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Miguel tells us about his multi-racial identity, love for Los Angeles and new album 'Wildheart'

by James Kim and Natalie Given | The Frame

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Singer-Songwriter Miguel backstage at SONOS Studio + PANDORA: An Evening With Miguel Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images

R&B artist Miguel Jontel Pimentel, better known simply as "Miguel," released his third album "Wildheart" at the end of last month. He is slowly becoming a dominant force in the music industry with over 1 billion Pandora plays on his last album "Kaleidoscope Dream," which also won him the Grammy for best R&B song in 2013. 

The L.A.-based artist says a lot of his style stems out of his more sensual nature.

"I'm a sexual person, so I think throughout my music I'll always paint with that color and that texture," says Miguel. "It's a part of who I am. It's a part of my personality. I think the dynamic of exploring the emotions behind it and also exploring the straight, carnal is kind of my dynamic. I'm kind of very extreme in that way."

Along with expressing his true carnal nature, Miguel's new album deals with his struggle growing up feeling like he had to choose an identity. Being Mexican-American as well as African-American lead to pressures from society to solidify a specific identity and to fit in a specific category.

"Well, you know, society wants you to choose one or the other," says Miguel. "We have these standardized tests that ask you after you fill in your name, What's your ethnicity? Are you Caucasian? Are you African-American? Hispanic? I always had to check the 'other' box. Until at some point I was just kind of like, that is who I am. There is no box for me."

The non-conformist nature Miguel exercises surfaces not only in his lyrics, but in his musical style. 

"I think that kind of also lends itself to my artistry and my creative process," says Miguel. "I don't feel any need to conform to the ideals of what an ethnic person is supposed to create. It's funny, because even though I make music that is very much rooted in soul but is clearly rock 'n' roll, it's like people still shy away from saying it's rock 'n' roll. They have to associate it with something that speaks to an ethnic audience."

The album, Miguel says, also helped him verify himself as a L.A. native. 

"The album is a L.A.-centric record," says Miguel. "Being born and raised here, it was really important for me to finally establish my identity."

Miguel says he believes that it is his responsibility an artist to go where his inspirations guide him, no matter what they might come from. 
 

"I think it's our job as creative people to just paddle out and wait," says Miguel. "However the wave comes, however it sets up, whatever speed, direction, force, height, or whatever. It's just our job to be out there and ready to ride. My creative process is pretty much just to honor the creativity — honor whatever inspiration comes. If it's a phrase in a conversation, if it's something I saw in an advertisement, a melody, or it's a sound that I'm triggering. Inspiration comes in so many forms at the most random times, but I think it's our time just to honor it." 

Miguel's track "Leaves" touches on his challenges following an inspiration that takes him in many directions.

"'Leaves' is really about change in general," says Miguel. "That one line saying, 'When you love me, woman,' I refer to my dreams and my aspirations like it's my woman. So I often refer to my conversations with my passions referring to her as if she were the love of my life. So 'Leaves' isn't really romantic at all. It's purely about feeling as if I lost my way."

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