Kem Biography

A biography of the multitalented R&B/jazz artist

Kem
Kem. Paul Morigi/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Singer, songwriter and musician Kem has carved out his own niche in the music world thanks to his mellow, warm sound that blends R&B, jazz and soul. Today the Grammy-nominated artist is reaping the rewards of his raw talent, hard work and dedication, but the road to get there wasn't easy.

Early Life:

Kem has publicly refused to reveal his age, but from comments made in previous interviews, it's been speculated that he was born Kim Owens on July 23, 1969 in Nashville, Tenn.

He grew up in Detroit. Kem's love for music began at an early age: he began to learn the piano when he was 5 after a babysitter taught him how to play some music. By the time he reached high school, Kem was singing in the choir and was a fan of jazz, R&B and pop acts like Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Al Jarreau and Grover Washington Jr.

Addiction & Homelessness:

His upbringing was as normal as it gets, but after he graduated from high school things took a different turn. At 19 he left his parents' home. Like many 19 year olds, Kem was lost and unsure of his future. He masked his insecurities with drugs and alcohol, and he spent time couch surfing with friends before he became completely homeless as a result of his addiction. He stayed in shelters in Detroit and eventually took to the streets.

Kem has remained relatively quiet about his life on the streets, but he has said that his life turned around when he hit rock bottom and realized he wasn't living the kind of live he wanted to live.

He turned to God, sought recovery and became a member of Renaissance Unity Church in Warren, Mich. After Kem got sober he reconciled with his estranged family and musical friends. He started playing music with them again while working as a waiter and a wedding singer.

Professional Career:

In 2001 Kem quit his jobs to focus on making music.

He used the money he had saved up from his day jobs and an Amex card to self-release his debut album Kemistry in 2002. Aspiring musicians self-release all the time, but it's rare that they make as big of an impact as Kemistry. Kem marketed the album to beauty salons and black-oriented restaurants, and persuaded them to play the music over their sound systems and sell the disc to customers. In just five months he has sold 10,000 copies.

Motown Records caught word of the talented artist and inked a five-album contract with him in 2003. He rereleased Kemistry, which cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified gold. Kem followed up with Album II in 2005. It debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold two months later. In 2014 it was certified platinum.

Kem took a break after Album II and returned in 2010 with Intimacy. It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and its first single, "Why Would You Stay," peaked at No. 14 and No. 17 on Billboard's Heatseekers and R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, respectively. The single also earned him two Grammy nominations for Best R&B Male Performance and Best R&B Song.

In 2012 he released his first holiday album What Christmas Means, and in 2014 he released his most recent album Promise to Love.

Kem has been touring the country steadily since the album was issued.

Popular Songs:

Discography: