“I’ve never been to Madison or Sun Prairie and I’m not really familiar with Wisconsin but I love traveling to different parts of the world and meeting different people. Honestly, I love to dive into whatever it is in your city that people love whether it be the place to eat or like a museum or shopping area that I should go check out,” says Grammy-nominated R&B singer/songwriter Ro James. “So I’m excited to just tap into whatever Madison has to offer and to be able to share with the people my journey, my music, and my sound to continue to expand my audience … planting new seeds.”
James will be one of the featured artists at the fourth annual Capital Land Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Sheehan Park in Sun Prairie. The out door concert will start at 5 p.m. at the Sheehan Park East Shelter and go until approximately 8:30 p.m.
The Capital Land Music Fest traditionally features national and international award-winning artists that provide people in the greater Madison area access to musicians that don’t typically come and perform in Dane County. R&B and soul singer/songwriter Kevin Ross and vocalist ROE will also highlight the festival.
Clyde Gaines is the founder of the Capital Land Music Fest, and his Peboga Productions entertainment company will once again be the host of the festival. General admission is $35 and VIP is $70. A meet-and-greet with the artists is included in the VIP package.
James, born Ronnie James Tucker in Stuttgart, Germany, has traveled all over the world not only as a musician but as a self-described “military brat.”
“My father was in the military so I’ve had the chance to live everywhere and I’ve traveled quite a bit. I was born in Germany. My family is Panamanian. So I have a lot of culture and a lot of influences and a lot of inspirations that come from travel,” James tells Madison365 in a Zoom interview from New York City where he lives.
James says that musically he has been inspired by his aunt Rosie Gaines, a former singer for Prince.
“She sang “Diamonds and Pearls’ and ‘Nothing Compared 2 U’ and was a former band member of [Prince’s group,] The New Power Generation,” James says. Gaines made her first appearance on the highly-acclaimed Prince album Graffiti Bridge. “For me, that was a big inspiration just being able to see her living her dreams and being great. She played every instrument.”
Prince has been a big musical influence on James, he says, but also Motown musical icons like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
“My father is also a pastor. So he was very strict with music and he wanted us to listen to the greats. So growing up, that’s all I was allowed to listen to as a young dude,” James remembers. “Early on, my parents pushed me into making sure that my music and my message were meaningful. So I kind of just carried that over.
“Now my influences range from old school to new school like Jodeci and D’Angelos to David Bowie and Johnny Cash. There’s just a variety of different types of artists that I really appreciate,” he adds.
James says that when he first broke into the business they wanted him to label his music in a certain genre, but his influences were so vast from all of his travels and life experiences that that wasn’t easy.
“It’s like why do I have to fit into just an R&B box? I appreciate rock and roll and I appreciate country music. I appreciate Spanish and reggae music. It’s like how do I incorporate all these different things into my artistry? And I think that has been a big part of my journey … just figuring out and incorporating all of these sounds that I’m actually inspired by …without fitting into a box,” he says. “And I feel like the music industry and the way things are set up people need you to be how they see you in their mind for them to accept you as you are, you know what I mean?”
James rose to fame with his debut album, Eldorado, in 2016. His single “Permission” from that album reached number 37 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. James earned his first nomination for Best R&B Performance at the 59th Grammy Awards in February 2017.
James says that he is excited to finally get to play some shows in support of his sophomore album Mantic from 2020, and also recently released a video for “Too Much.” (below)
“That album came out at the height of the pandemic,” James says. “But after that, I really dove back into myself and I really feel like a lot of artists [during the pandemic] just went into this place of just rediscovering and reinventing and re-falling in love with why they fell in love with music in the first place. For the past two years, I’ve just been creating music. I’ve made about three projects since 2020 and I’m sitting on them and waiting for the time to release it.
“But I’ve been releasing the visuals from Mantic for the past couple of weeks here. Every two weeks we’ve been dropping a video that we’ve been holding which is leading up to the new project and I’m dropping a single next month from that. And we will just keep dropping after that.”
James has a new project that he has recorded specifically for the UK/European market.
“I think that people had gotten the opportunity to be exposed to my music with Eldorado,” he says. “I felt like this time around I really wanted to make music that could live over in Europe, as well. So I could go travel and. you know, meet different people from all over.”
James says that he is looking forward to being in Dane County this weekend and meeting new music fans.
“A lot of people don’t like the process of having to speak to so many people [on tour], but I feel like I have had that kind of training in my upbringing by traveling and having to dive into new friends circles, new life cultures all the time,” he says.”I like the conversations with people that expose me to different things that I’ve never been exposed to before … so I love my meet and greets,” James says. “I really get to hear the stories of how my music influenced people or if they were touched or if it was the first time hearing me perform live and how they felt. I love that, you know, so I’m looking forward to that. I love that in every city I perform.
“It’s just that COVID made it very interesting and put a pause to some of that, but it didn’t take away the love and the want to connect with other people,” he adds.
The 4th annual Capital Land Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Sheehan Park, 925 Linnerud Drive in Sun Prairie. For more information or for tickets to the event, click here.