You might recognize Parson James’ smooth voice from the hit song, “Stole the Show,” a collaboration he co-wrote with Norwegian DJ/producer Kygo. The song’s dynamic tempo accompanied by James’s velvety vocals made the tune an instant success—and the 24-year-old is showing no signs of stopping there.
Hailing from South Carolina, the singer-songwriter’s affinity for music became evident at a young age when he spent much of his time singing hymns in church. It wasn’t until “Stole the Show” shot to mass popularity both domestically and internationally that the depth of the up-and-coming artist’s talent became known. All the while, he’s remained true to all aspects of himself as an openly gay, biracial man.
Having since signed with the legendary RCA Records, James’s career is certainly on a rapidly ascending trajectory. Prior to his debut television performance on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers on February 8, we spoke James about his proudest professional moment thus far, ideal celebrity roommate, and upcoming releases.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I think I have this whole high fashion cowboy priest thing going on that just sort of happened. The hat, jacket, earring, jeans, and boots just spoke to me, so I usually wear a variation of the same outfit everyday.
How did your career get started?
After I moved to NYC from the south at 17, I was putting myself in front of literally any and everyone that I could. I played loads of open mics (most of which I was too young to actually get into) and was constantly out at different shows and venues meeting whoever I could. I realized the amount of talent there was in NY and had to figure out a way to set myself apart from all of these incredible voices. So I began to write. I put up an EP that attracted a bit of interest from a few folks and then started writing for other artists. After a while labels became interested in the voice on the demos and so I quickly shifted from doing that to writing for my own project and now we’re here.
Where do you hope to be professionally in 5 years?
Ideally, I’ll be on album number three, selling out venues globally, and still having as much fun as I am now making music. I also would like to be on a judging panel for some type of reality competition show. I’ve just really always loved the drama of it all and think I need my dramatic TV moment.
What’s your next project?
My EP is out February 5 which I’m super proud of because it’s my rebellious little baby. I’m finishing up the album at the moment so I expect that to be dropping within the next few months. I’m also in the middle of putting together my live show which is proving to be very exciting and I can’t wait to take it on the road.
What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
Performing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was one of those things that words can’t even describe. The entire moment felt like I was floating inside of a Norwegian cloud or something. It was magical. I still can’t believe that I did that. I’ll truly never forget it.
What famous person dead or living do most wish you could have as a roommate?
SELENA. OK, here’s something you should know about me. Selena is literally like my number one in life. She’s my background on my home and lock screens and I know every lyric to her songs (Spanish & English). I think if we were able to live together I would be a much better dancer and my sequin game would be top-notch.
What is your favorite driving music?
Any form of female rap because it makes me feel like the road is mine.
Whose career would you most like to emulate?
Adele. I’m super family-oriented and am a homebody at heart so I think the way that she has managed to create while balancing that is incredible. I also think that what’s lovely about Adele is that she writes when she is inspired and truly has something to say. It’s never timed or pressured and it makes for extraordinary songs. I want to remain honest within my music and never write from any other place than true emotion.
If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
I’m gonna say the ’60s because I need to be friends with Janis Joplin.
What activities do most enjoy doing alone?
How To Get Away With Murder and AHS binge watching, and Meatball Shop & chill.
When are you most relaxed?
When my dog (Dolly Parson) and I get to watch movies together all day.
What kind of person were you in high school?
I wore double popped collar shirts and my screen name was firstname.lastname@example.org. It was dark.
Can you tell me a quality about yourself that you are genuinely proud of?
I love that I am able to befriend literally anyone. I love learning about people and finding out everyone’s story because I love people. So I can usually go into any social setting and not be awkward.
Do you have any phobias?
I’m the biggest hypochondriac in the world. I’m always dying of something in my head… I think that counts as a phobia yea?
What’s a serious side of you that people are unlikely to know about? Either in terms of interests, hobbies, or personality?
I love kickboxing. Like, literally obsessed and always like to imagine terrible people as the bag when I’m finishing the last bit of combos in class. I don’t know if that’s that serious, but hey.
What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
Cooking! OK, I’ve been making it a bit of a new hobby when I can but I want to be top chef as fuck, and just have recipes on hand, and cook every night.
What are some of your favorite Internet “memes” of all time?
Any meme that has Lil Mama crying is the best meme on the internet period.
How do you hope to grow as a creative person?
I just hope to not be so hard on myself or overly critical of anything that I’m working on. I’m a perfectionist, which could be a good thing, but sometimes I overthink and I think that compromises the art a bit sometimes. So I hope to be better at that in the future and go with my gut.
If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to life what might it be?
“It’s fine,” Me and my best friends always say this. No matter if it’s the absolute worst situation possible, it’s bound to get better for sure. So, “It’s fine.” Also, “How often?” My manager Tim started saying this with his old band and I’ve been obsessed. Imagine trying to do a dry January and then being offered tequila in Tulum—you would say, “How often are you drinking tequila in Tulum?” and then have the tequila.