Catching Up With Ron James
Last week I interviewed the extraordinary saxophonist Ron James. His debut album, I Feel Ya, was released in 2007 and it is definitely worth checking out soon. From his uptempo songs Time and Without You, to his more mellow songs Prep Time and Schiniese, Ron offers listeners a variety of tracks that give his music a very soulful vibe. His experiences include sharing the stage with such artists as Frank McComb, Jill Scott and Richard Smallwood and he is featured on the Pace Sisters’ last album, Return. Here’s a little of our conversation, in which he talks about his current projects and his upcoming tour:
Mimi Soul: What are some of the things that inspire and influence your music?
Ron: I’ve been influenced by many different musicians and artists and my inspiration comes from a little bit of everywhere. I may look at a sunset and be inspired to write a song. Or, I may write a song about an experience I’ve had. So, my inspiration really comes from everywhere.
Mimi Soul: Can we expect a second album from you sometime? If so, how will it be different from your first one?
Ron: Yes! The goal for my first album was essentially to get my name out there and put something down. And, when you do that, you tend to not have a focus when it comes to the album’s direction. So, I have a plan for the theme of my next album. I don’t want to tell too much but I can tell you that the name of the album will be Front Porch. So, just think about what a front porch means. In the songs, I’m going to give my experiences about what happens on my front porch.
I’m actually working on two projects right now. In addition to my second album, I’m working on a more inspirational, Christian album. I have to definitely pay homage to my roots and give glory and honor to God. I give Him honor in everything I do but I want something focused in that direction. It’s going to be something that you’ve heard before but not in this way. A lot of people feel like gospel has to be mixed with hip-hop or r&b but I’m going to take it back. I’m going to go more toward the traditional stuff that your parents used to listen to. People tell me that they want to hear something that puts them in the mindset of worship. So, that’s what this one will do more than anything else.
I’ll also be on tour this year from August to November so I’m really planning for that. I’m still working on my albums but I don’t plan on releasing them until after the tour is over. I haven’t done any touring for my first album so this is a good time and I don’t want to release the other albums prematurely.
Mimi Soul: Are there any artists that you haven’t worked with yet and would like to work with in the future?
Ron: Yes, I’d love to work with Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Earl Klugh, George Benson and Joe Sample. The names go on and on. Kirk Whalum is one of my icons. I’d love to sit down in a room with him and just jam. I think talking to him would give me more insight than playing with him because he’s very spiritual and insightful.
Mimi Soul: I once heard someone say that the stage is where music is performed and the studio is where music is perfected. As a jazz artist, how do you make sure that the authentic sound of a live stage performance is displayed in an album?
Ron: That’s one of the hardest things to do. I think the best way to create that vibe is to have all the musicians in one studio session at the same time and play the music right there. That gives the resemblance of what happens on stage. However, the energy from the crowd is not there and the overall energy is not there. So, it gives a different vibe in the studio and yes, the music is perfected in the studio because you can listen back and hear all of the mistakes that you would normally miss in a live situation.
Mimi Soul: From having a good management team, to having a unique sound, there are several tools that an independent artist needs to be successful. What items would you say need to be in a successful artist’s toolbox?
Ron: I’d say you need good skills and good teams for management, production and direction of your stage shows. You also need a work ethic and a business mindset because if you’re working hard but doing the wrong things, it doesn’t make sense. After these things are in your toolbox, everything else kinda falls into place.
With all of his successes, it’s obvious that Ron James is an artist who has a very heavy toolbox, filled with all of the tools necessary to produce good music. I think you’ll agree when you listen to I Feel Ya, which you can purchase from iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon. You can also get updates about his tour schedule from his website.