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Artist Of The Week // JAMES VICKERY

Allow us the pleasure of featuring James Vickery, the next rising star of the UK R&B scene as he shares his spellbinding new EP Overture.

James Vickery 2020

R&B is certainly a genre that has been making recent resurgences within the British music scene, and with artists such as James Vickery being the driving force behind the musical style, it’s not difficult to see why the genre has enjoyed a second life of popularity. Showcasing silky smooth vocals and glittering harmonies, James brings a captivating sound and an allure that would be futile to resist. And why would you want to resist such a charm?

From the gentle opening of Tear It Apart which gently coaxes us into James’ kaleidoscopic sonic world, you’re taken on a journey through upbeat electronic hits to sultry slow jams. James intertwines exotic melodies with a touch of the 90s in Spanish Rose, but he shows that he can tone the tempo down for ardent passions just as easily in Turn Me On. His new EP impresses in the myriad of emotions that it evokes in the listener, and you would be hard-pressed to find a track that you don’t fall head-over-heels for.

All of these achievements are made more impressive by the fact that James was born deaf in his left ear. Sharing his experience of his pre-existing medical condition, James says:

Growing up in and out of hospital with a hearing impairment was extremely tough for me…If I hadn’t started going to speech therapy at a young age, I’m not sure I would have ever found my voice. The truth is I found out I could sing, almost accidentally – because of speech therapy, and never looked back since…

Given such a poignant story, it comes as no surprise that this is a theme that inspired the EP. James explains:

I decided to call the EP ‘Overture’ as it means ‘an introduction to something more substantial’. I wanted to tell people that this is just the beginning of what they can expect, that an album is soon around the corner. I’m not afraid to talk about my hearing impairment anymore, I’m proud of it, and that’s why the tattoo of the mute icon behind my deaf ear is the main feature in the singles and EP artwork. It is who I am today, and a full representative of why this music is the way it is today.

Feeling inspired by his story, we talked with James more about how he has been shaped into the artist that he is today, and the backstory behind the EP.

What’s a motto you live by?

Always follow your gut.

If your sound had a colour, what colour would it be?

Like a deep dark red, something that is sultry and moody.

What’s something that you wish people understood more about in regards to your hearing impairment?

I find it hard with some songs to get the full picture like mixing a record takes me twice as long, but I’ve learnt to deal with it now.

What advice would you give to someone faced with an unexpected setback?

Stay positive, keep going, you are capable of so much more than you could possibly realise.

If listeners could only take away one message from the EP, what message would you want it to be?

I look up to artists like Nao who has stuck with her sound from day one, and has crafted her own lane. I’m definitely trying to do that myself as a UK Male R&B Singer. I want to cover all bases of R&B and experiment with all the subforms with it, keep people guessing what they can expect from me next – with the one thing that ties it all together, the vocal.

Did you face any surprises along the recording process, whether pleasant or unpleasant?

There’s a song called Pressure on my EP, and at the time I was going through a horrific time in my personal life, the song is a word by word transcription, SG Lewis allowed me to pretty much put everything I said to him that day in the song, and if you listen for yourself, you can see what it’s about haha.

Can you share any behind-the-scenes stories of the recording process with us?

I was listening to Who Hurt You? by Daniel Caesar, and I probably listened about 3 or 4 times before deeping the lyrics and I only then said myself, ‘wow this song is so dirty’. I wanted something like that for me, where everything feels so in the pocket that you forget what it’s REALLY about, until we get to the chorus. Perfect Company wasn’t meant to make it onto the EP but I put a snippet on my Instagram and we got such a great reaction that people were demanding that I put it on, so I did.

Can you tell us more about the features from Kenny Beats and SG Lewis on the EP? How did the collaborations come about, and what was the best part of working together? 

Kenny Beats reached out to me and said he wanted to work, I was a little skeptical at first because I know he kills it in the trap game, so I wasn’t sure what would come out of the session, we instantly hit it off, he brought in Jared Scharff on the guitar (Dominic Fike, DaBaby) and the vibes are so great. It’s a song about a time I felt I was never good enough for someone, no matter how perfect they are.

SG Lewis is my boy. I love that guy, I’d been a fan for about 3 or 4 years from way back to the time when he put out No Less with Louis Mattrs (another JV collaborator). We’re good friends and at the time I was going through a horrible situation where I had been completely used by this girl who was using my name to get a foot into the music industry, I told him the story and the song completely wrote itself, it’s a complete word for word transcription of what was going down around that time, but that’s the beauty of music. It’s such a great blend of SG’s production, and my writing and melodies.

And finally, what does music mean to you?

The source of my happiness.