From the obligatory Converse All-Stars to the ginger-colored goatee to the cool Fedora, it’s clear that Los Angeles-based Kevin Sandbloom is an artist. His look tips you off. If it doesn’t, then the guitar in his hands makes it clear.
But, what genre? Folk? Blues? The right answer is yes. Kevin Sandbloom incorporates all of that with about three heaping helpings of soul, a serving of funk and even a few generous pinches of jazz. His music pays tribute to Marvin Gaye, Ani Defranco, Larry Graham, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Phoebe Snow, D’Angelo and quite a few others. But, he manages to incorporate a myriad of influences without copying anyone.
His lyrics are the stuff of poetry. The guitar licks soothe, groove, move and everything in between. And that voice... Oh Lord, that voice...
So when the Examiner found out he was coming to Detroit, we couldn’t resist sitting down for a little virtual chat with the man many simply know as Sandbloom.
When did you start playing and singing? Is there any event or situation that precipitated your move to music?
I started when I was in high school. I was searching, as many young people are. I happened to pick up a guitar one day and it was something I was immediately engrossed in.
If you could spend time with any musician, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
James Brown and Bob Marley... Sorry, that's two. I've heard from many sources that they ran a tight ship as far as their bands and their business dealings. I would love to have seen how they operated. And now that I've gone beyond one, Joni Mitchell. She seems like an extremely inspiring person to be around. I would love to hear her stories.
Your lyrics are so well crafted. Do you think that’s why you are so well accepted by poetry crowds?
Absolutely. It's one of the reasons I'm lost on crowds in other venues. The content is too heavy or obtuse for them.
What is your writing process?
Fairly organic, but there is a system. I usually come up with some music. A song structure and melody and then plug lyrics into it. The music comes quick. Lyrics generally come slowly.
Do you consider yourself a poet?
I suppose in a sense I am. I tend to concentrate heavily on lyrical content. If the words don't feel right, I can't sing the song.
Who are some of your favorite poets?
Charles Bukowski, Langston Hughes, Lewis Carroll, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mahogany Browne, Nikki Blak, Ed Mabrey... There are more I'm not thinking of..
There are some distinct style differences in all of your releases. Blues for Bricktop has more of a folk/romantic feel. Ep.Delta 6 is really funky. Is that intentional or would you attribute it to your growth as an artist?
Intentional... I like to approach each project with a conceptual direction. It usually changes somewhat in the process, but there's always a thematic thing I'm going for. I have so many styles of music I love and I would like to present work in all those styles.
How would you categorize your sound?
I would say mainly it's blues-based, but there are lots of other elements I incorporate. Jazz-soul-blues as a general tag...
Some of your songs almost have a healing quality. “Muddy Waters,” “Sweetness,” and “Replay” come to mind immediately. Have you heard this feedback before? What would you attribute that to?
I have heard this, in fact, my last girlfriend told me when we first met that my music could cure cancer. Ha-ha... I hear a lot that it calms people. I’m happy to know it can be that kind of a balm for folks.
What is your favorite Kevin Sandbloom song and why?
“One Mountain”... There's something otherworldly about that song. It's the one I'm most proud of.
You are coming all the way from LA to Detroit to perform at some of the smaller venues here. You’ve done that before. Why?
I perform at all types of venues. I like to perform where my music is appreciated honestly. I feel there's a solid appreciation for what I do here. That's a driving factor.
Is Detroit a special place to you? Why?
It's definitely one of those towns that's underappreciated. There's a huge music history here. A huge love of music... It's progressive culturally. From my point of view, there's a knock on Detroit that's unfair. I try to tell people differently whenever I get a chance. That's why I love coming here. I think people are just open to good things -- good art. Something you don't find in other places.
Kevin Sandbloom will be in Detroit for the Red Clay Legacy Book signing on Aug. 1 from 3 until 6 p.m. at the Sweet Epiphany, 13305 West Seven Mile in Detroit. Immediately following at 7 p.m., he will be the featured artist at “Soulful Sundays” (hosted by Matthew “Lucky Lefty” Sawyer) also at the Sweet Epiphany. On Tuesday, he will be the featured artist at the poetry set at Club Evolutions (hosted by Stephen “Sparrow” O’Neal), 1314 Broadway in Detroit. Show begins at 8:30 p.m. On Wednesday, he will return to Sweet Epiphany to feature at “Boundless Expressions” (hosted by Candace “Deekah” Wyatt) at 8:00 p.m. He’ll round out his week by performing at the 5th Anniversary of Poetry, Pages and Scribes (hosted by Ber-Henda Williams) at the Southfield Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, he’ll stop by They Say Restaurant, 267 Joseph Campau in Detroit to play a few tunes at The Main Course (hosted by Marsha Carter).