For any devout follower of Miguel, tracing the Los Angeles-based singer’s career is akin to looking back at failed and promising romances. Spiked with the right amount of innuendo, his almost-perfect love songs have been splattered across Top 40 and urban stations ever since “Adorn,” his 2012 single that became a de facto wedding song for all time.
Men and women both love Miguel, for varying reasons: men because in a sense, he guides them in the bedroom and also while wandering through the valleys of love. Women love Miguel because; well name a moment in your life when women didn’t like being sung to as a show of vulnerability. Miguel wants to be taken as one of the eventual greats. He’ll take comparisons for now, but when his career his done and he’s not hitting splits on dance floors or sending women into convulsions with his velvet voice, he simply wants to be Miguel — a musician known by a single moniker that describes a certain style of music.
At the present, he’s scanning his hotel room for where to create the perfect teepee or tent. He’s in Austin, two days before his Wildheart tour kicks off on Friday and two days before he lands in Houston for his first true headlining show Sunday night at Warehouse Live.
“I’m trying to build forts and teepees everywhere, man,” he says with a laugh. “I build forts in my room and try to throw parties in them. You gotta have fun man.”
The pace of Miguel’s live show juts around the same way his music does: He’ll contemplate for a moment before grabbing a microphone and launching into a riff. When he arrived in Houston nearly two years ago as an opener for Drake’s “Would You Like a Tour?”, he utilized a small stage set up and focused squarely on love and energy. That was in support of 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream, an album that had sex and love on the brain, even if they weren’t as visceral. A scan of his latest album, Wildheart, shows that sex may actually serve as the appetizer; the full-course meal digs into identity and understanding of self.
“There’s a definite shift in purpose. I think there’s so much more purpose in behind what and why I’m performing now,” he says of the album, the audible hum of a beard trimmer chasing his words. “It’s actually something I rediscovered for myself and as a musician sometimes you forget that. I forgot that. But, I’m gonna be who I am but I have so much more to offer than being sexual.”
“That’s a big part of my personality, being sexual. But behind that, that can seem very…surface?”, he says. “Like, being sexual to the general public is a very surface thing but to me it’s a very spiritual thing. With that, I believe I have more to offer, like the ideals behind belief. Knowing who you are. Knowing what you stand for. What you’re willing to sacrifice. That’s what Wildheart is about. Because when you know those things, you begin to emancipate yourself from the heavy weight of caring about people’s opinions.”
Miguel was born in San Pedro, Calif. to a Mexican-American father and African-American mother in October 1985. He’s a Scorpio through and through, pensive and delicate with his thoughts on individuality (“It’s the moment you realize people’s opinions don’t matter to us or how things to the outside world are so subjective.”), his life as a musician on the road (“Give me a week and I’ll probably have some stories, some that should and cannot be shared”) and how often people have immediately compared Wildheart to him attempting to dive into a more electric-R&B feel a la Prince.
“People compared Prince to James Brown,” Miguel explains. “I know I have my similarities but I plan on doing this for a long time. But people who really know Prince music know the difference [between him and me]. Those who make the comparisons only know the iconography of Prince.”
He pauses for a minute, apologizing. “Sorry, I’m trimming my fucking beard right now. I had to do it!” He laughs through it. “I’m biting my mustache, the shit is insane. I get food in my beard man, it’s not cool anymore!”
The way Miguel dominates a stage is almost like watching his demeanor at any given moment. He thrives off emotion, basing most of his songwriting on time and place. That includes when he wants to discuss his childhood and heritage, or wanting to place his fingers in his lover’s mouth while having sex. (“It’s my job to write about what I know and what I go through.”) It’s why a song like “Coffee” can skirt by radio censorship and L.A.-swoon moments like “Sure Thing” and “All I Want Is You” turn into tweets and status updates. He writes for the misunderstood in all of us, whether primal or thoughtful.
“I think to a certain degree everyone is fighting their own fight in that regard. Because we’re all born into this world with our own experiences,” he says, finally finishing the beard exercise. “Family, friends, all of them are living their own lives and their perspectives are built off experience. Their baggage, the things they carry with them, get passed on to them in one way shape or form. And then we make them our own.
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“We could look at the same painting and see different colors. That’s real fucking life,” Miguel continues. “So once you figure out what you stand for, your actions come from a much different place. That’s the intention of the show. It’s gonna be moments where it’s sexy and stuff but there’s going to be moments where we can have conversations about stuff.”
Once finished, he tidies back up, still attempting to find the perfect materials to fix his tent. Then he’s off into the streets, in search of food and fun. I jokingly tell him about seeking a conversation about existentialism to pass the time.
“I love that shit,” he responds. “And some good-ass ribs.”
Miguel and special guest Dorothy perform at Warehouse Live on Sunday, July 26. Doors open at 8 p.m.