James Vickery | 5 Minutes With

“Who would’ve thought writing all your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper and singing them would be therapeutic?!”, asks James Vickery, an upcoming British R&B artist. As for any other singer, performing live has been stripped away from James, though he appreciates the time he has been given to work on himself and his mental health. 

Today, South London’s James Vickery shares the first snippet out of his forthcoming album. ‘Somewhere, Out There’ is set to become an anthem for all lost souls and distanced hearts longing to be reunited. It is a follow up to James’ first project, ‘Overture,’ that has seen immense success and gathered an overall of 80 million streams. 

“It’s pretty grim in London right now, but the prospect of releasing a debut album soon is getting me through it,” James admits as we began our chat. Right off the bat, I bring up the creeping charm of silver linings. In James’ case, he did not discover his talents the usual way. As he will elaborate, he spent most of his childhood in and out of hospitals, and it wasn’t until a visit to the speech therapists that changed everything. 

“I definitely believe I wouldn’t have had the confidence to pursue a career in music if I hadn’t gone to that Vocal Coach all those years ago. It was completely by accident. I spent the first 10 years of my life or so going in and out of hospital after they found the benign tumour in my ear and had it removed. It was only recommended I even go because I had no perception of how loud I could speak; singing scales were a large part of engaging your diaphragm and projecting your voice. After that, I was hooked”, James summarises his situation. 

Once he discovered the gold mine, his vocal cords were hiding, James was a singing machine, and he sang everywhere he went. “I think somewhat I’ve always enjoyed singing, but people just couldn’t hear how loud I was speaking, so I couldn’t tell if I was any good. Once I had the therapy, there was definitely no looking back. I was singing all around the house, singing in a choir, a local drama school, everywhere I could”, he says. 

Daily, James has to overcome obstacles other singers do not even think about. Yet, the London-born singer/songwriter calls himself ‘the luckiest boy alive’: “It certainly has its’ difficulties day to day, but if we’re talking strictly as a musician, there’s so many things I struggle to do/can’t do. Mixing records is super hard as I can’t pan between L and R headphones, and when I’m singing live, I need the mix sent back in mono and will need to have a wedge placed to the right-hand side of me in case it goes down… there’s lots haha I could go on and on! I try and never let it get in the way or get me down though, I feel super lucky to be in the position I’m in, and every day I get to do it, I count myself the luckiest boy alive”.

Who we look up to when we’re kids are people we aspire to be one day. James names his idols that had the one thing he didn’t have as a child: “I’ve always been a big fan of singers with big voices. I think that’s something to do with not having one for so long. I loved Boyz II Men and Lauryn Hill growing up, and my mum was massively into Motown. I draw a lot of my inspirations from that era. In later life, a few artists that I look up to now are Daniel Caesar and Giveon. They can do no wrong in my eyes”.

Last year in March, James Vickery put out his first project since being a signed artist. With his debut album coming soon, James confirms his first EP ‘Overture’ was only the beginning as the title suggests: “I called it ‘Overture’ because the definition of it is: An Introduction to something more substantial – the debut album is exactly that.I was overwhelmed with the response to that EP, and it got me really excited as none of those songs have made it to the album. The album is an accumulation of everything I’ve learned as a songwriter and singer and the journey I’ve had until now, whether it be my disability, heartbreak, falling in love etc.”

‘Overture’ was not your ordinary debut release, as it’s gathered over 80 million streams. Amongst others, James highlights the Reading singer and producer SG lewis as his favourite collaboration on ‘Pressure (Part 1 and 2): “He’s been a favourite of mine for so long, and it was so great to work with him. Writing the song with SG was extremely therapeutic for what I was going through at the time and to see it be received so well by people is just everything”. 

A recording that personally introduced me to the rich and uplifting vocals of James Vickery was his immensely popular COLORS session of ‘Until Morning’ with over 22 million views. 

Following his debut EP, as promised, the next chapter is more substantial. Today, James finally reveals the first fragment of his forthcoming album in the form of Math Times-Joy-produced track ‘Somewhere, Out There’: “It’s the story of me feeling lonely, hopeful, seeing everyone around me getting married and wondering if there’s someone special for me out there too. I know there’s a lot of people being forcibly separated from their significant others due to Covid over the last year, and I wrote this song for them too”.

Right before the world became what we know it as today – a mess, James released ‘Overture’. While in several national lockdowns, he still turned to music for comfort, even though it could not be on a stage. “I’ve always been a live performer, and to have that stripped away from me was harder than I ever could have imagined, but it allowed me to have some time to myself and spend some time working on my mental health, something I’m still working on but finishing the album whilst settled in one place really kept me sane. Who would’ve thought writing all your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper and singing them would be therapeutic?!”.

As we all opted for the home workouts to keep the blood flowing, James’ choice of  preferred activity was boxing. “Exercise kept me sane for a lot of it. I fell in love with boxing in the last few years, and honestly, that was my saving grace. Keeping a regular routine, and I know I’ve said it, but music really did keep me sane. I’m still very very lucky to have it as a job”.

While we’re hopefully approaching the end of lockdowns and pandemics, we’re also in anticipation of James Vickery’s debut album that is set to come out this year. Regarding what we can expect from it, the future of UK R&B left us with this: “An album that will make you feel something”. 

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Words: Karolina Kramplova