“Listen to your own voice, your own soul, too many people listen to the noise of the world, instead of themselves.” – Leon Brown
James Dee Clayton is a high baritone singer, songwriter and performer, noted especially for his use of melisma, a cappella performances and large vocal range. He has performed all over the world in charity concerts, attended the Florence Gospel Choir School under the guidance of Nehemiah H. Brown, sang solo and performed for the Florence Gospel Fellowship International, has written, recorded and produced for RuNway Productions, Athens, written for Alfred Music Publishing, has been a regular collaborator with Smugglers Records and the Lighthouse Music Venue (UK), has featured in jazz, folk and soul performance, street music and musical theatre. In between world travels, philanthropic activities and other artistic pursuits, James has been working on an album of original material inspired by “the freedom, thought and emotional discourse of constant travel and movement” and what he describes as his “great and terrible love affair with the world and its muse”. The album will have a rootsy, World Music feel, mixed with his Jazz, Gospel and Symphonic influences. He cites Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughn as other major influences on his writing, voice and music. He has also been working on an anthology of travel poems for the last few years which is yet to be completed.
(above) November 2015, teaching Gospel music to children in the backstreets of Ho, Ghana – an experience James describes as “humbling, inspiring and enlightening” – whilst volunteering and networking in West Africa.
“Finding Voice – my personal expression, my interpretation of the world, my emotions, my release ~ the greatest passion of my life ~ has been perhaps the biggest of my journeys yet. Singing started for me with musical theatre – I received interest from producers and was encouraged to take proper vocal coaching and pursue a career in the West End. But I didn’t take the advice seriously enough, being the insufferable anarchist I am. For me, the idea of standing night after night in front of just another audience singing somebody else’s song EXACTLY THE SAME for the 500th time with all my passion, all my spirit and will, has never been a good one. I’d much rather get up on a bench and sing impromptu jazz to crowds in one of the world’s most famous squares, as I feel only the Tuscan rain falling heavily from above, and hear only applause echoing into the midnight dark… For me, singing needs to be an expression of my soul – and my soul does not remain the same, night after night. My spirit is master of my voice – my voice master of my mind. I will be forever thankful to the freedom of Voice, to all it brings me, and for all it takes away… And yet, my journey to Finding Voice, is probably just getting started…
I discovered my need to write on one of my first travelling experiences (solo) to Poland, namely Auschwitz, where I was given a tour of all those terrible and unGodly sights by both the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Chief Rabbi from the UK, the latter of whom sung our group a prayer (the most cruel and touching moment of my life) that echoed throughout the empty fields and shattered gas chambers of Auschwitz II, into the dark, as we lit candles and walked down that ghostly train-track…
I left that place full of anguish. I left that place full of pain. Nothing in my life has ever affected me so… I couldn’t talk properly for days. The only way I could express myself truly, express what beautiful horror those barren tracks and dark concrete chambers had evoked in me, was through poetry… I’ve never looked back. Writing, like my music, has been my release since… I’ll never forget
If, like me, you feel moved, inspired to create something, whatever it is, no matter how big, or small, then that my friend is a message – the stirring of your soul – your calling. Yes, you can choose to ignore it, put it off for a while, put if off forever maybe… but it will never go away. You are as you are meant to be, and if you feel something – don’t run away from that feeling. For something is calling you… a song… a flight… a journey… will you answer your call?
Believe in freedom, LIVE IT, everyday, and day by day you will see freedom manifest in your own life.
A Voice for me is more than just sound – it is words, it is faith, it is freedom. It is an absolute expression of who you are, how you feel, and your personal Truth. We all have a story, a truth, a version of events – often so hard to express.
Written word and song have helped me so much to express who I am, my faith, my heartbreak and my hope. My song is not perfect, it doesn’t have to be. My muse is not immaculate, for nor is my mind. But my voice shall not be silenced, my song shall not end, and my pen will flow as long as life exists within my fingertips. It has to. It’s a big part of my creation, who I am, and how I deal with the world…”
– James Dee Clayton
A note for you, the reader…
Watch it Burn.
When some thing, some place, or some one no longer brings light into your life,
pick up your shoes, and leave… remember that feet are made to walk, not to sit and think.
Breathe, as you watch the sun burning down the horizon, signalling your new dawn, your new faith, your new embrace.
Do not be afraid, do not dismay, do not close your heart or let your veins disjoint. We all have to burn at some point.
And we will fly again, this new day. See the eagle, he climbs again.
Renewed, reformed, rebloomed, but never the same.
Never the same. Lest we forget the lessons of where we came.
There is progress in decay. Be free. Please.
There are no mistakes… – Winter 2016
Let your voice be your key.
Love, truth and light to all.