MAKING IT LAST FOREVER
It was a cold and rainy day when Industry Rules was scheduled to interview one of music industry’s legendary artists Keith Sweat. Dressed in a seasonal black turtleneck and wool pants, the Harlem native recalled his first career as a stockbroker. He explained how he obtained a wealth of knowledge in the finance industry, but opted to follow his true passion, which is music. Ironically, he used the information he learned in finance to help secure record contracts and other related music deals. By using that discipline and his extraordinary talent, Mr. Sweat has amassed a musical career that spans over 30 years.
In continuation of our conversation, he talks about his newest deal as well as the legacy he wants to leave behind for his children.
SG: With celebrating thirty years in the music industry with timeless classic hits like “Make It Last Forever”, “Twisted”, “Nobody”, hosting your own radio show [The Sweat Hotel] and recently landing a residence deal in Vegas at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel, how does that make you feel?
KS: Well, it feels great to me. To be able to actually do all of the things you just described as well as going to Vegas now, I just feel like I’ve done everything else so now this is the next step. There used to be a time when you did Vegas, it was more like a retirement thing. It was like, ‘ya’ll, I’m at the retirement home now. This is Vegas, a retirement home’. But now, it’s like the who’s of who’s does Vegas in the early stages of a big career and when they’re at the top of their career.
SG: You originally started your career in the finance industry as a stockbroker and later transitioned to an artist. How do you feel that helped you in the music industry and how did you transition into becoming a fulltime musician?
KS: It helped me business wise because I had a good idea as to what I wanted to do as an artist. So, for the last twenty years, I’ve managed my own career and I think pretty much [did well]. I had a few managers in the very early stages of my career, but then I realized I could do it myself because basically it’s the same principle. You get a contract, go to a lawyer and you know what you want and what you don’t want and that helped me sustain and build my brand as well as go out and get other artists. And, when you have a business background, it always helps you in anything or transitioning into anything else you want to do that might have something to do with business. That’s why they call it the music business because it is a business.
SG: Is it hard for an artist to have longevity in the music industry today? In another interview, you stated that you don’t believe that there are any artists today that have that potential of becoming legendary now. Do you still feel that way?
KS: I don’t think it’s because they can’t be, I think the music nowadays…everything sounds alike. It’s like there’s no diversity because if you hear one person sing something, the other person is saying the same thing and it doesn’t have anything to do with the music.
So, I’m not saying they’re not talented enough. I would never say that people aren’t talented because you have very talented musicians out here, but it is just the material I should say. It’s just like you have a great actor who is playing a role, but he’s getting bad roles. He’s going to act but he is not like getting the material to really show people his real potential.
SG: Ok, let’s go back in time and you bring it all forward. Make It Last Forever ultimately launched your career as an artist. Tell us your fondest memory of that album and its importance.
KS: Well, when I released the album back in the day, I just wanted to become a star. I wanted to be known, let everybody know Keith Sweat and I’ve accomplished to a degree what I wanted to accomplish. I had doors open for me or I worked myself to the point where I could have doors opened for me.
That album opened a lot of doors because there were a lot of great records on that album and it touched a lot of people. For that reason, I got the shot to do the second, the third, the fourth or the fifth album and it opened a lot of other doors for me.
[Bringing it forward], you see, when I’m doing shows with other people, it is more like a time thing. I’m rushing because of other people on the show. When it’s my show and now it’s my residency, I’m able to connect with people. I’m able to have fun with people. It is more intimate. It’s more like come on stage and sing the song with me that time [with the audience].
Vegas is one of those type of places where you interact with people and people interact with you, the musicians, everybody, Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez. You have to be a real performer in order to do Vegas because it’s more so interactive. It’s not just getting on stage singing and going through a show of songs after songs. It’s an experience.
There’s not one person that doesn’t know that album. The album sold like three million. Now, it’s been so long that album probably is up to over ten million and it did exactly what I said it was going to do. The album was called “Make It Last Forever”. That’s what I wanted to do; make it last forever and I’m still in the game or the business so I’m happy about that.
SG: What is a quote that you live by?
KS: Don’t let anyone else kill your joy, because people will try. All day long and twice on a Sunday.
SG: Looking back at your career and your life what would you tell your 30-year-old self, along with other 30 year olds out there?
KS: I would tell myself to keep the same drive and the positivity that you always have and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything that you want to do. Always be an achiever. Don’t let anyone else achieve what you want for yourself. Don’t let anyone give you a handout and opportunities will come, but know the right opportunities.