IT’S 10AM IN LOS ANGELES and Lenny Kravitz is telling Esquire Australia all about his night jamming with the legendary Stevie Wonder.
“You look at somebody like that, who’s done it all, who has shaped our lives and shaped the planet with the music he’s made,” Kravitz says, his voice as smooth and sensual as ever. “And he’s still hungry. He still has a zest for finding something new and the creativity is still powerful. I look at people like that, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, so many guys who are still out there doing their thing . . . it’s wonderful inspiration.”
Given Kravitz, 58, exudes an age-defying youthfulness – just look at those washboard abs beneath his silk black shirts – it may be hard to fathom that he is, in fact, in the same echelon as the artists he speaks so fondly of. Icons, in other words. But what ties this group together isn’t just their achievements, it’s the driving force behind them.
“I’m just as hungry as I was when I first started out, if not more,” says Kravitz. “It’s one thing to have an explosion at the beginning of your career. But it’s another thing to have that career sustained. And it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort.
“I’m very appreciative because there are a lot of folks who do it this long and they become jaded, they’re tired, they’re over it. I’ve seen that happen many, many times to very, very talented people. And it’s a choice. Not everybody wants to do it this long or longer, but I’m feeling hungry; I’m feeling inspired.”
As Kravitz settles into the groove of our conversation, it’s not hard to detect the sense of gratitude in his voice as he recalls pivotal moments in his life. One of the seminal artists of his generation, Kravitz has been a trailblazing creative force for over three decades, right back to those early days in New York City as an aspiring musician of colour with “dreadlocks and a Jewish last name”. Let Love Rule was his introductory showcase. An astonishingly accomplished debut album on which he played every instrument, it would announce to the world the arrival of a one-of-one musical talent, determined to “go his own way”.
“I’ve just never been into following what’s going on at the time just because that’s what you should do or that will bring you success. From the beginning, I just wanted to make the art that I hear and feel. You know, I was told this is not what’s happening right now or this isn’t that, or this is too rock or it’s too soulful or it’s too black or it’s too white or that it just doesn’t fit. I’ve continually had to push the boundaries.”
By his early twenties, Kravitz had introduced to the world a musical style that blended elements of soul, blues, gospel, R&B, funk, jazz and psychedelic, but with a level of rock ‘n’ roll swagger that made his tracks immediately distinguishable. By his mid-thirties, he was regarded as one of the preeminent rock musicians of our time, with over six albums to his name and four grammy wins. He would have a total of eleven studio albums by his fifties, which have since sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
But now, as he approaches sixty, perhaps Kravitz’s best is yet to come.
The pursuit of excellence that drives Kravitz’s approach to his music, his acting or his design, is accompanied by an understanding that creating anything of quality requires time, maturation and a willingness to burnish without promise; a notion that also defines Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre. It’s perhaps that shared appreciation for the labour and love that underpins genuine craftsmanship that led Kravitz to come on board as the newest ambassador for the brand known as the ‘watchmaker of watchmakers’.
A clue something was cooking between the duo was perhaps evident in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Duoface Small Seconds Kravitz rocked at the Oscars earlier this year (dressed head to toe in Saint Laurent, no less, because “the silhouette really suits me”).
“I’ve been an admirer of Jaeger-LeCoultre and of the Reverso for some time now,” says Kravitz. “I’ve always looked at that watch, wanted one, didn’t have one for some reason, never went and got one, but always admired it and was thinking, when will I get one of those? And then this partnership came about. And as far as similarities go, I think it’s all about craftsmanship, it’s about art, it’s about classic-ness and those are things that I feel that I am.”
It comes as no surprise that Kravitz is a watch guy. How could he not be? A tastemaker who knows the skill required to craft a song, a film, a thing, Kravitz is also a sentimental soul. When he’s not living in his Airstream trailer in The Bahamas, or at his farm compound in Brazil, Kravitz calls Paris home and it’s there that he stores his most meaningful possessions. There are significant pop-culture artefacts like his room dedicated to Muhammad Ali and James Brown. But sitting beneath a framed photo of his father is perhaps his most prized possession, the one that kickstarted his passion for watches.
“The watch in my collection that means the most is a piece from the ’70s that belonged to my father. My father was a journalist at NBC News and I was very lucky to find his watch in all of his things after he passed,” explains Kravitz. “And so, I have his watch at my house and it’s sitting under a picture of him at NBC wearing the watch. He’s on the phone, he’s got a suit and tie on and he’s wearing this watch, talking to whomever, doing his business. That means an awful lot to me, to have that piece of my father with me.”
In 2023, we will be blessed with new music by Lenny Kravitz. As he puts the finishing touches to his first full-length studio album since 2018’s Raise Vibration, Kravitz tells us that it’s a nod to a time that he was never fully able to celebrate. “The new album is a look back and a look forward,” he says. “Before I came up with my first album, Let Love Rule, I was recording under another name and I was making music and it never ended up coming out. And then I went back to my name because that whole venture taught me that I needed to be myself.
“So, this music is a vibe of what I was doing before Let Love Rule – it’s a reinterpretation of that time and celebrating a time that I never celebrated. This record is a beautiful mix of live instruments, synthesisers, drum machines and has a bit of an ’80s vibe of what I was doing at that time before the first album. It’s going back and giving people a vision of where I was before the first record.
“And it’s been a few years since I’ve been on the road so I’m looking forward to releasing the new music that I’ve been working on for over three years and getting out on the road and playing and celebrating music in life.”
Whether he’s gearing up for another world tour or helping define a legacy brand like Jaeger-LeCoultre for a new generation, it’s this celebration of life that cuts across everything Kravitz touches. That hunger to create new things, to experiment and push artistic boundaries shows no signs of dimming any time soon.
“I am quite thankful for everything that I’ve done and that I’ve been given and that God has blessed me with,” he says. “But for me, the best is always yet to come. There’s a mountain to climb every day, brother, and that mountain is life. And I intend to climb until the climb is over. I wake up looking forward to new possibilities and new creations. And I don’t know if I will. But I’d like to spend my life taking a step forward every day.”