I’m not someone who fans out over performers. However, when I ran across Morgan James on YouTube, I found myself unintentionally captivated by the singer.
The first time I ran across Morgan James was in August 2014. She appeared in a Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) cover of the song “Maps” by Maroon 5. While PMJ is primarily fronted by the vocals of Robyn Adele Anderson (who I also find to be wonderful), they regularly bring in other vocalists for their performances. To be honest, I was just running through my YouTube subscriptions and this performance didn’t stand out to me while I was casually listening and working on something else. Then, at around the 2:50 mark of the video, there’s a little breakdown and Ms. James hits a huge note that made me stop what I was doing and pay full attention to the video. I promptly re-watched it (several times) and then went in search of other music featuring the singer.
At the time, the only thing I could find on YouTube was a lone video on her channel; a cover of Sam Smith’s “I’m not the Only One”. Even though it was stylistically different, it still featured the aspects of James that got my attention initially. In a world of female vocalists that have some overwhelming power, she doesn’t have the biggest voice, but it feels big. The best way I could think to describe it would be to say that it’s focused. There’s an intensity and intention behind her singing that makes you feel like there’s more volume being produced than there might actually be. That’s not to say that there isn’t power behind her vocals, because there definitely is. It just felt to me like, rather than trying to make her vocals overwhelming, she was using her voice as a very precise tool that gave purpose to everything that she sang. On top of that, there’s a soulfulness to her singing that continued to draw me in.
After that, I went and did a little digging to find out who this woman is. It turns out that she’s a Juilliard trained singer, who had already played several parts on Broadway. Most notably (to me), she played Teena Marie (a singer I really enjoyed) in Motown: The Musical. She also moonlighted as a singer during her time on Broadway and had a live concert of Nina Simone covers released. She also released a studio album entitled,”Hunter” which features a cover of Prince’s “Call My Name” that was approved by Prince himself. Based on her selection of covers and listening to a few interviews with her, I think we were raised on a similar style of music and that’s probably part of the reason why I enjoy so many of her covers. There’s a lot of influence stemming from classic folk/rock and the hay day of Mowtown Records. From listening to her talk, you can tell that she has a deep respect for that era of music.
Since then (about a year between 2014 and the writing of this post), she’s continued to put out YouTube videos on her own channel, performed in more videos with Postmodern Jukebox, and done tours with PMJ as well as for Hunter. I go out of my way to listen to anything I see her put out. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t loved all of it, but I do love a good majority of it. This woman is pretty much the definition of “Blue Eyed Soul” and I’ve caught myself just staring a few times while I’ve been listening to her. Not because of how she looks (you can tell from the picture that she’s easy on the eyes) but because of the way she sings. I hope that she has a long career ahead of her.
If you’re curious, you can find Morgan James all over the place but some good places to start would be: