Kevin Garrett sings tunes from his debut EP “Mellow Drama.” (Courtesy photo)

Kevin Garrett sings tunes from his debut EP “Mellow Drama.” (Courtesy photo)

Soulful Kevin Garrett has collaborators in high places

Soulful singer-songwriter Kevin Garrett remembers the afternoon two summers ago when a casual lunch with friends in his native Pittsburgh, Pa. was interrupted by a phone call from an executive at Jay Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company, who overheard an intern playing Garrett’s demos, and scheduled a meeting with him in New York City for the very next morning.

“I left at 3 a.m. to make that 11 a.m. meeting,” recalls the singer. “I got there right on time. That’s usually how I operate. I give myself barely enough time to make it work.”

The Broadway offices were in the top floor of a high-rise, so Garrett — who plays The City this week, backing his smooth debut 2015 EP “Mellow Drama” and single “Refuse” — awkwardly joked to break the ice: “I said I could see my house from there. I was very chill.”

It didn’t matter. He got an offer.

He adds, “I’m not sure how long my songs had been playing there before I got that call, but it all happened pretty fast. And it was a publishing deal, which was what I was really interested in.”

Putting finishing touches on a full-length album, the 25-year-old is still an unsigned recording artist who, so far, has self-released all of his tunes, in perhaps an unusual showbiz strategy.

But he’s had support from surprise backers, such as Katy Perry, who has sung his songwriting praises online, and musician James Vincent McMorrow, who takes him on the road. “So I’ve been lucky to tour behind my EP for pretty much a year and a half,” he says.

Also: Beyoncé hired him to co-pen and co-produce “Pray You Catch Me,” the opening anthem on her new album “Lemonade.”

Calling it “surreal” and “amazing” to hear her voice singing words he contributed,” he adds, “The fact that the song kind of sets the tone for the whole album was a really humbling thing, too.”

The first time he met her, he literally was at a loss for words: “That was the first time I was truly baffled,” he says.

Raised on a diet of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Otis Redding, Garrett has one stipulation driving his career strategy. He says, “When I got the Beyoncé call, I let them know that I had to talk to my dad first, who told me, ‘You have to do this, it’s a no-brainer! For whatever reason, my first rule about stuff is ‘Let me talk to my dad.’”


Kevin Garrett
Where: Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. June 2
Tickets: $15
Contact: (415) 800-8782,

BeyoncéJay ZKevin GarrettMellow DramaPop MusicPray You Catch MerefuseRoc Nation

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