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Morgan James comes to town with a fresh spin on the R&B she’s always loved

Morgan James's new album, "Nobody's Fool," will be released March 31. She will perform at Boston's City Winery on April 1.

The grit required to survive on Broadway and a passion for R&B and soul music have greatly influenced singer-songwriter Morgan James’s career as a solo artist.

James, who has appeared on Broadway in “The Addams Family,” “Godspell,” “Wonderland,” and “Motown the Musical” (as Teena Marie), releases her new album, “Nobody’s Fool,” on Friday ahead of a show that night at the Rex Theatre in Manchester, N.H., and on Saturday at City Winery in Boston.

The first track released from the album is a cover of Jeff Buckley’s “Everybody Here Wants You” — a tribute to an artist James admires and a means of finishing the song Buckley never had the chance to release before he died.


In an interview with the Globe, the New York City-based artist spoke about returning to soul and R&B, slowing down in Memphis, and infusing storytelling from Broadway into her solo music career.

The NYC-based singer will release her new album, "Nobody's Fool," on March 31.

Q. Tell me how your music has evolved since your first album, “Hunter.”

A. “Nobody’s Fool” is probably the most similar to “Hunter,” and I feel like I’m coming back to these soulful, R&B roots, 10 years older and 10 years more confident and more experienced. I think that my songwriting has evolved just by virtue of the fact that I’ve done more of it. Songwriting just needs to be done every day.

Q. What was it like recording in Memphis, and how has Jeff Buckley inspired you?

A. Recording in Memphis is really magical because Memphis is one of the great homes of soul music. I’ve become such a New Yorker, and I’m so impatient, and I’m so high-strung, and I want everything fast. And when you go to the South, it slows you right down, and it reminds you to be present in a way that sometimes you can forget to do in New York City.


What I love, in addition, is that it was a place that really inspired Jeff Buckley. He loved classic songwriting and classic music making, and he was in Memphis recording his second record when he passed away, so we felt a presence of him. We felt like we wanted to finish something he started in a small way.

Q. Tell me about your decision to cover Buckley’s “Everybody Here Wants You.”

A. We wanted to cover that song because the version that they released posthumously was actually a demo because he never got to record that album. It’s been one of my favorite songs of his. I think it’s really sexy and really beautiful. He really loved Prince, and it was his attempt to write a Prince song. He loved Nina Simone. I love Nina Simone. So many of the influences that inspired him also inspire me. I thought that it fit really perfectly with the other songs we were writing.

Q. Tell me more about ‘90s R&B and other artists that influence your music.

A. Obviously Sade, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Madonna’s “Bedtime Stories,” D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Angie Stone, so many of those records, especially in that neo soul era that came about. We took so much influence from Babyface. I just love that music. I grew up on it. And the best of ‘90s R&B is of course influenced from ‘70s R&B, and you get this great, deep flavor when you do it right.


Q. How does your previous work on Broadway influence your music now?

A. Being on Broadway teaches you so much about stamina and hard work. I’m always thinking about storytelling because of my work as an actress, whether or not it comes [through] in my songs. It probably does by osmosis, because storytelling is so important when you’re doing a play or a musical. And I think that makes me a better performer.

Q. I know you classify yourself as a soul singer, so can you tell me a little bit more about your connection with soul music?

A. I have been magnetically attracted to soulful music for as long as I can remember. When you’re young, and you’re first discovering music, you don’t know really what anything is called. You listen to things, and then you are led down a path to something else. I want to keep making things that are connected to that tradition because I don’t want those traditions to die.

Interview was edited and condensed for length and clarity.


With Kirk Thurmond. At the Rex Theatre, Manchester, N.H., March 31, 7:30 p.m. $49. palacetheatre.org. At City Winery Boston, 80 Beverly St., April 1, 8 p.m. $22–$35. citywinery.com

Maddie Browning can be reached at maddie.browning@globe.com.