XMPL Cover Story: Locked In With R&B Artist James Worthy

Cover Photography: Mitchell Morales

Grammy nominated musician and record producer, James Worthy talks his ‘Kaleidoscopes’ EP, upcoming music, quarantine and more.

Hailing out of one of America’s most cultural destinations, Atlanta-based musician and record producer, James Worthy, follows his solo debut project from last year, ‘Blu Leisure’ and doubles down in 2020 with his latest EP ‘Kaleidoscopes.

With production credits from work with renown artists such as T-Pain, 6LACK and Fetty Wap – its no wonder that James Worthy peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart before officially hitting the solo scene and taking the music industry head on back in 2018. Since then, the Queens native re-introduced himself through his critically acclaimed solo debut EP ‘Blu Leisure’ and thus giving listeners a fresh and alternative R&B sound.

In February, the singer and songwriter surprised us by gathering a hard roster of collaborators for his ‘Kaleidoscopes’ EP, and indicates that it is the first of many collaborations to expect this year. Last month, James hinted at working with Canadian recording artist Kiki Rowe for a new track and has confirmed that it is very much on its way. “We have a new song called ‘Love Lost.’ It should be coming out probably end of June. We’re putting some things together for a big release regarding that song so I’m excited about that.”

As the quarantine first shook the world, the Grammy nominated artist released his single ‘Do You Know‘ and tells me of its purpose. “Do You Know – it’s more so what I call ‘quarantine music’ so kind of giving people something to hold them over with the addition of the Kaleidoscopes EP. Just keep the momentum going and new content and fresh new music – for every short song you’re kind of feeding people new stuff. That was really the purpose of it. It was more so I had that song sitting around like probably a year and half so I’m like, let me just throw it out there to give people light, ya know?”

The This Wave singer later found himself conflicted and lost in thought, as the continued discrimination and injustice of black people rises in the US. Holding his head high, James called to inspire others and asks for us to all stand together during these times to create real change. “To be Black in America is to be celebrated, valued and treated with respect for one another,” the artist pens in an open letter to his Instagram.

With change slowly headed in the right direction, James informs us to be prepared for a culturally giving and legendary project. This, plus with the many highly anticipated collaborations in the works – the Atlanta based singer leaves us patiently awaiting his next record.

Before the heat of the movement, I got the chance to have a one on one conversation with James Worthy and discussed his take on the Atlanta music scene, his upcoming work, collaborations and much more. As the Grammy nominated artist and producer adjusts to quarantine and the current shifting music industry, he lets us know to just keep looking out.

The ‘Kaleidoscopes’ EP by James Worthy is out now – streaming on all music platforms!

Photo via James Worthy

XMPL: What are your thoughts on artists adjusting to quarantine and what do you think it’ll be like once we’re at a new normal? 

James Worthy: I think the industry is going to change and it is changing right before our eyes right now so a lot of things we have to rely on of course is social media and the internet. So we can’t really go out traditionally how we used to – we can’t tour, go on the road or perform on stage – we really just have to use the Internet. That’s gonna be a big focal point moving forward I think, in business, but right now, we just have to adjust – we have to figure out our audiences much more via internet, we have to come up with creative ways to not only entertain people but perform digitally which is not always an easy thing. We weren’t in this time before to where we’re confined to our house and our living room and you’re seeing the most personal sides of where we are within our creative spaces. It does take some adjusting to cope with that, but I mean we have to do what we have to do.

I know that you are born in Queens and that you moved to Atlanta as a teenager, and you started off as a producer and then later became singer/songwriter. Are you still producing music?

Yeah, I’m still producing. I’m still writing for artists – not as prominent as before. Interesting enough a lot of people didn’t realize that I was a part of a group in 2017 – so that was more of my introduction as an artist and that kind of realm. So before then, I was writing for a lot of artists and producing. So once artistry kind of came in the mix, I don’t want to say production fell back, it was always there, its still there, but now the focus is more so artistry and really focusing on my brand and my music. I’m always taking on different projects and working with artists that I’m a fan of and enjoy working with.

“Right now is a creative time. We’re all in a creative space so for me just making new music, collaborating with newer and more mainstream artists as well – and just creating more content. So I have a lot of music videos that’s coming out soon, a lot of collaborations coming soon, so just keeping that ball rolling.”


How did you come up with the visuals for ‘Kaleidoscopes?’

Before I even released ‘Kaleidoscopes,’ I released my debut EP last year called ‘Blu Leisure’ – and even before I put it out [Blu Leisure], I was always a fan of bodies of work. So whether its an EP or an album, I just feel that bodies of work represent the artist in its entirety. And I think that the packaging and the imaging is a very important part within a body of work.

So, with me always having that in my mind and having experience with other artists and figuring out their game plans and how everything connects. I’m like “well, I want to figure out how I can implement that into my own but have it my way” so with ‘Blu Leisure’ it was the reason why I didn’t have my face on the cover.

The name alone is a meaningful way of sharing the creative side of what I was trying to portray as a debut project, so I’ve had the chance to work with artists that I’ve been fan’s of for a long time. Like Whodini and Diddy – Dirty Money, Tony Terry, Sonna Rele. Those types of collaborations and energy that I put into that I put into that project, it took me a year and a half to make that project, so I wanted it to convey with moods, colors and sonics – which kind of was a continuation to Kaleidoscopes because again, it was more so moods, sonics and collaborations with that project just on a bigger scale. This time I put my face on it because I feel like now it’s a different level, a different time, you know it’s a year later, so much has happened within that time – now I just need people to understand who I am even if you didn’t know what I looked like before, now you have a better idea and we’re just growing from there.

From the Kaleidoscopes EP, which one of those tracks would you say is personally significant to you?

Personally, just like any artist would say, all our songs are our babies but I would probably say my most favorite song off that project and dear to me is probably ‘This Wave’.

The Remix I thought was really sick.

Yeah, you know that was a different concept that I hadn’t really done before. More so just having a regular version than a remix version on the project with two females, so you know the regular version – shout out the Truth Hurts – and then Jillisa Lynn on the remix. I haven’t really seen that done quite frequently before so I just wanted to think outside the box a little bit.

Atlanta’s always been making noise – but as late a lot more emerging artists are coming out of Atlanta, like 6LACK and Summer Walker. How would you describe the music scene in Atlanta right now?

Atlanta is very cultural. Cultural, creative, like you said there’s a lot of new artists coming out of Atlanta. And I think that there’s a lot more people collaborating with each other versus other cities and states. It’s a good time. It’s a good time for creatives – not only coming together but just staying innovative and coming up with new ways of how to make music and how to incorporate new things and sonically make things different to where you can’t even put it into a specific genre – which I think that’s super cool because music has no boundaries. So, I think that’s what Atlanta’s doing right now is just opening up the envelopes. Now there’s always two sides, not all music is quality but you know I’m just more so focused on the creative side of it so not everything is for everybody, you know everybody has an opinion and their own taste with music but for the most part I think there’s a lot of dope stuff coming out.

You said a lot of people are collaborating, is there anyone we might anticipate you collaborating with from the same area?

Well shout out to 6LACK, I have some stuff with him. It’s interesting because I don’t have a lot of collabs with a lot of Atlanta artists, it’s more so, I have collaborations with artists from all over – which is for good reason because I like to be versatile and I like to be more so kind of broad – in the spectrum of different sounds so I have a lot of collaborations with house/dance artists and R&B collaborations and hip-hop collaborations and then I have jazz collabs – it’s crazy, it’s all blessings.


Right now music is in an interesting place, what artists are you listening or maybe music that’s currently inspiring you while we’re in quarantine?

Awe man, I’m definitely listening to the Weeknd a lot. The Weeknd is probably one of my favorite artists right now and has been for quite some time. I think his creativity, his bodies of work really speak for themselves and I’ve been inspired by a lot of his projects and just how he arranges his records and the writing, just the sonic and production of it – it just sounds amazing. And he’s definitely on my bucket list of collaborations in the future so, Weeknd, if you’re listening, let’s do it.

That would be an insane collaboration, and he’s from Canada too so he’s definitely one of my favorites. He’s putting out amazing work like you said, that’d be great to see you collab for sure. So, growing up – who were your music inspirations?

Definitely a lot of Michael Jackson. A lot of Quincy Jones. A lot of Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, Whodini…just a lot of broad music cause I was influenced by a lot of different genres growing up young, so I think that had a lot to do with the style of music that I was into or just the artists that I was exposed to, which was a lot of soul music, that’s kind of where I get my inspiration and ear from. But definitely A Tribe Called Quest was a focal point for me because even though it’s hip-hop, just more of the infused way of how they brought in soul and jazz was really really interesting to me and I think they fathered a lot of artists that came after them, because of how they infused the genre. And of course, Whodini, same kind of situation and even Kanye West and how he infused a lot of things within sampling and arrangements and you know, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson and how they broke barriers with Off The Wall and Thriller. Those types of artists and musicians really inspired me early on.


I noticed that your first EP ‘Blu Leisure’ was kind of more an R&B dominated project, versus ‘Kaleidoscopes’ that had more of a hip-hop influence.

Well with ‘Blu Leisure,’ I call that project dark R&B because it was more so at that time, I was going through a lot of different things and I was trying to figure out what my sound would be and what kind of songs work with my voice. With those songs, it was like, I don’t want to say it was a “tester” because I love that whole project, its’ probably my favorite project. But, it was more so when I went into ‘Kaleidoscopes,’ I needed something to, like you said, make the contrasts between dark R&B and more of a lighter tone so that’s why it’s not as dark. But I needed something to resonate with my core R&B audience, because once you start going a little dark, it doesn’t always resonate all the way with the soul-aspect of R&B so I wanted to kind of hone in on that and give a little bit more tempo as far as the BPN’s in the tracks. And just give a little but more soul, and that’s what ‘Kaleidoscopes’ was, it was just more soul elements.

Right now with everything’s that been going on, what could we expect from you this coming year?

A lot of different collaborations coming this year that I’m excited about, I have a brand new music video ‘This Wave’ featuring Truth Hurts, so I’m really excited about that. Really cinematic, more so a movie-style type of visual which is really cool. I have a new record myself and Robyn S, that will be releasing end of June, so I’m really excited about that. Of course, myself and Kiki Rowe coming out soon. I have a record with myself and Corrupt that’s coming out this year, so just working on a lot of different things, television projects… so just keep looking out.

Stream the ‘Kaleidoscopes’ EP by James Worthy:

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