Photo credit: Akshay Bhoan

“Nina Simone was the gateway drug for me,” says New York-based soul-singing songstress Morgan James. “It made me want to dig deeper into the blues and into soul music. From there, you find some of the best singers with the best sounds, and if you’re lucky, you can try to emulate certain parts of their styles. I hope people can listen to my album and hear something totally original, but also hear a tip of the hat to all the music I love.” Raised on a steady diet of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, James found her way to other great writers and interpreters of the art; “As long as you follow the pathway of great music, you’re always going to find more great music,” she says.

James’ latest album, Reckless Abandon, was released on April 7th, her first as an independent artist. “I was on Epic Records for almost five years, and released two records there,” she explains. “I learned a lot about making an album; when it came time to make this one, we had a clean slate really, we could do whatever we wanted,” she continues. “I spent the last year or so writing a lot of new material with many different songwriting partners, and when it came time to choose songs, my team came together, and there wasn’t a lot of arguing or red tape. That’s the beauty of being independent, you can do what you want,” she adds. “There’s a lot of freedom in this record.”

This newfound autonomy had a great impact on her creative process—her only rule was to stay true to herself. “I spent a lot of time being afraid in the past—afraid of being told no, afraid no one would like it, afraid of being dropped,” she says. “Now, I can focus on the quality of my music, and saying something was authentically me. There’s no better time to be an independent artist than right now. There are so many great artists breaking through, and I’m really proud to be doing it this way.”

Now on the second leg of her tour in support of Reckless Abandon, James will be making a stop in the Music City to perform at City Winery on Tuesday, May 23rd with her band, plus a Nashville-based horn section. “I’ve never played Nashville! I can’t wait!” she reveals. “It’s going to be a really fun show.”

Tickets and show information:

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