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Guest Column – "You have to lay everything out on the table" Michael Kiwanuka on songwriting

Guest Column – "You have to lay everything out on the table" Michael Kiwanuka on songwriting
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Michael Kiwanuka‘s much anticipated new album Love & Hate is released in 15 July. He’s written a guest column about his lyrical motivations.

I’ve always loved songwriters that have something interesting and unique to say both musically and lyrically. Music that gives you a real insight to either someone or something in particular. Some songwriters describe the times, like Stevie Wonder‘s Misstra Know It All. Some songwriters make themselves vulnerable and describe their own human emotions, like Frank Ocean‘s Bad Religion. My favourite type of songwriters are those that create layers, songs that you think at first glance mean one thing but when you delve deeper you discover they mean something completely different.

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When I first heard Sly Stone‘s Family Affair I thought it was about how great family life is. However the more I listened I realised that it’s essentially about sibling rivalry, the difficulties marriage brings and infidelity which all come under Sly’s umbrella he calls a Family Affair.

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These types of songs and songwriters continue to inspire me to pick up a guitar and head to the studio to create music. It’s these types of songs that inspired me to write Black Man In A White World (above). During the process of making this album I learned that one thing I must do to get anywhere near the kind of songs I like is to not hide behind my lyrics. You have to lay everything out on the table and be vulnerable. It’s only then that music starts to flow and that’s the only way you stand a chance of connecting with anyone. You have to be brave when being creative.

I knew I’d be putting myself out there with a song like this but I wanted to say it. Music is art as well as entertainment. I believe that art should provoke and spark conversation. I also believe music should connect and you only stand a chance of doing that by putting yourself out there.

Michael Kiwanuka


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