“I don’t know a nonmusical person from New Orleans,” said the NOLA native, referring to the “soul” that influenced his sound and the way he crafts songs. “It’s something that is natural, tribal and true to the fiber that makes me and it’s important to implement that inside my music to tell my story.”
A great deal of the songs by the singer/songwriter, including the soulful cut “These Arms,” on the surface are about love but also represent the sexual side of a relationship.
The passion is just what ends up in his work, said the 34-year-old James. “I’m a sensual [and] sexual person. I love sensuality, and so I wear it on my shoulder, I guess,” he explained. “I can’t see myself creating anything that doesn’t have a drop of that in it and music for me is therapeutic.”
Although his forthcoming album is sonically different, there are still many elements of sensuality in the lyrics.
“To be fair, I think I got a little ahead of myself; it was an epiphany that hit and that felt right,” the 34-year-old said about naming the album. “Black Light came to me as I listened to the rough cuts that I’ve done lately, and I just feel that [title] more than anything. It just represents [that] you see everything; it’s something that goes deeper, then sensually, [it’s also] something that goes deeper.”
He used the words “Afrocentric,” “aphrodisiac” and “psychedelic” to describe the mood and tone of the new music, which is “what life has been” for him lately.
No matter the direction his new music will travel, the fact that his Grammy-nominated song “I Want You” has been played at numerous weddings since its 2011 release still moves James.
“It means everything for someone to play my music in such a monumental moment in their life and union,” he said. “It’s what I do it for, it’s what I create for, to be a part of people’s lives and hopefully make it better and in turn it betters me.”
Black Light is expected to release this year.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.