MODESTO -- Romantic singer Brian McKnight gets personal with his fans Sept. 28 at an intimate acoustic show at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.
McKnight, known for such hits as "Back to One," "Anytime," "Crazy Love," and "The One For You," will perform alone with his piano and a couple of guitars. "I sing my musical story from the beginning up to now," he said in a recent phone interview. "It's like a stage play."
The show is similar to the live concert recorded on his most recent CD, 2011's "Just Me." He talks about his musical influences, the things that propelled him to want to be in the music business, his process as a songwriter and what inspired his songs. He also throws in a lot of comedy.
"People leave saying they had no idea how funny I was," he said.
He said the show should be mostly family-friendly. There are only a couple of moments when he will delve into adult content. "I tell them 'ear muffs time,' " he says if he sees kids out in the audience.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., McKnight, 43, came to fame 20 years ago with his smooth contemporary R&B sounds. He went on to sell more than 20 million albums worldwide and to collaborate with such diverse artists as Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey,
Kenny G, Christina Aguilera, Nelly and Willie Nelson. He has been nominated 16 times for Grammy Awards, holding the record for most nominations without a win.
McKnight took some criticism recently for posting graphic music on YouTube, including "If You're Ready to Learn." He was surprised at the reaction. "I thought people could take a joke," he said. "What I found was most people take themselves very, very seriously and I don't."
At the same time, he bristles at people who want to put him in a box. He thinks it's funny that people will complain about the racy content of his songs, but then will listen to something just as dirty put out by another artist. "It's OK if Lil Wayne does it but we don't want it for you," McKnight said, describing the attitude some have.
McKnight said he's known for putting out squeaky clean music because that was all that was allowed when he started as an artist in the 1990s. "Now that the music industry accepts filth, anyone should be able to do it if that's what they promote," he said.
He said he does understand now why the industry worked so hard to censor music in the past. "Once you open the floodgates, you can never close them," he said. Parents now have more of a responsibility to monitor their children's music.
McKnight has mixed feelings about the Internet and whether it serves artists. "I think it's the greatest and worst thing that ever happened," he said. "It's nice to interact with people but it doesn't do wonders for your career like anonymity did."
He sometimes thinks it was better in the past when fans didn't know as much about the artist. Singers had a mystique about them and seemed more dream-like. "Now you know everything so there's nothing to be excited about," he said.
McKnight said he is grateful that his fans have remained loyal and still enjoy hearing him perform. "My core fans tend to love everything I do," he said. "There aren't a lot of outlets for romantic black singers anymore."
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sept. 28
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
TICKETS: $25 to $75
CALL: (209) 338-2100