James Poyser is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, pianist, producer and a member of the hip hop band, The Roots. He has written and produced songs for many legendary and award-winning artists, including Erykah Badu, Mariah Carey, John Legend, D’Angelo, The Roots, and Keyshia Cole. During his career, Poyser has toured and played live with such distinctive artists as Jay-Z, The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Talib Kweli. Poyser received a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 2003 for co-writing Erykah Badu and Common’s hit “Love Of My Life“. Moreover, he is starring at “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon“. Beat-Town had the chance to get an exclusive interview from James. You can check out the whole interview in its original English version in the following post.
BT: First of all, we want to say a big “thank you” for giving us the chance to talk with you for our website. Where are you currently at?
JP: I am currently in New York City working on the “Tonight Show”.
BT: You have won a Grammy award for “Love Of My Life”. After all these years of producing and writing hits, would you say that this legendary award is the ultimate recognition for your work?
JP: Winning awards like the Grammys and receiving other recognition of achievements like gold and platinum plaques is a great honor. Being recognized by peers is a very humbling experience. It’s what you dream about when you’re a kid starting in the business. However, the ultimate feeling of achievement is when the listeners appreciate your work. For every person that has been touched by my music, I am honored.
BT: Talking about the Grammy awards, can you pick a writer or producer you would think he or she would deserve to win this year?
JP: All the nominees deserve to win but a few of my favs are….. Diplo I think he is dope. He is one of my favorite producers. He does so many things great. He has worked with so many different artists, from Snoop to Bruno Mars to Madonna, I love the things that he is doing plus he has a Philly connection and that’s always a plus.
Of course Kendrick Lamar is a great artist. Truly a legend in the making. I think his writing is clever and connects to the people. He is the voice of a generation. A classic for sure. Ed Sheeran is the man. I’m fan first. He can do it all, play, perform, write and produce. He is a ball of creativity and I really like every thing that he is doing. He has a cleaver approach on making music that makes what he does seem even more interesting.
BT: You have produced and wrote tracks for legendary artists like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo or Common. Moreover, you have performed live with artists like Jay-Z and of course The Roots. Is there an interesting story you might want to share with us about a song you recorded with someone or maybe about a memorable live performance?
JP: I have had so many memorable experiences in the studio and on stage. One that stands out is the Dave Chappelle Block Party. The collection of artists that assembled for the show was incredible, Erykah Badu, Common, Jill Scott, Roots, Fugees, Mos Def, etc., most of whom I have written and produced songs for in the studio. It was a once in a life time event. To have all those artist on the same stage, on the same day, backed by one band, the Roots, was incredible. It was an out door concert and it rained that day and nobody skipped a beat. I played the keys for the entire show and I could feel that I was a part of something legendary, a once in a life time event. I felt honored and privileged to be a part of it. Oh and Dave Chappelle was an awesome host. Check it out online, the video is crazy.
BT: How do you feel about the R&B and soul game in general? Any new artists you find pretty interesting?
JP: I love music. I don’t necessarily think in terms of genres. I think great music is great music. The R&B genre seems to be having a tough time right now. Labels don’t seem to be committed to developing the new, young R&B artists.They tend to want to broaden the audience so they shoot for pop. The artists that have had success in the past like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Anthony Hamilton, Musiq, Kem, etc.are to be stable and have staying power, but you don’t see many new artists in the market. There are many new pop artists that have soulful voices or soulful songs. Even some rap songs I would say have soulful elements to them. For example, Adele and Sam Smith are both stratospheric pop stars with soulful voices and songs that dominate all the charts but you wouldn’t consider them R&B or soul singers.
BT: You seem to have a lot of fun on Jimmy Fallon’s show. How is the atmosphere backstage?
JP: It’s a always lots of fun, fast paced and full of creativity and laughter. Every day is different. Some days we spend writing music for the show. Some days we rehearse with the special guests that are performing at the show and other days we rehearse the skits for the show. Most days we are doing a combination of all three above.
BT: There were instances in which you were used as a comic foil, especially for the use of deadpan facial expressions. How do you feel about this?
JP: It’s a comedy show so its all about laughter. In order to be in the comedy business you have to be able to laugh at yourself. A lot of times the stuff is pretty funny so you will find me laughing too.
BT: You play 5-6 instruments! At which age did you start learning playing those instruments? Which one is your favorite one?
JP: I started playing as a kid when I was 7 or 8 years old. I did not take many lessons. I am pretty much self-taught. The piano is my primary instrument. So, you will usually find me on the keys when playing live and when I’m in the studio writing and producing I usually use the keyboards as the foundation of my creations.
BT: Besides producing, writing and starring at Jimmy Fallon’s show, how do you spend your free time?
JP: Well Im a PK so I spend a lot of time in church. I try to play on Sundays when I’m in town and I also work with the youth choir. I love spending time with my family. We like to travel when we can. We also love to eat. We love to find new restaurants to treat our palates to some taste treats. I am also a sports fanatic. I watch sports every moment I can. I love my home town teams, Eagles, Sixers and Phillies. So any chance I get to see the games on TV or go to a game I’m there.
BT: We really want to thank you for doing this interview with us Any final words for our Greek readership?
JP: Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts on your platform.
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