Have you ever heard a bad KEM song?

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Every one of the R&B/soul singer’s tracks holds your heart captive, commanding your attention with his signature ultra-smooth tempo. KEM (real name Kim Owens) makes songwriting effortless as he pens timeless songs of love, relationships and all things romance. You can count on KEM to deliver sultry tunes celebratory of love and beauty, with unforgettable performances on his new national headlining tour, Promise to Love.

It hasn’t been all glitz and glamour for the Detroit native. The Grammy Award nominated performer is unapologetic in crediting God for overcoming alcohol, drug addiction and homelessness. With early death and internal destruction an inevitable end, the “Love Calls” singer is a living testimony of God’s mercy and glory, recently celebrating 25 years of sobriety and freedom. And since his album, Kemistry, debuted 12 years ago, he oozes authenticity as a gentle, yet massive force in the world of neo-soul.


It’s no wonder why fans flock to his concerts and storm the stores and digital airwaves for a taste of his music, including his latest effort, Promise to Love (2014) and his acclaimed Christmas album, What Christmas Means (2012.)

The Source caught up with KEM as he talked about his inspiring story, what makes his music special and what fans would be surprised to know about him.

What can fans expect from your Promise to Love tour?

“They’re going to see me in a light they’ve never seen me before. Over the last year or so we really perfected the performance and the live show. It’s going to be different; we’ve incorporated many different things and I don’t want to give it all away, but you’re going to leave there full!”

Do you have a favorite song to perform?

“‘Share My Life’ is one of my favorites and ‘Promise to Love’ is definitely one of my favorites as well. ‘Promise to Love’ is a special song—although they’re all special—but I get a lot of feedback from [that song] that I haven’t gotten from any of my other songs. That song touches people in a way that’s really special, men and women alike, so I’m really excited about being able to perform it.”

What separates you from other R&B artists?

“I think as individuals, we’re all out here doing the same thing, trying to give our all. I’m a romantic guy, I write love songs, and I write about love from my point of view. My approach to songwriting and performing is specific to me. I think whenever you’re creating, it’s specific to you, so out the gate, that’s what separates you from other artists.

“And I’m not chasing a sound. I’m just doing my thing, not trying to be the flavor of the day. I’m not trying to emulate anybody else. There are influences, but I’m just being myself and I think that’s one of the reasons why when a KEM song comes on the radio it doesn’t sound like anything else. That’s not ego, it’s just coming from a different place. And I’m proud of that.”


What’s something fans would be surprised to know about you?

“They’d never do a reality show about my life because there’s no drama, [laughs] there’s nothing I do that would surprise people. They’d probably be surprised that they may bump into me at Target, but I’m doing the same things y’all are doing. I’m on the road in front of thousands of people, then I’m at home, going to Home Depot for a light bulb for my garage. That’s what my life is like, just like everybody else. And I really just try to keep it simple, and I’m happy about that.”

You have quite the back story, before the fame you struggled with addiction and homelessness. Describe your journey.

“When we have difficulties in our lives and we’re able to overcome them, we have a responsibility—and I actually consider it a privilege—to testify about it and tell people about my struggle so they too can become inspired to overcome what they’re dealing with.

“I spent a period of my life homeless and addicted to alcohol and drugs and in and out of treatment centers and rescue missions and soup kitchens. It was a very dark time in my life, but some of the most important lessons in my life were learned. And I don’t regret my past at all, I embrace it because had things not gone the way they went, there may not have been a ‘Love Calls’ or a ‘Promise to Love.’

“Our lives are woven together out of the good and the bad and they work together to build a beautiful tapestry. I hope anyone who hears my story or my music that they get that aspect and they take something away other than being entertained.”

And you’re also a huge philanthropist, too, giving back to your community.

“Yes, Mack & Third is my non-profit organization. One of my favorite scriptures is, To whom much is given, much is required. You got to give it away in order to keep it. I’ve been granted a lot, a lot of mercies in my life, and there’s no greater work than to feed, share resources and help others so you can help others overcome.”

What can we expect from you next year?

“I’m working on new music now. Next year we’ll just be recording and getting amped up to put out another studio album. 2016 will probably be quiet on the public front, but back home in Detroit we’ll be grinding out the next record.”