With an unabashed, self-aware demeanor, and an inherent style unintentionally right on the pulse of pop culture, the story of Singer, Songwriter, and Producer JOELLE JAMES is both distinctly layered and relatable — starting off safe and calculated, before becoming advantageously volatile, and ultimately overruled by fervor and integrity.
From a young age, Joelle always felt captivated by a cultural force stronger than any surrounding environment. She began her story the textbook route -- small town, loving family, attending a top music school. At 11, she recalls singing at Showtime at the Apollo. "I was the only white girl backstage, at my first ever competition. I had on my leather skirt, about to sing a song by my favorite singer, Aretha Franklin, and I just remember hoping that this crowd of all black women would stand on their feet for me."
While at Berklee College of Music, where she graduated with a degree in Music Studies and Voice, Joelle began digitally unearthing her content to mass global audiences on YouTube, and a dynamic fanbase suddenly surrounded her talent. In her senior year, Joelle James was streamed by a very special listener -- global pop culture superstar Chris Brown. Impressed by not only her talent, but her tenacity, and what she stood for, Chris immediately signed her to his recording imprint, CBE (Culture Beyond Experience), and thereafter, CBE entered into a major distribution deal with Interscope Records.
What should have been a dream quickly dissolved into internal chaos for Joelle. A&Rs did not know quite what to do with her rare, multifaceted culture. Their energy bled into her soul, and she began feeling misdirected and uncertain. To add insult to injury, she then could only watch as executives who once welcomed her with open arms to the label departed for the tech world, and tumultuous times for Chris Brown led to radio hits demanding "Free Breezy".
In a waiting game, overcome with simultaneous hope and pressure, Joelle admittedly grew resentful of the constant questions of why she wasn't famous yet, and an “If not me, then WHO?” mentality brewed inside of her. She started pumping out a repertoire all her own. But as she stumbled on a voice deeper than her vocals -- her pen -- her unique purpose was suddenly revealed to her on a deeper level: "I realized the goal wasn't fame, but authenticity, telling a real story, baring my soul for art's sake." Out of this, a music publishing deal with Roc Nation soon materialized, and Joelle found herself back in the big leagues.
Peter Drucker once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It was true that her Berklee textbooks couldn't have prepared and guided her for such moments and revelations (in fact, "Don't sing for sound" was the best piece of musical advice Joelle says she has ever received). Similarly, her wholesome small-town upbringing didn't determine how worldly she would go on to become, as she began to experience life, and crusade with other culture creators.
In 2016, Chris Brown reunited with Joelle James for a historic duet, interpolating the legendary New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain?", entitled "SCREAM", which earned placement on internationally celebrated comedic rockstar Kevin Hart's What Now? Mixtape (Motown Records/Artist Live). “I couldn’t pick a better song to break my artistry and myself… and my hope is that it will be heard and appreciated for what it is… a classic R&B interpolation from a staple Boston group who paved the way for many, featuring the amazingly talented Chris Brown and this unknown white girl, just singing her heart out.”
Weaving influences from soul and classical vocalists ("I love the 50s and 60s era" — evident from her next generation Marilyn Monroe-esque look) into the frame of today's music landscape, Joelle James crafts a melodic and always relevant narrative on life as a 20-something year old young woman. Always setting her sights things not of this earth — whether it be jewelry, designer labels, or genres — Joelle James effortlessly churns out her own form of unintentional pop… one that no upbringing, education, nor racial background could ever produce.
In 2017, fresh off millions of streams from the natively soulful “SCREAM”, Joelle James will release her SCREAM Playlist in May 2017 via her own imprint, VNLLAFCTRY, in partnership with Artist Live Global Village -- soon to be followed by her debut album, The Sweetest Gift Ever. See more on Grammys.com