Over three increasingly innovative albums, Miguel has offered a 21st-century update on classic psychedelic soul music. Following in the footsteps of pioneers like Marvin Gaye and Sly & the Family Stone, the Los Angeles native — he was raised in the beachfront community of San Pedro — has drawn from funk, rock, punk, dub and the full range of bedroom-focused R&B while ruminating on subjects like love, sex, intimacy, identity and politics. Along the way, he has collaborated with Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar and Mariah Carey, among many others, and in 2012, he won a Grammy for Best R&B song for “Adorn.” Now, in the first installment of the new NPR Music documentary series Noteworthy, the singer reveals the secrets behind his creative process.
This summer, Noteworthy host Jason King visited Miguel in his Los Angeles home and spoke with him in the studio where he’s working on songs for an upcoming fourth album. Miguel tells King that until recently, his creative process relied on consuming as much as possible — “ideas, films, art, relationships” — in order to get to a place where inspiration could flow freely. “‘Adorn’ happened in a night,” he tells King of his signature hit. “I literally like landed at 10:30 or 11:00, couldn’t sleep and just wrote the song.” Within “two-and-a-half, three hours,” he had written and recorded the whole song. Now, Miguel finds himself at a moment where thinking about social movements like Black Lives Matter is pushing him toward a mode of songwriting driven by a new feeling of responsibility. He also reveals how he began writing songs on his father’s guitar, his love for Bill Withers, why Salvador Dali is on his wallpaper, the best advice Pharrell ever gave him and the importance of L.A. to his artistic vision.
Producers: Jacob Ganz, Mito Habe-Evans, Jason King, Ben Naddaff-Hafrey; Director/Editor: Mito Habe-Evans; Assistant Director: Cameron Robert; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Managing Producers: Abby O’Neill, Otis Hart; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann