Beneath Jimmy James’ wigs, caked-on makeup and fake breasts and his on-target impersonations of Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Karen Carpenter and Patsy Cline, there was a dance music artist aching to be set free.
On Jan. 27, Interhit Records released James’ debut single, the contagious “Who Wants to Be Your Lover,” produced by the red-hot Berman Brothers (Amber, Real McCoy, She Moves). Before long, the provocative accompanying video, involving twentysomethings playing a board game called “Mystery Lover,” should pop up on MTV, VH1 and The Box.
Life may be a cabaret, old chum, but for James, it was just one step toward his lifelong dream.
“I’ve had this passion for years,” James said recently, “but I was so stuck with the Marilyn thing that I kept getting gigs, and I couldn’t turn them down. There were lots of gigs to be done and I had people to pay. Suddenly, I had this little industry going with me dependent on being Marilyn and all the voices.
“I was very good at it, but deep inside … I always played dance clubs, because I didn’t like the cabaret world. I loved going to the dance clubs, doing my show, so I treated myself like I was a dance artist even before I had a record. After my shows, I would always go to the DJ booth and get to know the DJs and ask them lots of questions, like who they know is good in the business.”
A native of San Antonio, Texas, James moved four years ago to New York, where he honed his female impersonations and gained national and international exposure. On the side, he made a few demos. Nothing substantial, he said.
“Then I finally met someone at Warner/Chappell publishing,” James said. “He literally took me by the hand and led to the right producers, which were the Berman Brothers. We located a song, and I had a lot of fun doing it and was blown away by the production. I wanted not only an underground dance thing, but I wanted it to be radio dance ready, and the Berman Brothers know exactly how to do that. I was very lucky.”
James glows when recounting the reaction he got from Warner/Chappell representatives when he performed “It’s Morning Again,” a song he wrote for a future album.
“It’s an amazing song,” James said. “I closed my eyes and sang the song in one take and it was written. I never wrote down the words. They laid down some music for me and then I said, ‘Just let me get out there, and I don’t know what’s going to come out, but there’s something I want to say.’ I was going through some heavy shit that summer.
“They freaked out over it at Warner/Chappell. I’m hoping that Giorgio Moroder will want to produce it.”