The singer-songwriter Mykal Kilgore followed his debut album, A Man Born Black, with the release of "The Man in the Barbershop" two years later. The single, released in September 2021 via Affective Music, is groundbreaking as a soul/R&B song featuring a same-gender-loving fantasy.
Over a soulful production - crafted by David S. Hargrett, Jamison Ross, Cory Irvin, and John Michael Rouchell - Kilgore opens up about his experiences at the barbershop as a gay Black man. In creative detail, he tells his story about crushing on an attractive man he sees at the shop.
This story came from his "adoration of Black men." Kilgore states, "The Black barbershop experience is like watching butterflies emerging from their chrysalis, and I wanted to capture the feeling of seeing someone so beautiful it inspired dreaming and song."
On the chorus, Kilgore sings:
I'm writing a song for the man in the barbershop
Who sat in the chair by the door
He don't come around here no more
But he stays on my mind
Inspired by a true story, the song is not only an ode to a specific instance experienced by Kilgore, but also what many LGBT black men who visit barbershops experience regularly. The song, penned by Mykal during a walk, was inspired by his desire to "write a song he wished he'd had back in his teenage years."
The song was released to coincide with Mykal's performance at the 2021 Met Gala. "When Mykal was presented with the opportunity to perform at the Met Gala, we wanted to leverage the platform with a release, after listening to a few demos we all agreed 'Barbershop' was the song," said Affective Music CEO, David S. Hargrett.
Jamison Ross helmed the recording of the song by virtually collaborating with producers and musicians across the country on the track. The vocal was recorded by Reggie Nicholas at Gumbo Studios in New Orleans. "The song came together, from demo to master, in less than 30 days, we worked on the music for a couple of weeks via zoom while Mykal was on tour. The day after he wrapped, we flew to New Orleans to record his vocal and then we just had to put the finishing touches on," said Jamison.
The track features session musicians, Jay White (bass), Shemaiah Turner (guitar), Cory Irvin (keys) and Jamison himself on drums. The record was mixed by Qmillion (Flyin' Dread Studios) and mastered by Chris Athens (Chris Athens Mastering).
The music video that made the vision complete was directed by Alexander Golden and filmed in Los Angeles with 360 Total Solutions as the production company – David S. Hargrett, Cori Isaiah Johnson and Horecee St. Cyr producers. Golden and Kilgore wanted to "celebrate the notion that queer folks should be allowed to fantasize and dream."
When asked how the release of the song has impacted him, he says "It's added to my belief that when you tell the truth - your truth - the people who matter will receive it and you well."
"The Man In The Barbershop" made a profound impact on Kipper Jones, the hit songwriter for Vanessa Williams and Brandy. "It is the most unrequited, honest piece of music I have ever heard in my life," he told Songfacts
. "That song is just an enormous testament to the power of music, and I told Mykal that. I'm so grateful because now I know I can be just as authentic and just as honest in my approach to songwriting from now on out. I don't have to hide. I don't have to accommodate. That song really revolutionized my whole way of thinking."