Michael Kiwanuk

12:30am, St. David's Historic Sanctuary

Michael Kiwanuk

The voice, a soft, rootsy howl, that's what draws you to Michael Kiwanuka. It's a bonus that the London folk singer possesses a down-to-earth charm and gift for simple, graceful songwriting that recalls the acoustic soul of a young Bill Withers. Kiwanuka, born to Ugandan parents, didn't have many musical touchstones growing up, but Withers and Jimi Hendrix were among the first he could relate to.

"I absolutely loved guitar growing up, but I never saw anyone on TV or in magazines that were young black people playing guitar," he admits. "I felt like it wasn't a thing that you did. Of course it was naive, but I was young and I had nothing to identify with. People used to write band names on their bags – rock bands, punk bands – and people would write Nirvana and Pennywise but Hendrix would be there, too, so I assumed that was another white band.

"When he came on TV, I saw he was a black guy with an Afro playing this kind of rock & roll and bluesy soul."

The 24-year-old is just getting started. After toiling as a session guitarist, he launched a solo career just last year, releasing three EPs, touring Europe with Adele, and landing a major label record deal. He recently finished a beautifully melancholic collaboration with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and won the BBC Sound of 2012 award, an industry poll predicting the next big thing in the UK.

"I wasn't expecting to get anywhere far with my music, but I've managed to open a few doors, which is really cool," says the singer, prepping the stateside release of debut Home Again for this summer. "I hope it just continues to grow and allows me to play bigger places and different countries around the world."

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Wednesday Interview
Wednesday Interview
Delta Spirit

Jim Caligiuri, March 20, 2015

Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
First night SXSW Music recommendations and hints

March 20, 2015

More by Thomas Fawcett
SXSW Music Keynote: Beastie Boys
SXSW Music Keynote: Beastie Boys
Ad-Rock and Mike D remain funny to us, too

March 16, 2019

SXSW Music Review: Kokoko!/Bixiga 70/Jojo Abot
SXSW Music Review: Kokoko!/Bixiga 70/Jojo Abot
Afro tsunami lays waste to Sixth Street world music hub

March 15, 2019


Michael Kiwanuka, Adele, Jimi Hendrix

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle