Blues vocalist from Pocatello has breakthrough 2017

 Pocatello-raised Morgan James had a breakthrough 2017 and is gearing up for another busy year in 2018. Photo courtesy Shervin Lainez

Pocatello-raised Morgan James had a breakthrough 2017 and is gearing up for another busy year in 2018.
Photo courtesy Shervin Lainez

By Josh Friesen For the Journal

Morgan James was in Budapest when someone’s words moved her to tears.

“He said, ‘Just remember that your music’s going to keep living on beyond what you’re aware of,” 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 — her second studio album and her first as an independent artist — the encounter was an inspiring lesson about faith.

“Having faith is not about seeing all the results at once,” she said. “Having faith is stepping out and saying, ‘I’m making music I really feel passionate about, and I hope somewhere, somehow, it’s touching somebody.”

That faith is paying off, and from stages around the world, James’ 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 “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album and has already begun writing a follow-up record to Reckless Abandon.

It’s 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.

“He wrote this great article and that was a great gift,” James said. “And then for him to kind of still be remembering (the album) at the end of the year and be putting it on that list, … it was so amazing to me, and I was really thankful.”

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.

“It is really grueling, and it’s even more grueling for the band because they’re hauling all of the gear and we’re living on a bus, and we did 25 cities in 30 days,” James said. “It 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. … Yes, we were exhausted when it was done, but we had such a fun time.”

James’ trek across Europe allowed her to see the impact her music is able to make globally.

“We sold out a city in Denmark called Aalborg,” James said. “I’ve 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’s listening. I had so many experiences like that. … I don’t have a following like Beyonce or Taylor Swift, but I’m important to somebody.”

Now that James is stateside again, she’s focused on developing a concept album for an all-female “Jesus Christ Superstar” album. “Jesus Christ Superstar” 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’ concept album aims to feature most of the cast — including James portraying the role of Jesus Christ and Broadway performer Shoshana Bean portraying Judas Iscariot — from a live, all-female “Jesus Christ Superstar” performance in New York last January. If everything falls into place, James hopes to perform the album live on tour.

“I put together as many amazing women as I could,” James said.

James is also in the early stages in writing her follow-up record to Reckless Abandon.

“I’m not a slave to a label right now — for better or worse,” she said. “I definitely don’t have to do anything except follow where the inspiration leads. My gut says the next one’s going to be very back to the roots, and maybe no electronic elements.”

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.

“It really touches my heart that anybody cares about what I have to say,” she said. “The stage is a sacred place to me, and anyone who comes to listen to me play music is part of that sacred space. … Everybody wants to be in that room together, and that’s something that makes my heart swell.”