After a wildly successful debut season of VERSES & FLOW, LEXUS decided to extend the season by visiting three different cities, kicking off in Chicago, with Philadelphia and Dallas to follow. In each city, a spoken word audition/competition was held, as well as a live performance. In Dallas, the featured artist was singer/songwriter LUKE JAMES. The New Orleans native gave us a few minutes in between studio sessions to talk about his LEXUS experience, how preachers and singers are similar, and his advice to young singers trying to establish themselves in the music industry.
LA: Tell us about your experience performing at Verses & Flow Live in Dallas. What about the event stood out for you?
LJ: Man, I loved it. The energy was beautiful. It was a night of beauty and sexiness, for sure. Everyone came to have a good time. I didn't get time to hang out after the show, but the audience showed us a lot of love. Matter of fact, I'd say this show was the second best show I've ever performed.
Which songs did you perform at the event?
Well, I started with "Guilty Pleasure," and also performed "Angel," "Soldier," "I Want You," and two covers--Mint Condition's "Breakin' My Heart" and Ready For The World's "Love You Down."
Wow. So you basically put on a concert.
[laughs] I did. The covers are important because sometimes an audience won't know your original work, but when they hear an old song that they're familiar with, it gets them comfortable. Certain songs open you up. It's like a preacher; a congregation is very receptive when you hear the preacher speak and realize that he's been where you've been, gone through what you've gone through. You get comfortable, and listen more intently. It's the same with singers. When they sing lyrics that you can identify with, you listen more intently. Get more comfortable with them.
Very true. Was that something you learned growing up in New Orleans? How did that culture help mold you as an artist?
The New Orleans culture was incredible. When I was younger, I'd listen to everything on the radio. Except rap. My mom was a single parent, and worked hard to keep things positive, so she said no to that. I think the closest I got to rap was D'Angelo [laughs]. But for real, in the late 90s, radio played everything. It was much more diverse than it is now. So I got a taste of everything.
How was it going back home and performing?
I didn't know what to expect going back, but folks from high school came to the show, and of course family and friends. It was a different feeling, like an out of body experience. Probably my best show ever. Which is why I can't wait to go back this summer and perform during ESSENCE. It's gonna be crazy.
I think folks need to be aware that you're a songwriter as well as a singer. What was the first song you wrote that was placed and how did it make you feel?
My first placement was a song I wrote for Ruben Studdard called "Change Me." It turned out to be a big record for him, and it was gratifying to hear something that I wrote, an idea that I came up with turn into a great song. I have to give a major shout out to Lil Steve [Russell] of TROOP and the Underdogs for working with me and making that happen.
Who came up with the 'Who Is Luke James' campaign?
Actually, it started out as a Twitter thing. I was already out there as an artist with [the group] Luke & Q, so when that ended, I came back out and added my last name, which was definitely something folks weren't familiar with. So then Who Is Luke James? was born. It made sense, too, since that's a question that asks who I am, but also, who I'm becoming. And as I keep evolving and growing, the answer to that question changes organically.
You worked with Beyonce. Having someone like that give a co-sign is huge.
That was definitely a great time, working with her as a performer in her "Run The World (Girls)" video. Her and her sisters have always been big believers in me and my brother. Really, it's all thanks to Frank Gatson, Jr., who I've worked with over the years and connected me with Beyonce and Kelly. Really thankful for their support.
What's the craziest thing you've encountered within the industry thus far?
I think the craziest thing is when people ignore their feelings when hearing a song. It's easy today to hear something and say you like it, but what were you feeling when you heard it? We need to stop thinking about how a song will blend in with the Drakes and the Wiz [Khalifa]'s, and really start standing out. Breaking away from the status quo and start feeling the music. Not to do that doesn't make any sense.
Any advice to young singers trying to establish themselves?
Stay progressive. Never stop growing. Work hard. Network. Stay in a positive headspace. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Pray. Stay grounded. And most importantly, never stop learning, and wanting to learn. Want more!
Luke James is currently making appearances across the country in support of his pre-album #Luke, which was released in December 2011. You can order the album via iTunes, and reach the artist via his website, WhoIsLukeJames.com.