Kenny G: I create music from my heart

It’s always great when the music can provide a charitable aspect, shared the legendary saxophonist Kenny G during an exclusive interview granted to Nhan Dan Newspaper ahead of his show on November 14.
Saxophonist Kenny G during a press conference before his show in Vietnam. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Dat)
Saxophonist Kenny G during a press conference before his show in Vietnam. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Dat)

Q: Can you share your initial emotions when arriving in Vietnam this time?

A: Well, I remember at the airport, there’s a big sign that says “Welcome to Vietnam”, or something, and I remember that from last time, so that was fun to see. Very warm welcome at the airport. I am happy to be here.

Do you find Hanoi any different from your first time here?

A: I don’t remember. We got in last night, it was night time. And we drove from the airport to the hotel. So I haven’t seen much of Hanoi yet.

Q: What are you going to play at this concert?

For this concert, we’ll play a lot of similar music because there are songs that people expect from us. There are songs that they know, and so we would want to play those songs. And there will be a few new songs, but mostly it will be songs that people will want us to play. And we’re jazz musicians, so when we play them, every time we play them, they’re a little bit different. So it will be a unique concert.

Q: How do you feel about the idea of combining the concert with charitable activities?

A: It’s always great when the music can provide a charitable aspect. So that’s really great. You know, you get a bunch of people together to come to a concert and at the same time it benefits a charity that’s worthy. It’s wonderful. So it makes me even happier to come to play.

Q: How do you feel about the name “Good Morning Vietnam”?

You know, there was a movie, that is very famous. You know, some music melodies are very nice. And some words are very nice, so the words “Good morning Vietnam”, those are nice words to my ears they sound like a nice melody to me.

Q: If you had a leisurely morning in Vietnam, what would you like to do?

A: Well, for me, my mornings are always the same. I do two things in the mornings I exercise and I practice my saxophone for a few hours. If you wanted to say a leisurely afternoon, because I do my work in the morning. Then, after that, I would have a leisurely afternoon.

What would I do in the afternoon? Probably go to a nice restaurant for lunch. Maybe I have a beer, if I’m not performing. If I’m performing, I wouldn’t have a beer. But that would be a very leisurely afternoon for me. To sit at a cafe, eat something delicious. I love pho, I like pho ga, but no onions.

Q: Do you drink any coffee?

A: No coffee. I don’t drink coffee. I just never developed the taste for coffee. I taste coffee and it’s just not my favourite taste. So, I don’t have anything against it. If somebody tells me, oh, this coffee is delicious, you have to try it. Sure, I'll try it. And to me, it tastes the same as any coffee. This coffee, that coffee, that coffee, they all taste the same to me. It's not my favourite taste. So for me what do I like to drink well, let's see if I like lemonade I love that. That's a very nice taste for my for me.

Kenny G performs during a press conference ahead of his show in Vietnam.

Kenny G performs during a press conference ahead of his show in Vietnam.

Q: Do you want to try bun cha in this trip?

A: I hope so, maybe. Maybe somebody will bring it to me. Okay. Because you know... It’s very good. Yeah. But normally I really eat the same thing all the time when I’m on the road, on tour. Because, okay, I’m here in Vietnam, but I’m only here for the most important reason, for my performance.

I know everybody would be happy for me to go to the restaurant, try this, try that, but I eat Japanese food for lunch. Always the same food. Same sushi for lunch. Always. And then I don’t eat anything until after my performance.

So maybe after, if it’s not spicy I can try the noodles. But not before. I have to make sure the performance is good, and then we see what happens. I’m pretty sure that it will be good. I’m sure it will be delicious.

Q: Is there a particular place that you’re hoping to visit in Vietnam?

A: I don’t know the landmarks. We’re going to see some landmarks in Hanoi on Wednesday. I’m going to make a video with one of my songs and we're going to go around to different spots in Hanoi and I’ll play and we’re going to make a video, a music video. So I think I will learn more of the landmarks then, but I don’t know enough right now to know where I would like to try to see so I will get educated.

Q: Can you please share more about your MV plan in Vietnam?

A: We’re going to do it on Wednesday. And we’re going to go to different places and I’ll play my song and we’ll film it and then we put it together and hopefully it will look great.

Q: Have you had a chance to listen to Vietnamese music?

A: When I’m composing my music, it’s just my own music and it’s not influenced by other things. So I don’t know much about the music from other countries, and it’s kind of part of, I think, the reason that I’m so successful is that I haven’t listened very much, so that my music cannot sound like anybody except for me.

In the post-pandemic world, the audience seem to be more eager to seek out the live music experience. What do you think about this trend?

You can’t replace the live music, you can’t. You can watch on YouTube, you can watch on Facebook, you can look on Instagram, but you can’t have the same experience unless you go see the performer live. So I hope that’s a trend that stays. Each time when you listen to live music, it’s going to be different. Exactly, yeah, every time is different. So yeah, and also you can get a feeling from the artist when you see them in person that you can’t get from a screen.

Q: What do you think about collaborating with Vietnamese artists?

A: We’ll look at it. And if it’s got all the right ingredients, then maybe it can happen. Maybe it can happen next time. It depends. It just depends. I can’t promise because I don’t know. We’ll have to see.

As an artist who has been active for over half a century, how do you adapt your musical style to current trends?

I create music that’s from my heart and it is what it is. From heart to heart. And yeah, I don’t want to try to make something that I think is current. Because then I’m doing it for the wrong reasons.

Kenny G during an interview with Nhan Dan.

Kenny G during an interview with Nhan Dan.

Q: Do you have any plans to make your music more accessible for the younger generation?

A: And that’s about it for me. Now that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do a duet with somebody young. That’s probably a way to get it more accessible to the younger. But it has to be the right song. It has to be the right artist. So again, it just depends on the song, the artist, and the timing.

Q: When you are not playing music, what do you want to do?

A: Well, I like sports. I like to play golf. I’m pretty good at golf. And what else? I like to watch movies. I love to watch movies. I’m also a pilot, so I can know how to fly an airplane. What else do I like to do? I like to swim, but I don't swim very much. I like to ride a bicycle. That's fun to me. I like exercise, [it’s] good for my health.

Q: What about travelling?

A: No, I don’t like traveling. Because I travel so much. I like to travel for my music. But if you’re saying to me, okay, now you have one week, what would you like to do for your week? I don’t want to travel; I want to stay home. That to me is my vacation. Stay home. I like to take a sauna; I like to go in the cold water. Those kind of things. Very nice. It’s time for yourself. Yeah, time to myself. I definitely like to spend time alone.

Q: Can you say a few words to those looking forward to your concert tonight, especially those who have waited eight years to have you here?

A: Oh, well, I mean, thank you for having us back. Thank you for welcoming us back to Vietnam. Sorry it took eight years, but I think the pandemic caused that to happen. A lot of years went by, but we’re always flattered to come to a foreign country and play our music. I’m always overwhelmed that people know my melodies this far away from where I created them. I created my melodies in California, and yet here in Vietnam, people know my melodies. So it’s very flattering to me. So very grateful for the chance to perform, and we hope that the audience will enjoy our performance.

Q: And the last question. What do you think about the initiative of Nhan Dan Newspaper and IB Group?

Very grateful, very grateful. It takes a lot of telephone calls and emails to work out all the details for a concert. I don't think I'm a very difficult artist. I don’t think so. You have to ask them if that’s true, but I think I'm very easy, but there’s a lot of things, you know, they present an idea, we come back with what we think about it, and they come back with another idea, and we come back, and it has to go back and forth many times before we can agree, what are the days, what’s the travel like, so many details. So they did a great job of putting all of that together. So thank you. Thank you for making it work out.

Thank you.