Acoustic Guitar

It’s undeniable that Brian McKnight has a knack for writing love songs. Before he met his wife, Leilani Malia Mendoza, eight years ago, however, the R&B balladeer had never known love.

“All the songs before her, they were never about anyone,” he said.

“I’ve never written about anyone before. Nobody ever did it for me. Having a muse now, for the last eight years, I don’t have to think about writing. The words just materialize. She is my heart.”

Released June 26, his latest album “Exodus” is an ode to his love of Mendoza, most notably the song “Nobody.” The video features footage of their wedding three years ago. 

The couple met at a fitness convention in Los Angeles in 2012. McKnight invested in a fitness product and she was a Hawaiian Tropic model signing autographs. 

“We met and it was love at first sight,” said McKnight, best known for the song “Back at One.” 

McKnight will bring those songs to town when he plays two drive-in shows at WestWorld of Scottsdale Polo Fields on Sept. 18. 

The show will feature only McKnight on keyboards and guitar. The multi-instrumentalist also plays bass, drums, percussion, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn and trumpet.)

“The cool thing is it’s just me,” he said. “It’s a solo show—no band, no real pomp and circumstance. It’s very in your face and personal. It’ll be interesting. We’ll see how far away the cars are going to be. It’s just going to be great to play these songs and sing for this audience.”

Born in Buffalo, McKnight began his musical career in childhood when he became a member of his church choir and a band leader for his high school.

By the age of 19, he signed his first recording deal with Mercury Records. In 1992, his self-titled album was released followed by “I Remember You” (1995) and “Anytime” (1997). “Anytime” sold more than 2 million copies and was nominated for a Grammy. In 1999, McKnight released “Back at One” on Motown Records, which sold 3 million copies. 

Along with several Grammy nominations, McKnight has been the recipient of American Music Awards, Soul Train Awards, NAACP Image and Blockbuster Awards, and Billboard Songwriter of The Year.