Lenny Kravitz on Being a Chameleon

Lenny Kravitz has a new album coming out. His newest single is called, simply, Sex. – appropriate enough for a man who has spent the better part of the last couple of decades dodging panties on stage en route to becoming a rock star.

According to Wikipedia (a most credible source), he won the Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for four years in a row, from 1999 to 2002. Did you know he got his start listening to Tchaikovsky and singing in the California Boys’ Choir, and with the New York City Opera?

“My mother was trying to keep me off the street and she had me audition for this boys’ choir called the California Boys’ Choir,” he says in an interview with Andrew Zuckerman for Music, a book of musician portraits.

“At that time they were rated the second-best boys’ choir in the world, after the Vienna Boys’ Choir…I recorded with Zubin Mehta, live shows at the Hollywood Bowl, with Erich Leinsdorf and the Joffrey Ballet, I sang with the New York City Opera, it was incredible.”

We all know him as the leather-clad sex bob-omb* who made all of us non-American women briefly wish for a change in citizenship, but being a rock star, it turns out, is not all he’s good at. Aside from continuing to make his own music, Kravitz has produced and written songs for artists as diverse as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Steven Tyler, and worked with musical greats Al Green and Curtis Mayfield.  However, even that isn’t the extent of his talents.

Kravitz, like many musicians, has ventured into acting with a co-starring turn in the blockbuster Hunger Games series as the brooding stylist Cinna, but he also lists a host of creative endeavours as serious hobbies including photography, interior design, and architecture.

In 2005, he founded Kravitz Design, a firm focused on commercial, residential and product design. The same year he launched a Swarovski-commissioned crystal chandelier, was hired to design a private residence in Portland, Oregon and a recording studio for the Setai Resort and Residences in Miami Beach. This happened while redesigning his own properties in New Orleans, New York, Miami and the Bahamas.

“This was something I did on the side, in between albums and tours,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “But how many houses can I buy and sell? How many times can I change one house that I’ve lived in? I want to do interiors, furniture. I want to do architecture, although I’m not an architect. Nor am I a trained interior designer.”

Kravitz talks about how getting his start with classical music inspired him in other areas of his life.

“I had no idea I’d be into classical music at that point in my life. But it’s something that I got into, and it was an amazing opportunity and I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t done that. The discipline: learning about musical theory and just being around all these orchestras, by osmosis picking up all of these sounds.”

His myriad life experiences are reflected in the ever-changing nature of his music, and his extracurricular activities are a testament to not limiting yourself to what you think you should be doing, but rather opening up the possibilities of following your various interests to further creative expression.

“Music comes through me. It comes from life. You filter life and express it how you feel it. It all counts,” he says in Music. “I love photography, I love design, I make furniture, I do interiors, I do architecture even though I don’t have a degree in it. I just love creating. I love to beautify, to create, to capture a moment. They all work together. Creativity is creativity. Something inside me gets expressed through all of those mediums and does the job.”

Our author wanted to point out that she was really proud of the Scott Pilgrim reference above (*). We will commend her on it, because that’s not a terrible book. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for insight, wisdom and notices for when our posts go live. We will not make you fat, like bread will.

Image Credit: via Flickr, edited for size/cropping.

About Gesilayefa Azorbo

Gesilayefa Azorbo is a writer, photographer, emerging filmmaker and occasional poet. She is doing a Documentary Media MFA at Ryerson University, and is currently working on a music documentary. She likes (and often writes about) music, movies, books and people. When not listening to music, she is most likely humming it under her breath.