Brian McKnight on His Super Romantic New 20th Album -- and Why It's His Last (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
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Brian McKnight has been making fans swoon with his love songs and ballads for over three decades. Now, the 51-year-old singer says that his forthcoming 20th record, Exodus, out Friday, will be his last.
"This is it, as far as records go," McKnight tells ET's Nischelle Turner. "I'll always do shows, maybe not 150 a year, and who knows when we'll go back to work and have another show, but I think this is a good time."
"Just like Michael Jordan, I respectfully say, 'Hey, I may come back and do another one,'" he adds. "I don't know right now. The way I feel is…there are other things I'd like to do. I'd like to travel with [my wife] Leilani, for just travel sake instead of work, and you know, a lot of other things. So we'll see. But as of right now Exodus is it."
McKnight, however, notes that he will "always make music." "Will I release it? I don't know," he says. "I need to be in a different headspace I think for a while and to see where a lot of things have changed in this business. A lot of music and the way music is made has changed. People keep saying, 'Oh, it's gonna come back around to this,'…I haven't seen that yet. Right now, I think I've said everything I wanted to say and we'll see what happens next."
The 13-track LP, meanwhile, will definitely give McKnight fans the romantic love songs that they cherish and adore.
"Until I met my wife, I never knew what it was like to actually feel the things I was writing," the singer-songwriter expresses, adding that all the songs on his album, "They're all about her."
"Except the Kobe [Bryant] song and 'Fragile,' which I didn't write, but every other one is," he explains. "Even the Kobe song, she was right there when I was writing it because we were both so sad about what had happened… Again, for the first time in my life, I'm bouncing lyrics opposite somebody, which I'd never done. Nobody was ever that important. So now I'm like, 'What do you think about this?' She's like, 'Oh, I like that' or 'No, don't do that.' She's my proofreader, she's my everything."
McKnight and his wife, Leilani, have been together since 2014, tying the knot in 2017. The two couldn't be more head over heels for one another. Their love and wedding day are shown in the music video for his song, "Nobody," off Exodus.
"When people just see our posts on Instagram or whatever, I don't think they really understand it until they're with us and see how we are," McKnight says. "And we watch other couples, we want to compare to see if anybody else has what we have. And, you know, we constantly show affection in public and otherwise. We hold hands while we're lying in bed together, watching television. It’s not something that, this isn't contrived. This is what we want to do and I think that's the way it should be."
Meanwhile, "Fragile" was inspired by current events, including the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests against police brutality.
"Right in the middle of finishing this album was when the news of the coronavirus was starting to become much bigger. And I just thought that this song that I love so much would have been something that needed to be heard, to remind folks that the one thing that we all can control is how we interact with one another," McKnight relays. "And it's those little things that you do to other people that cause us to be whatever ways that we are, what they do to you. And we all are truly, truly fragile for this short amount of time that we are here."
"Whether it's the wars that we fight or now a pandemic that we're dealing with, or racial unrest, on some level, if we really take a step back and look at everything, what's the common denominator? That we're all people," he explains. "We're all people that need to be and live and coexist in this space together. And why not do that the best possible way we can?"