INTERVIEW: R&B and Soul singer Brandon James is putting the fire back into the genre

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The R&B/Soul singer Brandon James is creating a strong buzz with the release of his single “So Emotional.” The track is the first single off the upcoming E.P scheduled for release soon. Brandon states that he started doing music as an outlet for depression early in life. “I wasn’t very popular in school and I was considered a latchkey kid due to my mother’s work schedule and my father’s battles with alcoholism,” says the artist. On a teacher’s suggestion to find extracurricular activities, Brandon joined the choir. He finished the eighth grade with a determination to elevate his understanding of music and succeed with his own music. To better his craft, Brandon James has taken voice lessons from Bobby Wilsyn, Ars Musica, and Andrew Schultze. He has played with Earth, Wind & Fire and performed at some of Chicago’s most notable venues including the UIC Pavilion and the House of Blues. Brandon has also earned a degree in music performance and business from the Columbia College of Chicago.

  1. How long have you been in doing music, and did you have any formal training?

Brandon James: I have been perusing music seriously for about 10 years now right after college. I have had voice lessons from some incredible people such as Bobbi Wilson of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble.

      2. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?

Brandon James: always loved Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder, but that list can go on and on if you let me lol.

  1. Which current artists do you consider worth listening to?

Brandon James:  oh there’s a lot. You have SZA, Beyonce, HER, Luke James, Jessie J. Just to name a few.

  1. You are released your new single, “So Emotional” recently. Could you tell us something about how the song came about, and its message or meaning?

Brandon James:  It’s a song about wanting to do the right thing in a relationship after it’s too late. I remember being in rehearsal with the band and discussing relationship drama and my bass player at the time started playing that bass line out of nowhere and it was all she wrote lol.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements people will enjoy about this track, and your music in general?

Brandon James:  I believe the vocal & instrumental performance will get the listeners attention as well as keep them captivated. I also believe that the dynamic range of the song will take them on a nice ride.

  1. What do you think separates you from the massive crowd of artists emerging from the online platforms right now?

Brandon James:  I am really owning this old school live music vibe. I am really focusing on the performance of the song and challenging the listener to vibe with everything that’s going on vs repetitive hooks or chants.

  1. Could you describe your creative process? What do you usually start with – lyrics or music – and how do you go about shaping these ideas into a song?

Brandon James: I usually start with the music and the melody to shape the mood of the song then I take that mood and write the appropriate lyrics to what I see and feel.

  1. Where do you do most of your recording and production work? And do you outsource any or all of these processes?

Brandon James:  I do all the recording between two local studios here in Chicago.

  1. What are some of the main challenges you’re facing now, in recording producing or marketing your music the way you want to?

Brandon James:  just financial challenges. It gets hard doing everything yourself as an independent artist but I make it work.

  1. If you had the opportunity to change one thing about how the music business works right now, what would that be?

Brandon James:  I would love it if the industry really focused on talent and artist development again. We got most of our legends at a time when labels, managers, and agents really wiles for their clients.

  1. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?

Brandon James: oh absolutely! It’s almost hand on hand. I think the technology is a good thing because as an independent artist I can expose my music and message to lots of people who would not have seen me otherwise.

  1. What is your relationship with visual media? Do you think videos are important for your music, and will you be producing one for your single?

Brandon James: I think that music videos are very important as people are more visually stimulated than ever! They also extend the life of a song by a great deal.

  1. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?

Brandon James: I love writing and performing. Recording and doing music videos can be a bit taxing on you but it’s all worth it in the end.

  1. Do you only create and work in a studio environment, or do you also find time to perform live? And which of these two do you ultimately enjoy more?

Brandon James:  I do both but perform a lot more. I’m sure you can tell which one I like better lol.

  1. If someone has never heard Brandon James, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?

Brandon James: “Soulful Divine”

  1. How do you handle criticism and/or haters? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?

Brandon James: I take constructive criticism and the haters and allow it to motivate me to do better. I don’t dwell on any of it to much as art is subjective and I have to stay true to myself but there are some nuggets of gold that you find in some constructive convos with people.

  1. What would you consider a successful, proud or high point in your endeavors so far?

Brandon James: I believe starting my own monthly showcase “Soulful Sunday” in Chicago and getting music on every platform. Those things have been huge milestones for me.

  1. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or the music business so far?

Brandon James: Well musically speaking dealing with people is always hard. Everyone can do everything until it’s time to deliver and then things fall flat. There also seems to be more people out to take advantage of artist than actually help them. But that’s life and we keep moving.

  1. What’s your personal opinion on the general state of R&B and Soul music in 2019?

Brandon James:   I think that Soul music needs a revival. I think it’s not getting the love it deserves and we need more fresh faces like myself out there.

  1. Do you have a specific musical milestone set for the near future, and what else can fans expect from you this year?

Brandon James: I will be releasing another single late summer and my new music video within the next few months. I also hope to be on a major tour soon as my next milestone and making bigger waved with my music on all streaming platforms. This all with the hopes of getting that big breakthrough I need!

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