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WPGM Commentary: Erica James Wants To Live Authentically On Debut Album ‘WABI SABI’

Hi, my name is Erica James and I am a singer-songwriter, producer and entertainment journalist from South London, England. I independently released my debut album WABI SABI in March of this year, and it is available for streaming on all music platforms.

My album is an amalgamation of all of the sounds that inspired me growing up, as well as today. I spent part of my childhood in New York before moving to New Jersey. The album encompasses the iconography and sonic soundscape of 1970s and 1980s concept albums, which I grew up listening to.

From David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust to Rick James’s Street Songs. I wrote each song on the 10-track album, which I selected out of over 50 songs, which I initially wrote and produced for the album.

In writing this album, I wanted to keep a continuous narrative running throughout. WABI SABI is a modern-day concept album that tells the story of an artificial intelligent-alien-avatar character, who descends to the earth to, as the INTRO states. “emancipate the minds of rigid and square minds.”

My birthday is four days before Christmas, which is why the album has a strong celebratory theme with songs such as “BIRTHDAY” and “THIS CHRISTMAS”. I wrote and recorded both songs in December of last year on my birthday week. I wrote the album coming out of lockdown.

The world had experienced a lot of darkness with the lockdown. We were all adjusting to a new normal, and the impermanence of time had become even clearer as we all witnessed an array of injustices faced by marginalised groups in 2020.

As the producer of the album, I allowed myself to explore whichever sounds came to me which is why the album merges many genres, from alternative rock to punk, pop to acoustic R&B, afrobeats to rap music. Making music is reflective of my mantra for life: freedom.

My song “FINALLY FREE”, which is about my decision to go independent as an artist. Freedom and living as authentically as possible is the essence of WABI SABI, which is a Japanese aesthetic and world view on the impermanence of life.

It’s common with WABI SABI aesthetic to apply a sort of Kintsugi process, this is the Japanese art of repairing pottery that may be broken, by mending the broken area with powdered gold, platinum or silver.

This ideology behind the album is about finding the beauty within imperfection. We exist within an imperfect world. Japanese culture and anime have always fascinated me, culture as a whole.

I wrote, recorded and produced the album in my home studio, I also mixed a considerable amount of the album. I usually will hear a beat and add my guitar stems, a drum track, synths etc to it. I may also make a beat myself or play a melody on the piano or with my guitar and shape a song around that.

I am very melody driven, so I’ll usually play the finished track, and hum a melody or ‘filler words’ over it before adding the words I desire to it. Once the words are down, I begin recording the song.

I challenged myself to make an honest album, to experiment with sounds and not follow trends. I also wanted to take risks in subject matter and sounds. I am sure I would have looked at the task of writing, recording and producing my debut album as a fearful concept some years ago, but I have learned you must embrace your fears in order to achieve your goals.

Listen to my debut album WABI SABI below, and stream it elsewhere here.

Words by Erica James // Follow her on Instagram and Twitter

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