Luke James Interview: Beyoncé Tour Opening Slot Shines Spotlight on R&B’s Rising Star
Image attributed to Luke James
R&B recording artist Luke James was chosen again by 17-time Grammy Award winner and global superstar Beyoncé as the opening performer on her Mrs. Carter show World Tour of 2013 for the US and Canadian leg of her tour.
James was nominated for Best R&B performance at the 2013 Grammy Awards for his hit single, “I Want You,” and nominated for Best New Artist at the 2012 Soul Train Awards. Recently branded by Billboard as “R&B’s new golden boy” and “a star,” BET.com also said, “It would be a pop culture injustice if Luke James doesn’t become a household name.”
"I was thrilled! It’s just out of this world for somebody like her to ask me. Beyoncé could pick anybody. She could have anybody who had an album out or had a bigger fan base, but she asked me. I’m just grateful. I’m grateful to her and the rest of the family for embracing me into their family."
The singer has amassed an impressive list of writing credits, including tracks with Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and Britney Spears as well as Keri Hilson, Brandy and others. His highly anticipated debut album, Made to Love, is scheduled for release Fall 2013.
James can also be seen in the upcoming film, Black Nativity, co-starring with Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige due for release November 18, 2013.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Luke, congratulations on opening a second time for Beyoncé’s The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour! She has a band comprised of all women. How are you handling that?
Luke James: It’s really cool. I love being around women. I was raised by a single parent, my mother, so it’s quite natural for me to be around women. It’s beautiful.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did you feel when Beyoncé asked you to open for her again?
Luke James: I was thrilled! It’s just out of this world for somebody like her to ask me. Beyoncé could pick anybody. She could have anybody who had an album out or had a bigger fan base, but she asked me. I’m just grateful. I’m grateful to her and the rest of the family for embracing me into their family.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s some of the advice you’re receiving from Beyoncé and Jay-Z?
Luke James: It’s quite funny that the advice I’ve gotten from both of them at separate times that sticks out in my mind is just “stand your ground.” They said, “Keep doing the music you’re doing, don’t detour and don’t differ because of what you think other people want to hear. Just stand your ground, and the people will come around.” That’s the best advice I could have gotten, especially now in this part of my career.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have any stage fright performing in front of thousands of people?
Luke James: I never get what is actually stage fright. I guess it’s mostly nervousness. I hope I never lose that feeling of nervousness because that just keeps me on my “A” game. I think the day I’m not nervous is the day things will go wrong, and I take it for granted at what I’m doing, reaching all the people I’m able to reach and speak to at one time. But I will say that I’m getting a little more comfortable on stage and more secure with who I am as a man and also as an artist.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you finished the new album?
Luke James: I’m still working on it. I believe that if it’s not on the shelves, there’s work to be done. I can always find a new experience to have, create and add to it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Has a release date been set?
Luke James: We don’t have an exact date, but we do have a month … September.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you write the majority of the songs?
Luke James: Yes ma’am, I did. I collaborated with a few people, but I believe if a song feels great to me and I believe in it and can relate to it, I’ll do it. But the majority of the album is written by myself.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): From the title, Made to Love, can we assume it’s comprised of all love songs?
Luke James: “Made to Love” is actually a song that I did. The album was titled something else. I’ve got to be honest. It was the president of Mercury, David Massey, who came up with the idea once he heard that song. It was his idea just to call the album Made to Love. I fell into that. I fell in love with that idea and that concept because it is something that I do believe in.
When you listen to the music in totality, you get the sense that’s the journey, the goal, the idea I’m trying to obtain. I believe we were all created in love and on the album, you’ll feel that. It’s not all love songs, but I believe everything has something to do with love.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The album’s first single, “Make Love to Me,” certainly has something to do with love. Were you singing that song to anyone special?
Luke James: Not at that present moment (laughs). I look at it as having a double meaning, a double entendre kind of thing. It’s a physical thing you’re asking for, but you could look at it from a different perspective. You want every encounter that you have with people you love to spend the time with you on this earth. You’ve had these encounters before, and you feel like you’ve made love before, but you haven’t. This is really what I’m talking about, an unconditional not ordinary love.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your performance of “I Want You” was nominated for a Grammy. I am amazed at your vocal register in that song. Do you know your octave range?
Luke James: I don’t. It’s baritone and third tenor maybe, if there is such a thing as a third tenor (laughs), but my voice is changing over time. I see it only getting better as long as I protect it and strengthen it. I don’t fully know my octaves. I need to find that out (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You definitely do. I hear so much Brian McKnight and Luther Vandross in your songs. Who were your inspirations early in life?
Luke James: Well, those are both of my mother’s favorites. My mother played all genres of music, so I grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, the Neville Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and Reba McEntire. My mother didn’t let me listen to a lot of hip-hop, but I like Nars and of course Jay-Z. Donny Hathaway was great at conveying his passion in his words.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How would you say your style is different from other R&B performers?
Luke James: That’s really hard for me to answer. I think that my style is my style. It’s Luke James’ style, not anyone else’s. I don’t try to sound like anyone else. It’s coming from my experiences, my moods. How I feel is how I create. I guess it determines the formula what I choose to use in order to create music, even to how I sing.
I would use a high falsetto in “I Want You” for the hook. It’s the story. It was the urgency that I was trying to convey and say. A high falsetto, I guess, is vulnerable. I wanted to be vulnerable. It’s all a matter of how I feel, and I think that’s where I differ from other artists. There’s only one Luke James.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were there financial difficulties and other problems, Luke, being raised by a single parent?
Luke James: My mother never let me think of the financial area of the household. I was oblivious to it. She did really good at that. We had ups and downs as far as moving in with my grandfather because he had Alzheimer’s. There were some moments that were hard to deal with, but all in all, I had a great upbringing. My mother taught me how to be a man, how to cherish my time, be respectful and thankful.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does your mom still live in New Orleans?
Luke James: Yes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): See her often?
Luke James: Holidays, stuff like that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you always wanted to perform?
Luke James: This is all I wanted to do my whole life. Maybe early, I didn’t know exactly what it would be, but I knew it would be to entertain people, to bring joy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your Twitter handle is @whoisLukejames. You may have to change that as the popularity grows day by day.
Luke James: Yeah. I thought about doing that, but I believe I’m forever changing, so I guess I might just keep it. I may be something different tomorrow, you know?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How was your first acting experience?
Luke James: The movie, Black Nativity, was an awesome opportunity that was presented. I performed on BET and guess I did such a great job that the producers and casting director called my agency and inquired if I could act (laughs). They sent me the script, I auditioned, and that was that.
The experience was one that I will never forget to be in the presence of such people like Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, the beautiful Jennifer Hudson and director Kasi Lemmons. They were just so warm to me, welcomed me and made me feel comfortable. Acting is an art that I do want to get into. It’s something that I think I’d really enjoy doing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Wishing you success in that venture as well as continued prosperity in the music business, Luke. Let me leave you with this last question. What is something you can tell us about yourself that people would be shocked to know?
Luke James: I’m not that cool (laughs). What they see on stage … people think I’m like this “big” guy or this suave kind of guy who’s all sexy and cool all the time. I’m really not that person. On stage is different. I guess that might be the person I really want to be, so I guess I bask in that opportunity … to be someone else, another part of Luke.
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