Lenny Kravitz is one of those musicians who could be coasting by now. He’s had huge hits, appeared in “The Hunger Games” and performed in the Super Bowl with the famous Left Shark (oh, and Katy Perry and Missy Elliot). But he’s just as high profile as ever, with his 2014 album “Strut” earning high praise from Rolling Stone, and a wardrobe malfunction that took the Internet by storm.
“Strut” actually came about while Kravitz was hard at work on “Hunger Games,” but he says that doesn’t mean they’re connected. “Does one inspire the other at times? Yes, but this just happened to be the time the music materialized in my head. I was faced with either having to let it go because I was so busy filming at five or six in the morning to the evening, or take the time and capture it. That’s what I did.”
The resulting album has a gritty old-fashioned feel to it, which has led to some moody, black and white music videos that almost look like art films. “That’s what I gravitate towards, really. The music I think calls for that,” says Kravitz. He says he likes black and white because “it can be so much more dynamic and realistic.”
He found people to collaborate with who were already doing the type of work he was imagining for the videos, but says the result is always a pleasant surprise. “You still never know what you’re going to get until it’s done. Videos have always been that way. You hire the person you want, and everything’s perfect until you get it and it’s not what you thought. Sometimes it is. But these last videos, I was very happy with.”
The album also marks his first release under his own record label, Roxy Records. “It gave me an opportunity to exercise a lot of the things I’ve learned. And also to follow my desires: This is how the money’s spent, this is what we’re going to do, etc," he explains.
But just because he’s running things now doesn’t mean he’s changing what he does too much. He played many of the instruments on “Strut,” just as he’s always done. “It’s just the way I started. I didn’t do it on purpose. I couldn’t afford to pay people when I made my first record, so I played all the instruments myself. Then it became sort of my thing, my sound.”
The album has been enough of a success that Kravitz is still touring in support of it a year later, but he says he doesn’t let that kind of thing go to his head too much. “Anytime someone says something nice, it’s a nice thing. Whether or not I get recognition, I stand by my work. I express myself honestly and authentically, so therefore it’s successful.”
That honest expression is important when he considers what to write about next. Asked if he’s interested in any particular subject, he answers, “Whatever comes. You know, it’s your heart speaking, your soul, your subconscious. It’s all of that. So whatever has to come out, comes out.” And wherever that type of thinking takes him, he’s happy. “I’m always wanting to do something I’m not doing, because that’s just the way I am,” says Kravitz. “I’ve had so many different vibes of album, style and song. All over the place. That’s what it’s about. You move how you move and you keep covering ground.”
Super Bowl star
Kravitz played for one of the biggest audiences in the world earlier this year when he played the Super Bowl half time show with Katy Perry, which he called “surreal.”
“I’ve done my own concerts in front of a million people. I did a concert years ago in Rio for a million people. [At the Super Bowl] there are less people in front of you, but you realize it’s going out to millions of people across the world. So you definitely don’t want to screw up.”
Getting all the moving pieces in order is highly streamlined operation. “Everything is to the second. There’s no improvisation whatsoever. Everything is on the mark,” says Kravitz. He also had high praise for the headliner, saying Perry “hadn’t eaten for, like, two weeks. She’s very disciplined, working day and night. So it was a good release afterwards.”