In just three years, Luke James has gone from appearing in Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls),” music video to being a Grammy nominated artist blending the sounds of hip hop, R&B, and Motown influenced soul. He sat with The Shadow League, at a recent event in Newark, NJ to support The Lincoln Park Music Festival. The festival’s lively weekend celebration of family and music was perfect for James who recalls growing up and first hearing the soulful sounds that shaped him as an artist.

“Early on, I was introduced to music. Everything. I remember when I was younger, I used to hear a lot of country music, just a lot of rock and roll, a lot of blues,” he said, after a private VIP performance. “Being from New Orleans, we listen to everything. I guess it just connected with me. I never exactly intended on seeking R&B status. I think I just wanted to do music and express myself in that form. People put a box on it, but it’s whatever.”

Prepping for the September release of his Def Jam debut album, Luke James, this past June the video for the lead single “Options” dropped. A solo version of “Options” and a remix with Rick Ross will both appear on the project. Prepping two videos for his next singles “Dancing in the Dark” and “Exit Wounds,” he’s grown since his 2012 EP/mixtape Whispers in the Dark. “I’m a bit more free in expressing myself,” he says. “A lot more open.”

With 78,000 Instagram followers, tours, and legions of female fans vying for his attention, the hardest part of it all for James is staying grounded. “It’s very hard,” he says. “But I surround myself with great people that try their best to tell it like it is. I try my best to listen. That’s basically how I do it. It’s nothing that serious to get all bigheaded about. It’s life.”