Editor’s note: James Bowman III is a loving husband, a proud father and now also a grandfather. James clearly expresses loving gratitude for his life, he continues to be strong in his faith, and shares this through his latest project, titled – “Things On My Mind“. This album is clearly an authentic musical journey, encapsulating his life journey thus far, his source of guidance, and ultimately living a life of grace while fully embracing his next set of life’s’ challenges!
Nigel J. Farmer: I believe you started your musical career as a drummer, switching to vocals at a later point in your musical career. What prompted this change?
James Bowman III: Nigel, first, I would like to thank you and the staff there at “Jazz in Europe” for affording me the opportunity to discuss the music that is so much a part of my life. In answer to your question, I have been blessed to have been surrounded by many incredible vocalists. “Take 6”, who started at Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), where I attended for undergraduate studies, had and continues to have a significant influence on me. Their harmonies and their attention to detail resonated with me. Additionally, since I have constantly been in the studio over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many vocalists and learned much via osmosis. To answer your question more specifically, the change from drum kit to vocals came about because I wanted to say something positive. Lyrics became the conduit through which I could express a positive message.
NF: When listening to your music I hear and in particular the music from the new album, I hear a strong rhythmic aspect to your phrasing. Do you feel your background as a percussionist has played a role in your vocal phrasing?
JB: Guilty as charged (laughing). When writing a song, the groove is revealed to me first, then the melody, then finally the lyrics. You rightly assessed that at times, I sing lyrics in conjunction with how I hear the groove. Additionally, there are typically a few bars of instrumental “glee” on most of the tracks. The reason being is that I am a musical purist and continue to believe that there is nothing more musically beautiful than humans, on instruments, creating music flow, extemporaneously. I am humbled to have been in the studio with several incredible musicians over the years. What they have taught me has culminated in a musical collective of tracks that contain rhythmic melodies.
NF: This new album is your third release as a leader, can you tell us a little about the background and material on the album?
JB: The project is entitled, “Things On My Mind”. This title was intentional. The Songs contained in this project provide a window into how I think now as a middle-aged man. Like most, I’ve made many mistakes and learned from those mistakes. The songs were written to expose a narrative, explaining what I feel, and what I think at this stage in life. Unique items that I’ve added to accompany this project are short video clips for each track. These videos (available on my YouTube channel, “James Bowman III”) were provided because I wanted the listening audience to understand the genesis of and the inspiration for why each track was written. Ultimately, what we learn in life we must share so that others can have the benefit of our experience.
NF: In reading your bio it speaks about your personal journey from being homeless to earning a master’s degree. This in itself alludes to a message of hope, do you feel that this experience has impacted your music?
JB: It’s interesting you ask this question. When I was growing up, at times, hope is all we had. We didn’t know where our next meal would come from or whether or not we would be evicted in the morning. What he did have however was hope. Hope that a brighter day was on the way. Therefore, to answer your question, “hope” is absolutely foundational to the message in the music! The experiences that I had as a child, matured me and provided intestinal fortitude with which to navigate life and to execute the assignments that God had/has for me. Where there is life, there is hope. Even though political discourse may be evil, people may be killing each other, nations may war against nations, we can always hope for a better day and then behave as if the hopeful scenario has already manifested. This is not a farcical mindset. When slaves were in the field, they would often sing spirituals that espoused the notion that their current circumstance did not dictate their ultimate destiny. I am honoured to have had a praying mother who believed in a greater power, and a greater calling for her children. This mantra is what I have tried to convey in the musical offerings of this project. HOPE!
NF: Stylistically your music includes a great deal of Soul, Jazz and Gospel influence yet the end product has a strong individual identity. What do you feel is important for the listener to receive from hearing your music?
JB: When individuals listen to these tracks, it is my hope that peace for the day will be achieved. We all have challenges. We all have difficulties that we work to mitigate, but, if the music can give you just a slice of peace for the day, the goal will have been accomplished. There is a saying,” what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger”. This is the mindset we must have in a turbulent world. We must negate the hatred with love and peace. These virtues are much higher and far more potent than those of vitriolic discourse. My desire is for the listeners of this music to raise their consciousness above the fray and to imagine possibilities of a peace that transcends strife. This is my hope.
NF: There is no doubt that your music has a strong spiritual aspect to it. In a world/planet which struggles to respect the diversity of beliefs – what part do you believe your music can play in a positive manner to impart mutual respect?
JB: In my view, this is the poignant question for our world. We are all attempting to live in a shared world, believing what we believe, whilst concurrently respecting our fellow citizens. With billions of people on the planet, it is absolutely logical to assume that we will all approach life from different perspectives. The key word in your question is “respect”. We CAN have disparate beliefs while occupying the same space by concentrating on those things we have in common. If I live my life according to the tenants of my faith, then I will be compelled to love my brother and sister, compelled to feed the hungry, compelled to minister to the sick, compelled to see all as God’s children. This does not mean that I attempt to convert anyone. What it does mean is that I must show love to all. And by chance, if individuals wonder what generates the love within me, then I have an opportunity to share my faith. Deeds are far more important than words. If we would all live by that golden adage, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, many of our problems on this planet would be resolved.
JB: In two words, “more music”! in the not too distant future, I will be back in the studio working on more tracks for a coming release. In addition, since I have been married for 33 years, I plan to continue sharing some of my mistakes, some of my victories, some of my failures with the audience. As I mentioned earlier, I have a YouTube channel “James Bowman III”, where I upload videos to discuss items of positivity. The goal is to provide “Marital And Family Encouragement”; hashtag MAFE (#MAFE). It is my hope and desire that some of the things I have learned can be a benefit to others such that they realize a more fulfilled existence. This is the essence of living. We live, we learn, then, we share what we’ve learned to make a better world for our children and our fellow citizens. Hopefully, this musical contribution can add to the positive continuum.
We recommend Bandcamp – for James Bowman III new album ‘Things On My Mind’
James Bowman III also does voiceover work and music production.
Photo credits: Chris McNish – Sweet Gap Photography
Last modified: June 13, 2019