I'll never forget the day one of my best friends introduced me to an artist who, unbeknownst to me, would soon become one of my favorite vocalists from that day forward. It was about seven years ago, in the middle of winter and we were on our way to a kickback, comfortably packed in her car with a few of our mutual friends. She suddenly grabbed the aux cord and eagerly asked, "Have y'all heard 'Strawberry Vapors' by Luke James?" The rest of us collectively shook our heads and eagerly awaited for the sound to permeate our ears. "Just wait 'till you hear his voice," she warned. "It's insane." Fast forward to today and the word insane feels like a gross understatement to describe the musical gift that is Luke James.
It's about mid-morning when our call connects and Luke is surprisingly calm, cool and collected. There's some hustle and bustle in the background, which is understandable seeing as how in just a few short moments, he'll be headed to rehearsal and subsequently showcasing his God-given talents in front of thousands of adoring fans for an intimate concert experience at the House of Blues in his hometown of New Orleans. How does it feel?
"Magical," he admits honestly to xoNecole. "I'm feeling very magical."
And why wouldn't he? It's a blessing to be back in the city that not only helped shape his musical appetite, but a city that continues to show immense support and undying love. And as a thank you, James is inviting those same fans to connect with him as he soulfully and skillfully expresses his angst and his admiration over a prize we all are seeking but few of us ever really possess: true love.
Photo Credit: Alexander Black
At its core, James' sound is sonically superb. But at its highest? It's seductively sensual, commanding attention from your spirit, soul and body all at the same damn time. With a discography that boasts songs like "Make Love To Me", "I O U", "Exit Wounds", and "Drip", the "These Arms" singer 's voice carries and produces a feeling unlike any other. And his latest album, to feel love/d, is just another near perfect example. The album is a smooth culmination of easy mornings, lovely days, and late nights. It's the cool breeze that blows when the sun peeks out from under the clouds after a storm. The goofy dance you do with the person you love on a lazy Sunday morning and the soothing sway of a porch swing at dusk in the South. The nine-track love letter covers almost every emotion present when it comes to dealing with love and intimacy and is a solid nod to all things soul, funk, and R&B. It's also a timely treat for long-time fans who have been waiting patiently for the talented multi-hyphenate to bless us with something other than his impressive acting chops (looking at you STAR and Little).
We got the chance to chat with the artist about all things love and music, and here's what he had to say.
xoNecole: A lot of your music comes across as very sensual and ethereal. Is that on purpose? How are you able to consistently channel that?
Luke James: Honestly, I try to live in the truth when creating my art. The end result is all God, I guess. I really follow the theory of some of the greats like Quincy Jones, and I just leave room for God. And I think that's what you're hearing.
'To Feel Love/d' is out. What’s your favorite song off the album?
You know, it's really hard to answer that. Each song marked a period in life for me and I feel like if I never had those moments, I wouldn't probably have this album. I wouldn't have this particular perspective on love, being loved, what it means to love someone else and what it means to receive love. So it's really hard for me to pinpoint one song.
I can’t be mad at that. So tell me, what’s your earliest or best memory of what true love was supposed to look like?
I don't quite remember when my mother had me (laughs), but I'm sure that's when it happened. I think that's the truest form I've seen and felt throughout my life. My mom is the truest form of love that I've witnessed thus far from a human being. You know, for mankind, it's quite difficult because we're just 'know-it-alls'. It's really hard to just let the mind go and lead with your heart. But when you find someone who just can't help but love you, you know it. You can feel it, it's undeniable; it's everything.
Photo Credit: Alexander Black
"It's really hard to just let the mind go and lead with your heart. But when you find someone who just can't help but love you, you know it. You can feel it, it's undeniable; it's everything."
Speaking of undeniable, you have an effortless ability to make women feel all the feels when it comes to your voice and your sound. When you hear the word love, what feelings come to mind?
Well, trying to be as honest as I can right now: I'd say sadness and joy. Those are the two words that come to mind. You know, love is hard. But when you get past that place or find that place where love isn't hard--then you can find that joy. Because it's beautiful to surpass sadness with love and through love to find joy. For some people, love is giving up something in some cases. For others, their perspective is that love doesn't mean giving up something. And why should they? Why should they have to give up something for something that should be easy and open and receptive and uncompromisable and forgiving?
What scares you the most and excites you the most about finding true love?
The freedom is what excites [me] the most. When you have freedom, you have support and that's beautiful. What scares me about it, is maybe it not being equal. You know? Maybe I'll love a little less or love a little more than someone else. And that can be scary because how would you know? How do you gauge that?
When it comes to physical intimacy versus emotional intimacy. Which one, if at all is more important to you?
I think I'm more into the emotional part of it…
Why is that?
Because the physical is inevitable, but the emotional is not. If you can have both or work your way to get both, then it's beautiful. But I would start with the emotional aspect of it first and then the physicalities will work itself out. It'll be a lot sweeter, more profound and fulfilling if the emotional cup is full.
Who is Luke James as a lover?
Wow. I like that, that question is cool (laughs). Wouldn't that be a little narcissistic though? Because I could say I'm an amazing lover and someone else who's been around could be like, "Nah." I can tell you who I am to myself, like who I think I am.
(Laughs) That’ll work too.
OK (laughs). Thank you for that. I am--hard on myself. But I am also easy. I don't always see myself, but when I do, it's a breath of fresh air. I would say I am awesome, but someone else might say I am hard to deal with or indecisive. But I am kind. I am love-full, love is who I am; it is me. Maybe my empathy for what I feel in the world sometimes though, makes it hard for someone or for myself to even feel love. It's a lot, I feel everything.
Photo Credit: Alexander Black
"I don't always see myself, but when I do, it's a breath of fresh air. I would say I am awesome, but someone else might say I am hard to deal with or indecisive. But I am kind. I am love-full, love is who I am; it is me. Maybe my empathy for what I feel in the world sometimes though, makes it hard for someone or for myself to even feel love. It's a lot, I feel everything."
Being an empath, what would you say are your love languages?
Communication and time. I'm not as open as I may appear to be. I'm pretty much isolated a lot, so giving my time is pretty valuable to me. And I'm sure it's valuable to my friends and the people who love me.
What do you know now about love that you didn’t know before?
I know nothing (laughs). I know nothing at all but I think that's a part of the beauty of that particular rollercoaster. You know love is up and down, round and round, fast, slow, high and low. Love is also alternating, it can change--and you can make it what you want it to be. But I also think love is honest. It's 100 percent honest, there's no bullshitting in love and when there is, you know it. Love will show it. It's a never-ending story, I'm riding through life.
What’s the biggest difference between the Luke at the start of your career and the Luke now?
I am not green. I am not moved by a lot of things. I'm unimpressed. I am not complacent. It's not about being able to just sing and write songs, or act—it's much more than that. There's much more to me. I think early on I was OK with letting people make decisions and drive the car. I prefer to sit in the driver's seat now.
To Feel Love/d is available to stream everywhere now and for more of Luke, make sure you follow him on IG: @wolfjames.
All images courtesy of Luke James