James’ debut album “It’s Me, Keishera” was released in late September, and is unapologetically her boldest, rawest self. 

Photo: Keishera James

To say it plainly, Keishera James has spirit. Her voice, raspy at first listen, moves into a deep warm song that seemingly never ends with each new melody. Primarily focusing on a mixture of reggae and soul, James’ upbringing is her first and foremost influence.

She was born in Kingston, Jamaica and grew up in Brooklyn.

“The great thing about being from Jamaica is that they have a very eclectic reach when it comes to music,” said James. “My mom listened to Kenny Rogers all the time. Sade, too! And then Tina Turner and Tracey Chapman just resonated with my heart. I just like real, raw music.”[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“The great thing about being from Jamaica is that they have a very eclectic reach when it comes to music. My mom listened to Kenny Rogers all the time. Sade, too! And then Tina Turner and Tracey Chapman just resonated with my heart.” She added,“I just like real, raw music.”[/perfectpullquote]

James was not always a singer, though. She began modeling as a teenager and worked a few different jobs in New York. However, throughout her modeling career, she knew that singing was what she was here to do. She has met with a variety of producers and songwriters, most prominently singer Patti Labelle and poet/activist Maya Angelou. Everyone James has met with has encouraged her to sing. So, she went for it.

James has since created a life for herself in Germany and frequently performs there. She said, “It was in the moment, it just clicked in my head that I needed to give myself a chance. I thought ‘if I go to a country where [singing] is all I’m known for, I can do anything anywhere.’” After blindly buying herself a ticket to Germany, James has created a life there full of music, friendship, and reggae.

Her first EP ‘Body Language’ came out in 2013 and featured the single ‘Rock star.’ Since then, James has been focusing on her most recent album “It’s me, Keishera” (2017). It was officially released on October 6 and has been well received.

Keishera James writes what she feels. She said, “Once someone asked me, ‘Who are you writing to? What is your story?’ From that moment, every time I pen a song, I just try to make it honest and real; this is how I’m feeling right now.”

Throughout James’ new album, the songs expose James’ truest fervor as she sings, “I wish I had the money to give to correct a multitude of sins” in her opening “Song of Hope.” Later, in her sonic ballad ‘Emotion’: “Where are you? I can feel your gravity pulling me in.”

Photo by Keishera James

James absorbs moments and promptly turns them into songs. One day, when she was waiting at Hoboken Train Station in New Jersey, James saw a homeless man rummaging through trash. “The man was collecting bottles in a crowded station and no one noticed. I audibly said ‘Oh my god’ and then started singing.” She sang the lyrics out loud and the man came up to her and asked if she was going to record the song. She told him she hoped so, and then he walked away. James recounted, “I looked down; I felt like it was a surreal moment. Then I looked up and this man was nowhere to be found. He could not have been gone quicker. It felt like an angel. I searched every crevice of every corner and I said… where did he go? Where is this man?”[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I looked down; I felt like it was a surreal moment. Then I looked up and this man was nowhere to be found. He could not have been gone quicker. It felt like an angel. I searched every crevice of every corner and I said… where did he go? Where is this man?”[/perfectpullquote]

The homeless man served as a beacon of light for James and her work; after Song of Hope was recorded, a woman in Germany named a music festival after the song and James was the lead act. Her music often stems from inspiration and experience, as her rawness remains consistent throughout the album.

James’ work is personal and up-close; her song “My Story” is influenced by her distant relationship with her father while ‘Slave to the System’ focuses on police brutality, black-on-black crime, and senseless acts of hatred and violence.

The singer is planning her upcoming solo tour in Europe starting in March 2018. She said, “I don’t want to say who I’ll be performing with yet, but it will be a beautiful thing.”

James is both passionate and headstrong as she takes on prevalent issues with full force.

“Whatever my subject matter is, I want it to impact and empower,” she mused.

You can purchase her album on iTunes, here.

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Emily Rostek

Emily Rostek is a recent graduate from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and English Literature & Language. Ms. Rostek is passionate about just,...

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