Written by CCA Staff
Mykal Kilgore has always had music in his life. As a pastor’s kid, singing was a part of who he was, and then, later, there was also band. Music was so pervasive in his life that his family thought he would one day become a choir teacher. At first, young Kilgore didn’t agree:
“I didn’t see a career in music like my family did,” says Kilgore. “But, then I was hit by the theatre bug. It changed everything.”
Years later, the Orlando native is not only making a career out of music – he’s making a name for himself. Kilgore has had some incredibly diverse experiences on the stage, from performing on Broadway (Hair, Dear Evan Hansen and Book of Mormon) to turns at the Kennedy Center and Bryant Park. He’s also been tapped for projects like Songs for a New World, a new incarnation of Jason Robert Brown’s classic musical that examines life, love, and the choices we make.
“It gave me the opportunity to be seen as a complete 360-degree human being.” says Kilgore of the project. “It has changed my expectations for other projects. I wasn’t just a voice on this project. I was a human with my truth all out on the stage. How can I excite the audience, uplift them, challenge them if I can’t be a whole person to do my craft? I deserve more, and so does the audience. I won’t settle for less now.”
That whole person is celebrated fully in his debut album, A Man Born Black. The single from this album, “Let Me Go,” was nominated for a 2020 GRAMMY for Best Traditional R & B Performance. On September 10, 2021 he released another single that is making audiences sit up and take notice once again. “The Man in the Barbershop,” a heartfelt ballad about love at first sight, was written with and produced by longtime collaborator Jamison Ross. The two have been friends since college and will be co-headlining a concert at Chandler Center for the Arts on October 10, 2021.
In addition to Ross, Kilgore’s art has been inspired and influenced by many, starting with his Aunt Nells. “She wasn’t a singer, but it is the way she is out in the world.” Kilgore’s mentors have since included Billy Porter, Queen Latifah and India.Arie, whom he toured with in 2019.
“That was an incredible experience,” says Kilgore. “She always took a moment to pull everyone together, making time to create a community. I walked away with a deeper sense of seeing the humanity of others.”
Kilgore was humbled by the attention she gave him, taking a closer look at him and really seeing him. “I learned it doesn’t matter who we are,” says Kilgore of the lessons learned while touring with India.Arie. “We should all be given grace, acknowledgement, care, self-exploration.”
Over the past year, the GRAMMY nominee has used downtime during the COVID-19 quarantine to find balance and new ways to be creative. He looks forward to performing on stage again, seeing people out in the audience who are wearing a mask and who have been vaccinated to create a safe and enjoyable concert experience for all.
“I’m most looking forward to all of us experiencing again what it means to be human and have a connection to others,” he adds.
Catch Kilgore on Sunday, October 10, 2021, 7 p.m., at Chandler Center for the Arts, with musician and producer Jamison Ross. The CCA is excited to present this rare double-bill with the two soul artists; they have never toured together. This unique performance was put together just for the CCA, so don’t miss it. Tickets are $36, $46 and $56, with a $150 VIP ticket that includes a meet and greet with both artists.