With multiple stints on Broadway, national tours and a solo album under her belt, making music her way has been working out for singer Morgan James.
James -- who has appeared in productions of Gospell, Motown: The Musical and The Addams Family -- takes the stage tonight for two performances at the Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem. But it will be without the accompaniment of drums or percussion.
"I'm bringing with me a piano, bass and guitar," said the Julliard School graduate during a Thursday phone interview. "I like the changes of the instrumentation."
The singer is on the road supporting her 2014 major label debut album, Hunter. The music on Hunter reflects the elasticity and chameleon nature of James' voice: slinky jazz that, over the course of 14 songs, seamlessly stitches together a patchwork of sounds, weaving in and out of modern soul, R&B and blues. Everything that makes up James as an artist -- from her training to her experience, training and musical influences -- are filtered through the vocal prism that is Hunter, she said.
"I felt like it was my baby and I didn't want to dishonor it. Now I feel like it's my little piece of art, my little child no one can take it away from me," James said of the album.
James acknowledged she is still learning when it comes to the craft of songwriting. Material is already being written for the follow-up to Hunter, she added. "The challenge for me is that I'm a new songwriter ... I have such a healthy respect for songwriting and I want to be better at it," she said. "It's funny because you always hear songwriters and artists talk about how their whole life leads up to their first album and the second album is, 'What the heck do I write about now?'"
In addition to her solo career, James has frequently collaborated and performed with YouTube favorites Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox. The ensemble is known for their retrofitted, genre-shifting covers of pop and rock hits; their Beach Boys-style rendition of Aqua's quirky '90s dance hit "Barbie Girl" and a somber, piano-driven version of Hozier's "Take Me to Church" feature James on lead vocals.
"There is a theatricality to Postmodern, there is a sense of humor to it," James said. "I think that's been, really, the fun aspect of it."
A career highlight for James was being given the go-ahead from Prince to cover the latter's hit "Call My Name." "One of the biggest compliments of my life was when Prince gave me his blessing, his permission to cover 'Call My Name'," she said. "One of my favorite things about him is he doesn't stop playing music. He's so prolific and so committed to making art his way."
Though her background includes classical and operatic singing, James is aware both genres have a long way to go in terms of mainstream popularity. However, James said the two styles continues to inform her own music and live performance. "Things are even more boutique nowadays ... Everything old is new again," she said. "The classical world has to find a younger, vibrant generation to survive."
Singer Morgan James performs 7 and 9 tonight at Zoellner Arts Center, 420 E. Packer Ave., Bethlehem. Tickets cost $25 for each show; $62 for 6 p.m. dinner and 7 p.m. show.