With Michael Kiwanuka, it's all about the voice. A voice that he describes as "hitting straight through to the core" with direct, emotional songs about love, yearning, comfort, and belonging. It's a voice that, in the beginning, built him a following via Myspace and small London gigs, and led Paul Butler from The Bees to invite him to the band's studio to lay down introductory tracks for his first recording. Growing up in North London as the son of Ugandan parents, Kiwanuka struggled at times to see where he fit in. Like most of his schoolmates, he liked bands like Nirvana, Radiohead, Offspring, and Blur, but it was only when he discovered that Jimi Hendrix was black that he understood he had a place playing rock guitar. Encounters with the music of Bob Dylan and Otis Redding further laid the foundations for Kiwanuke's own rootsy, folk-inflected brand of modern soul.
After performing for a bit as a session musician and sideman for former Bill Withers drummer James Gadson and producer Labrinth, Kiwanuka's career began to take flight when he met and recorded with Butler at The Bees' studio on the Isle of Wight. He soon signed with Mumford & Sons' Communion label and released two EPs, Tell Me A Tale (2011) and I'm Getting Ready (2011). Adele took notice and quickly tapped him to support her 2011 tour, including her iTunes Festival performance. The prestigious spot granted Kiwanuka incredible exposure across the UK.
2012 began with a bang for Kiwanuka when he was named the winner of the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll (an honor previously bestowed on artists like Florence & The Machine and Jessie J). He quickly built on this momentum, releasing his debut full-length album Home Again on Polydor Records on March 12th. With the album's title track peaking at 29 on the UK singles charts and the disc garnering rave reviews from The Guardian and other critics, the rest of this year is certainly looking up for this talented soul artist.