After wrapping up his world tour three years ago, Lenny Kravitz found himself in a place he’d never been — the dreaded land of uncertainty. “I really wasn’t sure where I was going musically,” he tells Rolling Stone. “After doing this for 30 years, I wasn’t feeling it. I’d never felt that confused about what to do. And it was kind of a scary place. You don’t know when it’s going to come.”
People around Kravitz tried jump-starting his process by suggesting he collaborate with hit-savvy current producers and songwriters, but Kravitz wasn’t feeling that either. “I’ve never really worked that way, following trends or doing what people think you should do,” he says. “I’ve always made music that came naturally out of me. What am I going to do, make a trap record? Not that I don’t like that stuff, but I’ve got to be me.”
Holing up in his house in the Bahamas, Kravitz chilled and considered his options, never venturing into the home studio he assembled there. “I know it’s there, but I’m not going in,” he recalls. Then one night, Kravitz woke up at four in the morning with a song in his head. Feeling inspired, he roused himself out of bed, went into the studio and recorded a rough version of it. Over subsequent nights, the experience repeated itself: Kravitz would awaken with a song on his brain and scramble to either write it down, go to the studio or at least hum the melody into his nearby phone before he forgot it.
With that, the roots of Kravitz’s 11th studio album took shape. “I realized, ‘This is it,’” he says. “This is what I’d been waiting for. And once I started that process, the floodgates opened and it all started coming out me. I dreamt the whole record.”
Raise Vibration features, as usual, Kravitz playing most of the instruments himself, with longtime guitarist Craig Ross the only collaborator (other than string and horn players). The record promises to be one of Kravitz’s most eclectic. “Low,” the song that got the whole process started, developed into a smooth funk showcase; what Kravitz calls “my Quincy Jones school” complete with horns and a string arrangement. The title track is lean power-trio rock, while the ballad “Here to Love” features Kravitz backed only by his piano and a string section. “Johnny Cash,” inspired by an encounter with the late legend, is what Kravitz jokingly calls “psychedelic funk meets country.”
“It’s about a dream I had where Johnny Cash is involved, and it’s also about something that happened in my life years ago,” Kravitz says. “When you hear it it, you’ll understand. When I was writing the lyrics, I didn’t understand what I was writing. But when I finished I said, ‘Oh, that’s what that’s about.’ It’s a very deep song.”
Kravitz, who’s already started a world tour behind the album before its release, is also working another, completely different record, this one steeped in funk. The untitled album includes collaborations with George Clinton, the late Allen Toussaint, former James Brown and Funkadelic horn player Fred Wesley, and jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. (It may accompany a film project Kravitz is planning in the future.) Speaking of acting, he confirms that, contrary to rumors, he will not be playing his daughter Zoë Kravitz’s father in the upcoming return of Big Little Lies. “No, I won’t be on the new season,” he laughs. “Funny enough, I was up for one of the husbands in the beginning, before my daughter was up for it. But Meryl Streep’s in it and she and my daughter came over recently and it was pretty mind-blowing.”
For the moment, Kravitz will instead focus on music, especially now that he feels inspired again. “It’s almost like Let Love Rule,” he says of his debut, which will be 30 years old next year. “That felt like a reboot, and here I am again. I’m not 20, so to have this feeling this far down the line was a gift. I learned you have to trust yourself and the artist in yourself. Always trust what you have.”