It’s no wonder that singer-songwriter Luke James has worked with some of the biggest headliners in music. Having written for everyone from Britney to Bieber, the two-time Grammy-nominated artist is also a performer on his own. As a writer, he takes listeners on emotional journeys, in and out of the struggles of life and love, fearlessly expressing all aspects of himself passionately through words. As a performer, he captivates his audiences through extroverted interactivity and playfulness, despite his natural inclination toward introspection. Luke grew up an only child in New Orleans, where he developed a fondness for wolves. “I’ve always been into them, even as a kid before I completely understood them,” he says. “I guess I related to being a loner. I always had a lot of time alone,” Luke continues. “I took the idea of what a wolf is and embraced that demeanor. ” While in Miami working on his next piece of music, BASTARD fanzine caught up with “Wolf James” to gain insight as to what drives the creative beast within.
Written by The BASTARD Child
During your alone time as a child, what did you think about most?
I always thought about what the rest of the world looked like. I wanted to explore; I wanted to see London, Africa, and places like that. I always wanted to be a musician. I used to always make up songs on the fly. I think I’ve always wanted to move people. I had it in the back of my head that this was my calling. I used to imagine what it would be like to have fame like Boyz II Men. Everybody loved Boyz II Men.
From who or what do you draw inspiration?
My mother has been one of my greatest inspirations in my life. She is my first and foremost. My friends also inspire me. I have a lot of creative and successful friends. Also, women. Women that I have encountered—may it be past loves or current loves—inspire me tremendously.
You hold your mother very dear to your heart. Has that love for her influenced how you treat women you are involved with romantically?
Yes. There is no one like my mother. I don’t find myself to be a disrespectful dude. I am loving, caring, and just about as honest as a human being could be. I treat all people with that same regard. But being my mother’s only child, that does reflect some of my actions towards women.
“I think you need to trust someone and they need to trust you.”
You sing a lot about the struggles of love. What do you think is the key to making a relationship work?
Honesty and complete acceptance of yourself and the other. You shouldn’t have to compromise the person you are to be with someone. That’s not fair or cool. I think you need to trust someone and they need to trust you. You’ve been compared to legends like Marvin Gaye and considered by some as the artist who “just might save R&B.”
How do those comparisons and the pressure of such a task impact you?
I take the compliment, but I don’t put too much on it. There are no one else’s shoes I want to walk in; I want to wear my own shoes. Saving R&B is not my goal, breaking the stigma that hovers over gifted black artists of this generation and beyond is. I just want to make great music for the world. I want to be the best me.
You describe your sound as “progressive soul music.” With your very emotional and honest writing style, and writing from your personal experiences, is there anything that you leave out?
I don’t consciously leave anything out or say anything is off limits. Whatever comes and/or happens, I do. When it’s all said and done and I look back at it, if I hear a song of mine and it scares me, then that’s a good thing. I’m not in a safe place; I’m in a place where it’s creative and absolute chaos and where life is happening.
“I’ve learned that everyone is human so just take your time.”
You have worked with some of the biggest names in music, like Prince, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and Britney Spears. What have you learned from those experiences?
I’ve learned that everyone is human so just take your time. Have no fear. The ones with drive and the ones who have conquered their fear are the most successful and iconic performers. They’re remembered. That’s what I’ve taken from all of the amazing artists I’ve been able to walk alongside of and work with.
Are there any words you live by?
“When it rains, get wet.” – Quincy Jones. I have always been fond of this quote. When life happens, experience it. It’s that simple.
What are some of the struggles you face in the music industry?
For me, it is the need to be relevant. I want my music to be presented on a platform that enables it to be heard by many people, rather than just a specific group. It’s a matter of getting your music out there for the world to hear and hoping that people gravitate towards it. As far as financially, there’s that line of, “I want to do music that I like and my friends like and love,” and there may be a lot of money in that, but not right at the forefront. So the question is, do you comprise? Do you do something that’s different or should you do something that’s easy and risk-free? I think it’s better to take the chance with making music that is in sync with your identity and not worry about the money. If it works then it works, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
What struggles do you face in your personal life?
I struggle with time. Absorbing where you’ve come from and where you are is kind of hard because sometimes, as creatives, we always look beyond where we are and look toward the future. For me, it’s just a matter of enjoying where I’m at, taking time to enjoy the people around me and experience life.
In what ways have these challenges made you a stronger person?
It’s allowed me to see clearer and get a better understanding of life and realize that I don’t understand everything. You learn not to take things for granted and not be so stressed and enjoy moments when they come. I learned to not take myself too seriously. I don’t know if these things have made me a better person or stronger, but I do know that they helped me with my happiness.
“If my eyes open and I’m able to breathe, stand up, and have a chance to do something greater than I did the day before, I’m with it.”
What drives you to succeed?
My immediate family and my mother drive me to succeed. My ultimate gift to her is to show her that her belief in me will not go in vein. I refuse to be a failure and that drives me. If my eyes open and I’m able to breathe, stand up, and have a chance to do something greater than I did the day before, I’m with it.
What are you currently focused on?
My focus is to really be who I am and show the world. That’s where I am right now. The focus is to now come out of the shadows and let people see the real Luke James.
What would you say to those who dare to follow their dreams?
Don’t be stuck in your way — there are people who know more than you! Listen to them, take their advice, and then make your decision. Don’t ignore the dumbest advice. Don’t ignore where the magic lies. You must stay open to the possibilities of where magic can come from. When I say magic, I mean opportunities. But don’t wait for opportunity to come. Be seen, be loud, be crazy, and be unforgettable. And fuck fear.
Luke James is Being Accomplished at Selfless Tasks And Righteous Deeds by donating the proceeds raised from the sale of this fanzine to the New York-based nonprofit The Precious Dreams Foundation, which provides bedtime comfort items and teaches youth the importance of self-comfort. “When I want to lay my head down that’s the time when the demons are the loudest,” Luke says. “The Precious Dreams Foundation focuses on children who are in transition from homes, foster care, and poor communities. It helps them sleep. Whether it a blanket, book, or teddy bear, the foundation helps to alleviate suffering, ease their mind, and confront their fears in order to allow them to focus on their dreams.”