Songtrust Spotlight: Ricky James

RICKY JAMES is a Boston-bred, NYC-based artist and songwriter whose sound is not bound by genre. Since emerging in early 2019, he has released two EPs, shared stages with acts like 24kGoldn, and featured on works released on ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective.
Ricky’s angsty vocals and vulnerable lyrics are complimented with slapping 808 production to produce his signature sound. His sonic creation is a clear indicator of the current shift in Punk and Hip Hop music; and while Ricky can be known for his distinct melodies and cadences, it is never at the expense of a song’s meaning. His sophomore EP “I’m a Loose Cannon.” has been well-received by fans and DSPs, with “Stable” being featured on Spotify’s Internet People and Shisha Lounge playlists and “Roller Coaster” and “Take Your Time” landing on Varsity Bars.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Webber
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What sparked or influenced you to become a musician?
It’s always been a form of therapy. For me, writing, singing, playing guitar... It’s cathartic.
How would you describe the style of the music you create?
Punk R&B.
A lot of musicians like to fit themselves into the mold of a specific genre, sometimes for personal reasons or commercial gains. What challenges and/or opportunities do you find from being “genre-fluid” or not being bound by one individual style of music?
Streaming services make it difficult for artists to be rewarded for breaking new barriers. It’s no one's fault. It’s just that editorial playlists tend to be rigid in curation. They are super intentional. So if you have an artist bringing a completely new combination of sounds it makes it difficult for an editor to place a song on a playlist. That being said though, I think genre bending artists have the biggest advantage to cut through the clutter and not get looped in with 100 artists that sound similar.
You’ve worked with different songwriters and producers throughout your music career. Do you have a simple process that you follow when it comes to determining splits, or, if not, how do you handle the split conversation?
I never like to talk about splits in the studio. I’m focused on making the best possible song. You need an ego-less approach when collaborating and the splits conversation is like the exact opposite. I don’t think there should be a set formula for identifying splits in a collaboration. Sometimes a single synth melody or those last two lines in the chorus make the entire song.
If you could collaborate with any artist, producer, or songwriter, who would it be and why?
Lil Uzi Vert. When he does a remix to "Secrets," you’ll know why.
How did you learn about Songtrust?
My manager Benji put me on.
Prior to joining Songtrust, did you have any knowledge of music publishing and royalties, and how important it is as an artist?
I went to school for music business at Syracuse in the Bandier program. So I learned a lot about publishing and royalties in class. But, you can be taught about the difference between mechanical and performance royalties or the writers vs publishers share a hundred times and still not understand what the hell is happening. My manager gives me the same speech every quarter, I think I’m finally retaining the information. In regards to its importance, it’s the very first thing on the list you have to do as a songwriter and an artist. There is so much money out there that is unclaimed because artists don’t properly register their songs, especially now when you are getting a tenth of a penny per stream from streaming services. You should make sure you are getting every possible payment. And Songtrust makes sure of that. 
What would be some advice you would give to inspire up and coming artists who are just starting in the music industry?
Make art for the sake of art. Stay positive. Inspire people. And make songs that highlight your strengths. 
How have you been handling the shift to virtual due to the pandemic in 2020, in terms of your music career? 
I’ve been learning to be more self sustainable, trusting that I can do things on my own. All my new songs I produced myself which I haven’t done in years, so it’s taking me places I haven’t been in a while. 
What’s next for you?
Billboard Hot 100. 
Lastly, what’s your go-to song or album you’re listening to right now?
Celebration Station - Lil Uzi 


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