By Josh Friesen For the Journal
Morgan James was in Budapest when someone‚Äôs words moved her to tears.
‚ÄúHe said, ‚ÄėJust remember that your music‚Äôs going to keep living on beyond what you‚Äôre aware of,‚ÄĚ she said.
James, a Boise-born and Pocatello-raised soul singer and songwriter, was in the middle of a European tour in which she and her band performed in various countries between November and December. For James, who last April released Reckless Abandon ‚ÄĒ her second studio album and her first as an independent artist ‚ÄĒ the encounter was an inspiring lesson about faith.
‚ÄúHaving faith is not about seeing all the results at once,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúHaving faith is stepping out and saying, ‚ÄėI‚Äôm making music I really feel passionate about, and I hope somewhere, somehow, it‚Äôs touching somebody.‚ÄĚ
That faith is paying off, and from stages around the world, James‚Äô voice is resonating. She sold out shows in Europe, performed with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Malaysia, is spearheading the development of an all-female ‚ÄúJesus Christ Superstar‚ÄĚ concept album and has already begun writing a follow-up record to Reckless Abandon.
It‚Äôs a been a heck of a ride for the blues artist whose passion for singing began in the Gate City, and her commitment to continue creating music remains strong.
Michael Bialas of The Huffington Post included James on his list of the best music of 2017, also naming her his Brightest Breakout Artist of the Year. It was Bialas who premiered the review of Reckless Abandon when the album debuted last spring.
‚ÄúHe wrote this great article and that was a great gift,‚ÄĚ James said. ‚ÄúAnd then for him to kind of still be remembering (the album) at the end of the year and be putting it on that list, ‚Ä¶ it was so amazing to me, and I was really thankful.‚ÄĚ
Around the time of the release of Reckless Abandon last April, James embarked on a tour across the United States that included a stop in Boise, which was the first time James played in her home state. Then, in mid-November, James and her band flew across the pond for a month-long tour in Europe that featured stops in exotic locales such as London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna.
‚ÄúIt is really grueling, and it‚Äôs even more grueling for the band because they‚Äôre hauling all of the gear and we‚Äôre living on a bus, and we did 25 cities in 30 days,‚ÄĚ James said. ‚ÄúIt was also so much fun because every single day you wake up in a new country or a new city. You wake up and you see some beautiful Christmas market in Germany. ‚Ä¶ Yes, we were exhausted when it was done, but we had such a fun time.‚ÄĚ
James‚Äô trek across Europe allowed her to see the impact her music is able to make globally.
‚ÄúWe sold out a city in Denmark called Aalborg,‚ÄĚ James said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve never even heard of Aalborg much less been there, and it was this beautiful little Christmas-y wonderland. And to never have been in a place and sell out all the tickets, you just never know who‚Äôs listening. I had so many experiences like that. ‚Ä¶ I don‚Äôt have a following like Beyonce or Taylor Swift, but I‚Äôm important to somebody.‚ÄĚ
Now that James is stateside again, she‚Äôs focused on developing a concept album for an all-female ‚ÄúJesus Christ Superstar‚ÄĚ album. ‚ÄúJesus Christ Superstar‚ÄĚ was a rock opera composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, with the album debuting in 1970 and the Broadway performance debuting a year later.
James‚Äô concept album aims to feature most of the cast ‚ÄĒ including James portraying the role of Jesus Christ and Broadway performer Shoshana Bean portraying Judas Iscariot ‚ÄĒ from a live, all-female ‚ÄúJesus Christ Superstar‚ÄĚ performance in New York last January. If everything falls into place, James hopes to perform the album live on tour.
‚ÄúI put together as many amazing women as I could,‚ÄĚ James said.
James is also in the early stages in writing her follow-up record to Reckless Abandon.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not a slave to a label right now ‚ÄĒ for better or worse,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúI definitely don‚Äôt have to do anything except follow where the inspiration leads. My gut says the next one‚Äôs going to be very back to the roots, and maybe no electronic elements.‚ÄĚ
2017 was a fast-paced year for Morgan James. She released her first independent album and embarked on a pair of extensive tours. If the trend continues, 2018 will look to be another breakthrough year for the singer, and James is on a journey to impact audiences in any way she can.
‚ÄúIt really touches my heart that anybody cares about what I have to say,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThe stage is a sacred place to me, and anyone who comes to listen to me play music is part of that sacred space. ‚Ä¶ Everybody wants to be in that room together, and that‚Äôs something that makes my heart swell.‚ÄĚ