Interview: Ro James
Mon, 03 Feb 2014 09:16:13
"I want to be bold," declares Ro James.
As far as R&B goes right now, he's one of the boldest in the game. His EP series "Coke, Jack, & Cadillacs" [iTunes: Coke; Jack; & Cadillacs] entwines an engaging narrative of cinematic proportions as his immense voice takes the driver's seat. It's sexy at points, and it's thought-provoking at others. You'll want to hop into this Cadillac with James for the long haul as he speeds towards the top of R&B…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Ro James talks the "Coke, Jack, & Cadillacs" EP's and so much more.
What was your vision for the Cadillacs EP as a whole?
There's absolutely cohesion. It's "Coke, Jack, & Cadillacs". It's basically telling the story of my first love when I was 19-years-old, and I figured in order for people to understand my mind and the way things work now, they'd have to understand where I started at that age. It was when I wrote my first song, experienced my first heartbreak, and had my first my real love. My dad gave me a Cadillac when I was 19-years-old, and I feel like that was the beginning of my journey in life and understanding love, relationships, struggle, and having to fight for something you want. Coke was just about the woman. Jack was about me, the guy. Cadillacs was about the journey. It was my first car, and I was driving around, traveling, and doing different things. I wanted to bring that to life because it definitely reflects who I am as a person now—the way I treat relationships and my journey. I try to help everybody else. I used to drive around and pick up my homies. I relate that to now. I have a lot of friends who do creative things. They're along for the ride in my Cadillac wherever we might go.
For you, do the Coke and Jack EP's lead into that?
There are so many different girls I learned from in my life and I relate them back to Coke. That's part of it, and it's bettering me as a man. It's also given me perspective on women and how to understand them better. That's a challenge we men struggle with. On Jack, I wanted to give my perspective. No guy really wants to be vulnerable, but I wanted to be very vulnerable there and show where I'm coming from with three songs. One song is when you're getting over heartbreak and you date a girl. You know she's for the moment. She's nothing like your girlfriend. She's your rebound. I ended up calling her "Lisa". "Indiana Jones" came at 19 when I fell in love. I was living in Indiana then. Thinking back to that moment, I was hurt and confessing it. I'm okay now though! "We On" is a record where you celebrate moving on. You go to a club, meet a girl, and it's on [Laughs]. Everything is a progression into being better or moving on, which is getting into Cadillacs.
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint pictures with the songs?
Absolutely! I think we don't have enough storytellers. I've admired that about artists in the past. That's what brought me up. Prince paints a picture. When I write, I see the picture in my head, and I try to make sure I explain that the best way I can. When I put this project together, I knew exactly what the feeling was so I wanted to paint the picture musically. That way when I drop the visuals, it makes perfect sense. The picture is necessary. It tells the story. We are comprised of stories.
What encourages that storytelling?
If I'm sitting down and telling a story and I want you to understand exactly what I felt, saw, or what it would be like to be in that moment, that is what brings people in and makes them want to be a part of your journey to relate to it. They can say, "You know what? I relate to that!" It might not be the same situation but they've been through it. That's how you gain fans and get them to be a part of your journey. I'm doing this to help people as well like, "Listen, I've been through this shit. If you been through it, join 'Coke, Jack, & Cadillacs'." That's what my movement is about. It's telling a story and helping others get through whatever they're going through with my story. It's sacrifice.
What's the story behind "Remind Me of Me"?
I love that song. It's just about me as a person. I know how I am. I'm a Scorpio. I'm emotional, but at the same time, it's hard for me to let people in. I'm very in tune. One time, I met this girl who was exactly like that. We were the same people, but we couldn't be together. We couldn't get along because we were too much alike. We liked the same clothes. I like cowboy hats, leather, and cowboy boots. I've traveled a lot of different places, and that plays a big part in my style and the way I do things. I've been to Oklahoma and Hawaii. This girl I met was also a military brat so our perspective was so similar. She reminded me of everything that was me. I think that's awesome, but things don't work out some time.
What artists shaped you?
That's interesting. My dad's a pastor, so he was really strict about what we listened to. He'd put us on to Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, James Brown, Johnny Cash, and those types of people with soulful feelings. That's what grounded me. As I traveled, I was exposed to David Bowie, Radiohead, and all different genres of music. Then, I found Prince. Once I saw him, I was like, "Wow, he's a fucking artist. He's doing whatever he wants to do. I want to do that". I'm always inspired by his ability to carve his own lane. He re-inspires me every time I discover him again. I want to form my own lane and be inspired by all of these different genres of music from rock to country to R&B to gospel. It's a melting pot of all different inspirations.
If you were to compare the EP's to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare them to?
It's be Purple Rain and Belly [Laughs]. That's exactly what it would be! It's the contrast of something being super out-of-the-box and different based on the artist giving you his or her perspective of what it is—that was Prince in Purple Rain—and then Belly reflects the hip-hop side. It's the cinematography of it as well as the colors and the hustle. Those two worlds combined are "Coke, Jack, & Cadillacs". It's the grind, but it's about trying to find love. I'm trying to show you what my life is about.
Have you heard Ro James?