Morgan James: All Over The Place

Morgan James is kicking off a headline tour tonight that will see her performing across the country with reckless abandon. That also happens to be the name of her upcoming album. We recently phoned her to talk about her biggest excursion to date and her new puppy, Luther.

Pollstar last caught up with James a few years ago when she was kind enough to stop by our Fresno, Calif., office to play some tunes in exchange for some vegan Indian food.

A few months prior to that we interviewed her as she prepared to go on tour with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox She’s earned praise (and lots of views onYouTube) for her Postmodern covers of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” and Maroon 5’s “Maps.”       

Now she’s readying her own tour to support Reckless Abandon, which arrives April 7, thanks to a PledgeMusic campaign. It comes on the heels of 2014’s Hunter, the expanded version of which includes one of the only times Prince ever officially cleared one of his songs for covering – but after listening to James’ version of “Call My Name,” he approved it immediately. That’s because James is a phenomenal singer with a background that includes a degree from The Julliard School and a number of appearances on Broadway. 

We called her up last week on National Puppy Day because James just got a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Who wouldn’t want to talk about puppies for National Puppy Day? 

Morgan James & Luther
– Morgan James & Luther

OK, so a lot has changed since we last talked. However, most importantly: you have a dog.

Oh my gosh. My dog is the true star.

We have a buddy in the business whose dog has his own Twitter page

Oh, Luther has his own Instagram account:

One of the prizes on my Pledge Music campaign, for the preorder, was a signed photo of me with Luther and it sold out!

What’s the transportation for your tour like these days?

We are doing our first bus tour for the first leg. We have a bus, a trailer, the whole shebang. For May to June, when I have smaller legs, we may be flying, doing vans and hotels. But for the first leg, we’re definitely documenting that. Lots of adventures will ensue. We’ll have the dog on the bus, of course. We can’t go without Luther.

Does that mean Luther has his own section at the meet & greet?

Well, he comes to the merch table. Any minute now his ego will be uncontrollable.

When you’ve been doing your Facebook chats, there are not just fans saying, “When are you coming to Boise?” They’re also saying, “Hey, when are you coming to Oslo?”

I know! It’s pretty amazing. I want to communicate with people that I’m not ignoring their towns. It’s hard to explain to people the complexities of touring and how hard it is, but I want to go everywhere. I tell people, “Oh my gosh, I want to come to every single town that you’ve mentioned” because I want to take my music everywhere. But it’s a tricky business getting the bookings, selling the tickets and doing all the things that have to do with touring. I try to tell fans, “Listen, it’s not for lack of trying. We’re definitely trying to come to every single city.”

Anything, off the top of your head, to say about the tour?

Well, I’m so excited that we have so many cities and states represented. I think we have 40 cities so far and this is the biggest tour I’ve ever done. We’re bringing the band that played on the album and we’re bringing an amazing opening act, Andy Allo, and I think we’re taking this tour to the next level. We have awesome merchandise. I’m just really excited to bring this new album to everybody.

Awesome merchandise?

Yes! And I get to design everything because my team is amazing. They want me to be happy with everything so I designed two different T-shirts and we have these amazing flash drives that have everything on it – posters and photographs and I have this thing that’s done a lot in the sports world – 11×16 photographs where I add handwritten lyrics. They’re called a “photo memory.” Every single one is an original.

I’m stuck on the flash drive. That seems like something more people should have been doing a long time ago.

Yes! I’m really excited about it. I had a friend do an amazing drawing, and I have an MJ logo/photo/cartoon on it. It has all four of my albums, my Christmas singles, it has demos, photos – every single batch is a limited edition. I put something different on each one. You get different booklets and all sorts of goodies, and it fits in your pocket. I’ve seen a couple artists do this; a lot of the younger fans love them.

Live Shots Week Of 11/07/2016
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for IEBA
– Live Shots Week Of 11/07/2016
The ICM Partners Party brings the talent of Morgan James to the crowd during the IEBA Conference in Nashville Oct. 10.

So do you think you’re going to draw your usual fans, who will now be bringing their friends?

You want an organic growth. You want return customers, of course, but you want to grow your fanbase. I hope we’ve been doing a good job of getting the content out there and making the content better. I think we’ve really grown and, certainly, five years ago I couldn’t have launched a tour like this. I didn’t have the reach. It’s really up to the fans whether they get their butts in seats. There are definitely pockets in the country where I have huge fanbases where I have no trouble selling and then there are places I’ve never played before. But it’s the long game. You have to go back again and again, and build those relationships.

Regarding the new material: What has the reaction been so far and how much will be incorporated into the show?

The reaction so far has been amazing. I’ve been playing several of the new songs as I’ve been writing and workshopping them. I played several of them on my last tour. I’ve grown to really trust audiences because they tell you the truth. They react authentically to a song, whether they like it or not, and it’s not just music for me; if it’s not a shared experience, what’s the point? I’ve really learned to trust what they have a big response to and incorporate it into my albums. So far people have been coming up to me at the merch table saying, “Where do I buy ‘Ransom’?” and “Where do I buy ‘Jenny’?” That, to me, says the music is touching people; I hope that they will like a lot of the new songs. I think we’ll probably do 10 or 12 songs off the new album in the set. We’ll do a few off Hunter, of course, and a couple of our favorite covers.

So let’s see, you’re coming back to Modesto.

Yeah, and Santa Cruz. We’ll be back around in the fall doing San Francisco, Sacramento, L.A. and stuff but for this first stint in June the closest we’ll be to you is Modesto and Santa Cruz.

Anything in particular you’d like to add?

There wasn’t a title to the album when you did the tour announcement. The title is Reckless Abandon and it will be available everywhere April 7.

Morgan James – Morgan James

Upcoming dates for Morgan James: 

March 31 – Scranton, Pa., Lackawanna College
April 1 – Port Washington, N.Y., Landmark On Main Street
April 2 – Pawling, N.Y., Daryl’s House
April 5 – New York, N.Y., HighLine Ballroom
April 6 – Hartford, Conn., Infinity Hall Hartford
April 7 – Boston, Mass., Brighton Music Hall
April 8 – Fall River, Mass., Narrows Center For The Arts
April 9 – Philadelphia, Pa., World Cafe Live – Downstairs
April 10 – Pittsburgh, Pa., Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
April 11 – Kent, Ohio, The Kent Stage
April 12 – Ann Arbor, Mich., The Ark
April 13 – Burlington, Ontario, Burlington Performing Arts Centre
April 14 – Columbus, Ohio, Lincoln Theatre
April 15 – Cincinnati, Ohio, Live At The Ludlow Garage
April 18 – Indianapolis, INDeluxe
April 19 – Chicago, Ill., City Winery Chicago
April 20 – Milwaukee, Wisc., Turner Hall Ballroom
April 21 – Madison, Wisc., High Noon Saloon
April 22 – Minneapolis, Minn., Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
April 23 – Omaha, Neb., Slowdown
April 25 – St. Louis, Mo., The Ready Room
April 26 – Columbia, Mo., Rose Music Hall
April 28 – Dallas, Texas, The Kessler Theater
April 29 – Houston, Texas, The Heights Theater
April 30 – New Orleans, La., Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre
May 3 – San Antonio, Texas, Studio Theater At The Tobin Center
May 18 – Washington, D.C., The Hamilton Live
May 19 – Annapolis, Md., Rams Head On Stage
June 6 – San Diego, Calif., House Of Blues – Voodoo Stage
June 8 – Modesto, Calif., The State Theatre Of Modesto
June 9 – Santa Cruz, Calif., The Atrium
June 10 – Napa, Calif., Various Venues (Napa Valley Jazz Getaway)
June 14 – Portland, Ore., Mississippi Studios
June 15 – Seattle, Wash., The Triple Door
June 17 – Boise, Idaho, The Olympic
June 20 – Denver, Colo., Soiled Dove Underground
July 23 – Centre Hall, Pa., Penns Cave & Wildlife Park (Karoondinha Music & Arts Festival)
Aug. 20 – Los Angeles, Calif., Hollywood Bowl (Smooth Summer Jazz