Michael Kiwanuka: From session musician to award-winning solo artist

PA

Michael Kiwanuka has enjoyed a meteoric rise since he made the leap from session musician to award-winning solo artist.

All of the singer-songwriter’s three studio albums have been nominated for the Mercury Prize, which he has now won at the third time of asking.

However unlike many of his peers, Kiwanuka has not spent years clamouring for the limelight on stage.

Graham Norton Show – London
Graham Norton Show – London

Despite getting his first guitar at the age of 12 and experimenting with songwriting during his teens, he has previously said he did not start taking music seriously until the age of 21.

Before striking out on his own with his distinctive soulful sound, Kiwanuka worked as a session guitarist alongside musicians including grime producer Labrinth.

However he has previously said he realised that “playing guitar for other people wasn’t as much fun as I thought it’d be”.

In 2012, Kiwanuka released his debut album Home Again, which reached number four in the UK album chart and was also named BBC Sound of 2012 winner.

Adele splits from husband Simon Konecki
Adele splits from husband Simon Konecki

He also featured as a support act for Adele early on in his solo career.

The record won him high-profile fans and Kanye West asked Kiwanuka to join the sessions for his 2013 album Yeezus.

Kiwanuka was asked to sing on West’s track I Am A God but he declined the opportunity as the song was at odds with his Christian faith.

Justin Bieber visits Kanye West
Justin Bieber visits Kanye West

Three years later, Kiwanuka returned with his self-titled third album and earned himself two nominations for the Brit Awards in the male solo artist and album categories.

He missed out on the awards on that occasion but the album has now secured him the 2020 Mercury Prize.