Singer Luke James Talks Competition in R&B, Calls Himself ‘2013’s Sammie Davis Jr’

Singer Luke James Talks Collaborating with Miguel, Considers Himself the New Sammy Davis Jr.

With his highly anticipated debut album on the way, singer Luke James declares that 2013 belongs to him.

The buzz is big for R&B singer Luke James. The crooner is prepping his debut album Made to Love, and with the latest single “I.O.U”, James isn’t making it any easier for us to take a breath.

In 2012, the singer burst onto the scene with “I Want You”, a slow jam that celebrates the act of confessing your love to the woman you desire. In 2013, for that song, James earned his first Grammy nomination.

Last week, had the opportunity to chat with Luke James where the New Orleans-bred singer details his newly formed collective with Miguel, competition in today’s R&B and why he calls himself the 2013 Sammy Davis, Jr. You’re in New York City right now because you performed at Spotlight Live, where you kind of headlined before The Dream. I felt like you were the headliner.

Luke James: All I need is a mic and a light, man. That brother was happy to have me. He could’ve said something different because Dream is a shot-caller. It felt good to perform in New York. It’s always great, that crowd was weird for specific reasons. But, I let them have it. I don’t play no games.

AHH: It seems like you’re a seasoned performer even though you’re just now coming out. How long have you been singing?

James: Professionally, I’ve been doing it for six years. I started out singing background for Tyrese, Tank and Mario. I’m a sponge. I learn. I’ve been around so many people, I’ve just learned a lot. And people I see on TV, my idols, I just project that. Also, I got great management. I’m managed by one of the best who has ever done it, Frank Gatson. He’s really taught me about stage presence and how to be.

AHH: Did you study guys, like Tank, who’s more of a traditional R&B artist?

James: Yeah, I definitely studied those guys! If you ask them, they’ll probably say “Oh no, he got that from me!”. They can pick some things out. You gotta get it from somewhere. I studied them, and then I studied who they studied. Then, I studied who those people studied. I’m a sponge, forever learning.

AHH: You came out with “I Want You”, which was the biggest buzz single for any R&B artist that wasn’t necessarily mainstream yet. Do you think that should’ve been on the debut album?

James: “I Want You” will be on my debut album. The song was written as something to grab a woman’s attention and I guess it grabbed everyone’s attention. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. I honestly feel like it’s going to rise up again. It wasn’t worked as a mainstream record but the people chose and I think it will always be a song that I have to perform and I love it.

AHH: You’ve partnered with Miguel, Stacy Barthe and Elle Varner to create the collective, Nouveau Noir. Do you think that was a smart move?

James: Of course. I believe in music. I believe in creativity and learning all aspects of music and giving people a choice. I alone can’t do it by myself. It takes an army. We all are like-minded and we all believe in something. And we all want something more. If we’re going to keep this thing going, we got to join together and create a great buzz together. Saying it at the same time.

AHH: It’s like what Erykah Badu, Common…

LJ: D’Angelo, Maxwell…

AHH: Yeah, what that whole ’90s neo-soul crew did. And now you’ve all come together who are now today’s artists to create that collective. Can we see a collaboration any time soon?

James: Definitely. We’re looking to do some shows together. We already do music together. Just promoting solid music, music people can feel. It’s a feeling.

AHH: You’ve got Frank Ocean, who’s from New Orleans. August Alsina, who performed with you the other night, who’s from New Orleans. And you’re from New Orleans. How does that effect your music? What’s it like being from N.O?

James: It’s evident. You can see the creativity. I’m assuming they’re the same way. In New Orleans, you hear everything. You hear all different types of music. So many choices.

I don’t want to sound so cliche, but it’s like gumbo, you just pile it all up together and you get Frank Ocean, August and you get myself. New Orleans has jazz, blues, folk, zydeco, bounce music, Hip Hop, R&B, soul, alternative. Just the city alone, you can get a feeling of something.

AHH: You’re more a traditional R&B artist, in the sense of you haven’t announced a huge publicity stunts. How do you feel like you fit in today’s R&B?

James: I look at myself as an artist. An artiste. I don’t know what tomorrow may hold, whether I’ll be getting arrested or something crazy. I’m going to live my life. I try to keep things as private as I can and give people a little something more to vibe off of me. So that when they hear the music they can say “Oh wow! I think I read that tweet!” from this song. Or “I can relate to it.”.

Right now, it’s about me as an artist, singer and I think it’s getting to Who is Luke James as a person. What does he have to say? I’m putting on the actor hat. I just wrapped up my first movie two weeks ago Black Nativity, which will be in theaters November 27th, Thanksgiving weekend. Take your family out, it’s gonna be fun. I’m an entertainer. I think I fit in very well. I’m not trying to fit in, I think I’m just trying to be me and I think the most awesome thing you can do is be you.

AHH: Is that the thought process that led to “I.O.U”.

James: Yes. Well, “I.O.U” is written by a brother of mine, Kevin Cossom. It just felt right and felt like a good song to do. The label loved it and they wanted to put it out. The people have spoken. They’re starting to love it. It’s one of my most deep traditional R&B sounding songs. It’s a good feel, and gives you another look at Luke James.

AHH: As far as your debut album, Made to Love, what can people expect from it?

James: A whole lot of feeling.

AHH: We won’t cry, will we?

James: I mean, it’s not my intentions to make you cry but I love music that makes me cry. I love music that makes you feel. That’s what music is. It’s supposed to unlock some things. It’s therapy. It’s when you’re in the shower, alone, in the dark, and that song is playing and you’re letting it pour out. So that when you walk out, you’re fresh and brand new. You’re renewed. Music should break you out of your shell and help you be exactly who you want to be.

AHH: You’ve reminded of your recent mixtape, Whispers in the Dark, and when I saw the title it reminded me of something from the quiet storm or an album title from back in the day. What made you call it that?

James: The title came from a lyric in a song titled “Whispers in the Dark (Found by You)”. It’s that voice in your head, some of us try to deny it. It’s a voice that we all eventually will have to answer to. Whether it comes to us in the day, or in the dark, and mine mostly comes to me in the dark. It’s my demons. It’s just that connection you have with God. That’s where it came from. Being vulnerable, and I think that’s what the complimentary album states.

AHH: One thing we’ve been focusing on is the health movement in the entertainment world. As far as, entertainers having the voice to inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been on the R&B diet. I’m trying to get my shirt really tight.

James: [Laughs] Some people will take the bread out the oven before it’s finished baking. You gotta let it bake. Hide. I learned a thing, hide yourself. Give yourself a mark. As far as work out, and eating well, you don’t want to defeat yourself. It’s more mental than physical.

Once you get your mind in the habit of “I cannot leave this house without brushing my teeth!”, and once you make it that kind of thing, then it becomes a lifestyle and you can’t live without it. It’s good for you to work out and to eat  well, and to care about what you’re putting into your body.

At the end of the day, you want to live past 70. Plus, that stuff goes into your children. You got to think about things like that. You want to live and see your children grow and live a happy life. Working out is very good and a good tip: Hide yourself. Try not to look in the mirror until you have clothes on.

Give yourself a week, then two weeks and three weeks, and you’ll see the change. You want to be a stranger to yourself. I think that’ll help you see the results.

Luke James in Concert

AHH: What do you think 2013 will say about the Luke James movement?

James: Here he comes. He’s here. I feel like 2013 is my year. Thirteen is a very mysterious number. I believe it’s the number of the unknown. I think it calls people to have faith and just walk out on it. Faith is having belief in something that you can’t see. People who are very eccentric, going into the whole “It’s 2013! It’s about to be chaos!”, but I think it’s a time to step out on faith. Know your limits and ignore them.

You did 2012 and 2011. 2013 is a different world. It’s a different life. It’s time for acceptance. It’s time for complete love and understanding who you are and basking in it. That’s what I’m gone do, and I’m gone show the world how to do it. I’m here, man. More music to come, more artistry, more art.

AHH: Anything else the people should know?

James: The movie, Black Nativity, November 27th. After you finished feeding your face, take the family out to go see a great movie. A movie that’s going to stand the test of time.

AHH: Are you the star in that?

James: I’m one of the stars! Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Tyrese, Jacob Lattimore, Grace Gibson. Directed by Kasi Lemons and put on by Fox Searchlight. It’s a big deal. Black Nativity, Langston Hughes.

AHH: Now, if they say Luke James, the actor, you think they’re going to forget about the music?

James: They’ll never forget about the music. The music comes first. It’s just another part of me. I’m your 2013 Sammie Davis Jr., baby. Oh yeah! [laughs]

Luke James’ Whispers in the Dark is available now. “I.O.U.” is available now on iTunes.

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