James studied opera at Juilliard, and while the rigorous conservatory training went a long way in refining her vocals and building her remarkable range, she ultimately abandoned opera to pursue musical theater. Thanks to her unshakeable dedication and ingenuity, she soon worked her way onto the stage of some of the city’s most legendary clubs—and into prominent roles in Broadway productions like Godspell and Wonderland.
Not only embracing Simone’s raw, heady passion, James channels the sparkling eclecticism that made the High Priestess of Soul a key influence in cultivating her own singing style. “For a long time I wasn’t sure what to do with the fact that I’ve got this gigantic voice that doesn’t quite match how I look, so I ended up trying out lots of different things to find my way,” said James. “Nina refused to be pigeon-holed into any one genre, and she wasn’t setting out to impress anyone,” she said. “That sort of purity and lack of showboating means so much to me as a musician.”
2013 will mark ten years since Nina Simone’s passing.
James collaborated with music director David Cook in creating the musical arrangements at Dizzy’s in July of 2012.
Keeping up that balance between Broadway and her solo work, James will take the stage in Motown: The Musical in April. She continues to explore her musical depths by writing and recording her first full- length studio album, which she envisions as a more contemporary, pop/R&B record with blues and soul influence.