Written By Travon Bracey
There are many independent artists that we listen to that we as a generation can be named real stars. However, there's always a moment where music lovers need to dig deeper into who really behind the talent. Kori James, an Atlanta-based and Miami-born singer, and songwriter, is one of those hidden gems. His music of R&B vibes with sensual lyrics, and mediated vibes gives his sound and harmonies the music you've been missing. Kori has collaborated with the likes of Brik. Liam, a Morton Records recording singer-songwriter and close friend of his and Re Lxuise, another Atlanta-based Grammy-nominated songwriter. Even though I wanted to interview Kori face-to-face, it was also during the time the release of his newest project, Words With Friends, Vol. 2, was getting phenomenal recognition that lead him to have a busy schedule. However, he still was able to take some time to talk to little old' me about his life and career.
I want to start by saying that I love your new project, "Words With Friends Vol. 2". I know that it's an offspring to volume 1 but what made you continue the storyline to this brilliant sound of music you've created?
Thank you so much for listening, man. The idea for 'Words With Friends' came from me being tired of chasing placements. For those who don't know, a 'placement' in regards to creating music, means to have a song you wrote/produced picked up by an artist and used on a project. I've been at this for a long time, first, as a songwriter. Then, I taught myself to produce and started shopping records. I got a lot of "no's." So, I had the idea to place my records, have independent artists who I know are killing it record em. I wanted to die the idea that we always have to reach up to have success. I reached across to my peers and made some pretty [fantastic] music.
My favorite song on this new project is B W/O U, but you also shared on your social media platform that "Where Our Endings Meet" is your favorite. I want to know how your recording process was with the song B W/O U and why "Where Our Endings Meet" is dearly unique to you?
Recording 'B W/O U' was a lot of fun. I invited a few of my homies to the studio with me, which I never do because a recording is work for me and I don't like distractions, but the record was fun, and I used the energy that the track created in the room to execute it the way I did. Now, 'Where Our Endings Meet'! I love that song. Last summer, I went through a breakup that fucked me up a little. I tried several times to write about letting it go, but the words wouldn't come. I had an 'aha' moment one night. It was a night I hit my breaking point, and I knew the shit [was a finish]. I started just writing the words. Poetry. "We've gotten to this point, at the ending of our story." Deep down, I knew it wasn't one for the long haul, but I tried. I heard this piano sample. It was so melancholy. [It's] like a Sarah Vaughan song. I produced around it and cut this trash demo for it. I let four people hear it. And only one listened to the beauty in it. I sat on the song for months until the opportunity to work with JAWAN came. He was visiting Atlanta doing some studio work, but I was adamant about him making some time for this record. I already heard him on it. We met at Icon Studio. I taught him the song on the spot, and killed it! The sincerity in his voice! He sang it as he lived it.
I want to take it back to your E.P. Tomorrow. "Lita" with Ré Lxuise is my favorite song by you, and the first time I heard your music was when my love partner was pole dancing to "N.E.Way". The bottom line, I fell in love with your songwriting. How was the songwriting process like from Tomorrow versus with Words With Friends Vol. 2?
Honestly, I don't think the writing process changed. My formula has always been to just live and write about it. I do believe my writing has matured, but again, that just came from growing from experiencing. The recording process changed more than anything. With WWFv.2 I got to work with some fantastic artists who were able to vocally execute things I couldn't, which made for a better song.
Which song stands out to you the most from the 2012 project, Write On, Kori?
The one not on iTunes or Spotify. My day ones know. 'Blow U Away' is my favorite off of 'Write On, Kori.' "If the fucks that I don't give can apply to you, then I'd be aight." What!? Some of the most real shit I've ever written. Over a Fisticuff and Jhene Aiko sample! What!? It's only on my Soundcloud if yall wanna hear it.
What are some of your favorite artists that you've written for, and why?
I wrote this song called "U Are" for Day26. That was supposed to be my first prominent placement. I hope one day their recording of it leaks cause when I say they sang! THEY SANG! I also have a record with Javonte coming out soon. That's a favorite of mine too because of he just...ugh! You have to hear it. He's one of a kind.
Who is your dream collaboration?
That's hard. It's so many amazing artists out who I respect and admire. I'd have to say, James Fauntleroy, though.
I would like to make a suggestion. I'm not saying now, but soon if the listeners can get a collaboration song with you, Alex Isley and Brik.Liam in it. How would you feel about this collab?
Everyone who knows me knows that Brik. Liam is the bro. We've worked together for years. First, on his project 'Mr. Liam's Neighborhood'. I vocal arranged and engineered the bulk of that project. I co-wrote and co-produced on last year's release, 'What's The Matter, Brik?'. There's history there. I love working with Brik because although he's family, he's still very professional and just pleasant to work with. If you put me in the room with him and Alex, I'd just love to hear how the two of them would interpret something I wrote. I wouldn't even try to sing with them because those two are vocal beasts.
How did you get your start into music?
I'm not as [social] as people think that I am. I spend a lot of time by myself. Thinking. Planning. Reading. My circle is a small group of friends that have become my family while living in Atlanta over the past ten years. We get up frequently for dinners. They're all overachievers, so we're always celebrating something, and if nothing at all: life. I'm chill, though.
What are your pros and cons of being an independent artist?
I love having complete control over the art and the freedom to create without pressure. However, it gets expensive. I pay for everything from studios sessions, mixes and masters, and visuals. Everything comes out of my pocket. This makes me even work harder on the day job to be able to finance the big ideas I see in my head. Being independent is not for the weak.
When it comes to music, who do you look up to the most?
James Fauntleroy. He is just so low-key and humble. You probably wouldn't recognize the man if you saw him on the street, but he's written all your favorite songs. That's the kind of life I'd love to lead. Write a smash, hit the bank, duck off, and repeat.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I've always found this question difficult because people around me always still seemed to know exactly where they'd be. I sometimes have a hard time seeing past Tomorrow. I'm working my ass off today to have financial freedom, peace, and a catalog that solidifies me as one of the greatest songwriters to ever do it, even if that's only by the people who've heard of me.