Minneapolis-born thespian José James talks Bill Withers and ‘Fifty Shades Darker’
March 13, 2018 - Fifty Shades of Grey
José James has a new hairdo. Again. And a new sound. Once again.
The Minneapolis-reared performer no longer has a blur he sported when he became an acclaimed immature jazz vocalist with hip-hop instincts and electronica urges in 2013. He’s no longer rocking dreadlocks like he did final year, when he accessible an strange manuscript of charming contemporary essence music.
No, he’s debuting a 1970s-style Afro. That’s given he’s interpreting songs of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bill Withers, who done “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me” and “Lean on Me” into classics in a early ’70s.
“What preoccupied me is everybody knows his strain though people don’t know him. There’s probably no info accessible outward of his documentary ‘Still Bill’ in 2009. Even that has unequivocally small personal information,” pronounced James, who is bringing his Withers uncover to his hometown Tuesday and Wednesday during a Dakota. “Outside of Sade, Bill has to be a many popular, successful black artist of all time who we knew probably zero about. Musically, we didn’t know he had so many albums.”
Plucking 12 tunes from Withers’ 9 albums, James will record a reverence this month in Capitol Records’ studio in Hollywood with Grammy-winning writer Don Was. The manuscript is scheduled for a Sep recover by Blue Note Records.
JOSÉ JAMES SINGS BILL WITHERS
When: 7 p.m. Tue.-Wed.
Where: Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.
Tickets: $30-$45; 612-332-1010, dakotacooks.com
“We’ll be in Studio B, where they have Nat King Cole’s Steinway piano,” pronounced James, who was job from a outpost en track to a gig during a John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
James pronounced that his idea is “trying to figure out a right change between being deferential and holding tenure of a material. we don’t wish it to be karaoke.”
He added, “Thankfully, Bill thinks of himself some-more as a songwriter than a performer. That frees me adult to appreciate it in my possess way.”
This will be a second outing to Capitol Studios for a New York-based singer. He trafficked there to record dual songs for a 2017 soundtrack for a film “Fifty Shades Darker,” an manuscript that also featured Taylor Swift, Sia, Halsey and John Legend, among others.
One of James’ marks was “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” that was initial famously accessible by Frank Sinatra in 1956 in a same studio.
“I got to sing on a same microphone Frank Sinatra used. He even wrote his initials on a [microphone] box,” James said. “It was surreal. we got to hear a strange chart. The effort [saxophone] actor who was on a strange record is on a session, too.”
Movie behaving debut
James also got to act in “Fifty Shades Darker,” as a immature Sinatra-like thespian behaving in a club. He spent 3 days in Vancouver filming his initial purpose in a vital suit picture. To prepare, he didn’t review a novel on that a film is based, nonetheless he did watch a 2015 film “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“I didn’t wish to know too most about it given we literally went from being a normal dude doing my thing to being on a soundstage with some unequivocally large stars and 200 extras,” he said. “In a way, not meaningful is better. we didn’t get freaked out when they said, ‘Action.’ ”
James, who hopes to do some-more drama, had been operative with an behaving manager to assistance him move a “new turn of romantic vulnerability” to his singing.
“That unequivocally helped me with a Billie Holiday reverence manuscript we did, generally when it’s songs that meant a lot to people — songs people got married to or had during celebrations.”
For one exercise, James was compulsory to apart lyrics from a strain and perform them as a monologue.
“That’s difficult, generally if we know a song,” he said. He pronounced he found this technique useful for interpreting ballads.
In 2015, he expelled a critically lauded “Yesterday we Had a Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday,” whom James always deliberate his “musical mother.”
A year earlier, after his daughter was born, James quit smoking and celebration and returned to voice lessons, that helped enhance his range.
The Withers plan started out as a judgment for live performances. But writer Was, who also is a boss of Blue Note, wanted it to turn a record, too. So he organised for James to accommodate final year in Los Angeles with a long-retired Withers, who turns 80 in July.
“We talked by everything. He gave us his blessing,” James pronounced proudly. “Meeting with Bill altered it for me. It became a lot some-more personal.”
James grew adult with Withers’ music. Frankly, he can’t remember not conference Withers’ songs.
“He was always there,” James said. “He’s always on a radio. He’s during each family cookout, barbecue, gathering. He’s interwoven in a fabric of American strain a same approach Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel are.”
Minneapolis strain roots
James grew adult in Minneapolis, son of a Panama-born saxophonist/percussionist father (Willie a Bees, Shangoya, Ipso Facto) and Irish-American hippie mother. In 1999, he went to New York City to investigate contemporary strain during a New School, and he has stayed in a Big Apple ever since.
In 2004, he was a finalist in a prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocalist Competition. He accessible dual albums for a London tag Brownswood and one for Verve and, in 2012, sealed with Blue Note, a earlier jazz tag that has branched out to such cocktail heroes as Norah Jones, Van Morrison and Rosanne Cash.
James is famous for throwing curveballs with each project, either he’s singing jazz standards or essence originals or doing a reverence album.
Whatever he chooses, audiences seem to follow him. He has done a vital during strain for some-more than 10 years. This year, he’ll play about 150 gigs, divided between a United States and abroad.
In January, he incited 40.
“I don’t consider it has altered me,” he said. “I suspicion it was going to be a bigger impact than it has been.
“It’s all mental. Most people consider I’m like 30. we work out. we take caring of myself. But we had a integrate days where we was unequivocally freaked out about it. But it’s cool.”