and to the people who have supported me. I cannot wait until I’m able to really do that, and I have a good feeling that people are willing to embrace that.
I feel like I’ve been in this box and I feel like I have these limitations and these restrictions that have been placed upon me, and I just want to reach beyond these parameters so that I can give you more. I think that I’m at the point in my career where I feel that I can take those leaps and make those moves and have the faith that the people who have been riding with me for so long will be willing to ride with me as I move on and evolve.
What “box” do you feel that you are always seen in, and how do you want to escape it?
Everybody puts me in this neo-soul box, in this ballad box where if I do anything outside of a ballad, if I do anything outside of a smooth, groovy kind of song, then they look at me with a side eye. And that’s all cool and fine, it’s just that I know that everybody doesn’t listen to that kind of music.
I understand it helps to coin a sound for yourself, carve a little lane for yourself in the game because you want to invest in the brand. I get that. However it’s just way too much stuff out there to do, and there’s way too many ways to entertain people musically than to just keep doing the same thing. I really pray that people are going to be willing to follow me as I attempt to entertain people in many other ways musically.
If you really read the book it’s about how we as people engage with each other in dealing with this thing that we all call love. I don’t like to think of it as a self-help book, even though it may come across that way because it has a do-it-yourself theme to it.
It’s not an autobiography either, even though I do draw from personal experiences. It’s not about how they happened for me, it’s more so about the lesson that I’ve learned from those experiences.
I break the book down into three acts: the first act is “loving me,” the second act is “loving you,” and the third act is “loving us.” The first being my thoughts and feelings and opinions on why it’s important, how can a person get better at loving themselves. “Loving you” is the second act, which speaks about my thoughts, opinions, and perspective on how a person can love someone else. And then the third is...learning how to love yourself, and learning how to give love and receive love when dealing with someone else. When you put those together, [it’s] what type of relationship you can expect to have with someone else.
Would you say that you have now become a “love guru?”
I don’t really claim that title simply because it comes with a lot of things that I don’t think I deserve. However, not to discredit myself in my intelligence on love. I know a lot about it because it’s something that I practice every day. It’s a very passionate subject for me, and it’s my focal point in life.
As far as [me] being the last word on love, or the embodiment of love or the authority on love — I don’t really...love is just too huge for one person.
You sing under the pseudonym ‘Musiq Soulchild,’ which has been a large asset in helping to carve your identity. With all this expansion, have you ever thought about changing your name?
Oh you have no idea! It’s very close to who I am, however when I’m onstage, I’m a performer, I’m an entertainer. We all know in this game you can’t just always be yourself 24/7 because everybody is not going to be willing to accept that. What helps [is] to have some kind of space between you and the person that you present to the audience, so that you can give them what it is that they’re asking for. I have all of these other personas that have musical associations or creative associations, but yes I would love to entertain [a name change], simply because they represent just that — another side of my creativity.
No matter what you decide to pursue in the future, what do you want your fans to understand about what you do?
I just want people to know that I am an artist first. This music thing is thankfully what works for me. I stuck with it because it was working, however I’m an artist first, and what that means is there’s more to me than just this music thing. It’s just way too much stuff to do as a creative person than to just limit yourself to just being a one-trick pony- just going out there, singing songs, and hoping that you win an award for it. I think that once people open their minds to that, they’ll be more willing to receive and understand what it is that I’m doing creatively.