Brian McKnight grew up in a family where music came naturally. He was a member of the church choir along with his immediate family; his grandfather was the director. With a gospel upbringing, McKnight explored other genres of music. Still in his early teens, he exercised his writing ambitions by penning instrumentals (soft jazz, easy listening). He formed a band and began performing his originals at local venues. By the age of 18, McKnight had secured a publishing deal. His calling to the national scene manifested itself when his older brother Claude and the group he was a member of, Take 6, signed a recording contract with a major label.
After sending out numerous demos to various record companies, McKnight's tape drew the interest of Mercury Records president Ed Eckstine (son of Billy Eckstine). Eckstine was so impressed with McKnight's sound that the young artist was signed to a deal within two weeks. McKnight's first release on Mercury was "The Way Love Goes," peaking at number 11 after 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B charts. His two follow-up singles barely cracked the Billboard R&B Top 60, including "Love Is," a duet with Vanessa Williams featured on Beverly Hills 90210. Ironically, that single peaked at number three on the Billboard pop charts, introducing McKnight to a crossover audience.
In addition to being a singer, McKnight is a songwriter, multi-talented musician, arranger, and producer. The success he has achieved as producer and songwriter on his own projects has facilitated his popularity as a producer and songwriter for other artists. However, the Buffalo native retained the services of hip-hop producer Sean "Puffy" Combs on the release of his 1997 CD Anytime, which features the club-flavored single "You Should Be Mine." A Christmas album, Bethlehem, followed in 1998, and a year later McKnight returned with Back at One