After a year working the Dubai houseband circuit, Keith Channer is going his own way with his own album.
What’s your connection to Dubai? I was invited to come and perform pop, R&B and jazz at Frankie’s on Jumeirah beach from October of 2007 to September this year. It was just amazing out there – I’ve never seen a city like Dubai. It’s surreal. The only place that can even slightly compare is Las Vegas. It’s like that, but without the casinos – mind-blowing.
Was it frustrating to sing other people’s tunes? It was, especially since I’m an original artist. But I mixed the two together, so I pleased those who wanted cover tunes and then I went and did my own thing.
Is it true that you opened for Little Richard? Yes, and he is a personal friend. We met through my mother – she met him at a gospel revival meeting in Los Angeles during the period when he went from rock ’n’ roll to gospel. I went out on tour with him in the US and we’ve been friends ever since. It was wonderful, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Do you want to be known as the next Little Richard? I want to be known as myself. I do not emulate or copy – I have my own style. I once met the late jazz great Sarah Vaughan at a show and she said that you should always develop your own style.
So tell us about your music, then. I have an album, Let’s Go Cruisin’, that I’m pushing at the moment – it’s pop and R&B. The tracks are original and I wrote and recorded them in LA before I came to Dubai. I actually sold quite a number of CDs out there, actually. But since I came back to the US I’ve been remixing some of the tracks, bringing ideas I had out there.
So Dubai inspired you? Oh yes. When you’re performing live you get all kinds of new ideas, and the inspiration I received from the Dubai audience has inspired me to go back in the studio. They really inspired me to take my music to another level. So I’m remixing some of the tracks, adding more instrumentation and re-cutting some of the vocal tracks.
What are the highlights? There are several singles that I could pull from the album. One is called ‘Kissin’ (I Like It)’. It’s got a cool beat, a cool rhythm and it would make a good club tune. It’s somewhere between R&B and hip hop. The other one is ‘Love You All Over’, which is a big crossover tune that appeals to a lot of people. I’m selling the album myself at the moment, but I’m looking for a label that’s willing to give it the right push.
Any last words for the people of Dubai? I want to say to all of my fans and friends that I’ve made during my time in Dubai that I really appreciate their love and support from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget them, even when I become a star [laughs]. I’ve performed in over 23 countries, but there’s no other place that’s struck me the way Dubai has. Dubai is my number-one city.