After a half hour phone conversation with Miguel it becomes clear there’s much simmering beneath the sexy veneer. Deeply influenced by his childhood growing up in San Pedro, California, Miguel is an artist committed to speaking his truth and sharing it with the world. That’s why it’s impossible to categories his music as purely just R&B.
His latest and third studio album “WildHeart” plays out as an extension of his experiences, and is carnal in its intimacy. Unlike his 2012 album “that included hit singles “Adorn” and “Do You…,” “WildHeart” takes more of a careful listen and sees Miguel fully coming into his calling as a storyteller and music auteur.
FAULT: You traveled back to your middle school in San Pedro and did a performance for their talent show recently. What was it like being back there after so many years?
Miguel: It was so much fun and the kids there are so talented. It’s great to see my old school and the talent that’s coming from my city. Going back to encourage those kids that was the purpose. I think they had as much of a good time as I did.
There’s been a lot of comparisons with you and other artists, especially Prince, which is definitely one of the best comparisons you can ask for. Do you sometimes feel like these comparisons are limiting to you as an artist and creating your own path as Miguel?
I need to think about that. No I think we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants. Especially at this point in time, we’re learning from and building upon things that have already occurred, that have already been dreamed up.
Being compared to Prince, it’s a tremendous compliment. I think it’s more about people being aware and exposed and really understanding the music then they’d see there’s a lot more to it.
What for you is the most personal song on the album?
They’re all personal. “Hollywood Dreams” is a very personal song just because I’ve had friends who’ve been washed out. I grew up in San Pedro where you can’t see Hollywood but the moment you get out of the South Bay, you see like the hills and the mountain ranges and it’s kind of an aspirational thing. And I’ve seen people come out of the South Bay, which I would consider being “down the hill,” move North and end up washed out because of the “scene” and the way things move here. You can walk down Hollywood Boulevard and it’s like that still. The idea of being “discovered” is there, it’s tangible. But then on that same street there’s homeless people. So “Hollywood Dreams” in that sense is a very personal song because it’s inspired by things I’ve seen.
It’s also an introspective song about literally being in between. On being understood because of the way that I look and the way that I was raised.
FAULT: What would you attribute your career longevity to?
Miguel: I really just owe it to the fans. “WildHeart” wasn’t a crazy commercially successful album. It was for me but as far as the way that it’s perceived it wasn’t known as that. To debut at whatever on the charts, that’s great, but as far as being a popular album it wasn’t. The fans made it important and the fans give me longevity.
I had a conversation with J.Cole, that’s my boy, like “what would you attribute all this shit to?” And he said “man, this is serving my fans.” It’s our responsibility to the people who found our music to continue to build that relationship. An artist creates according to what he thinks the world should be. Unfortunately not everyone is going to agree with that, but the ones that do, those are the ones you wanted in the first place. The ones that agree with you then you just keep giving them what is real to you.
The album artwork for “WildHeart” features a highly sexualised photo of you and a naked woman crouched over. In the context of the current PC culture where almost everything can seem to be taken the wrong way/out of context, how do you make sure that you’re not being misinterpreted?
It’s weird we’re sensitive about the wrong things but desensitised to things that matter. Someone is shot and killed and it only matters for five days and there’ll be weeks and weeks of conversation about why an artist said something about….I mean it doesn’t fucking matter. I think our priorities of what matter are so skewed because of the way the media and that interaction works. Unfortunately it’s not the time for imagination or creativity in a way that’s not obvious.
Now all of it really boils down to is what’s getting the most attention and what we can turn into money. It’s the simple fact that in a world where our attention spans are whittled down to be so finite that attention is the ultimate currency.
We love that you’ve collaborated with a slew of artists including A$AP Rocky, Lorde and Janelle Monae, especially since they run the gamut when it comes to genres. Is this intentional and what do you hope to bring into any collaborations?
I think it’s just artists that I love and respect. The ones that have a conviction that outweighs anything. I’d love to write with Taylor Swift.