Felix Ames 2024

We’d like to imagine it’s possible to stay on top of all the new emerging R&B talent that has been popping up recently, but it’s just not very realistic when an artist can gain traction so quickly. Felix Ames, a R&B/Soul singer-songwriter from Milwaukee, was one of these artists that just seemed to pop up on our rader out of nowhere. After listening to his music, it’s easy to see why songs like “Shoestring” made him gain the attention of many so quickly. As we start to learn more about his story and what drives him creatively, he continues to shine as one of the most soulful and nostalgic sounding artists this new generation is bringing. Any fans of Maxwell and D’angelo will feel right at home when hearing any of the great songs in his catalog. Seeing that Felix is just getting started makes us happy to know there will be much more amazing music for us, and many others, to indulge in for the future.

We spoke to Felix about his debut album JENA, the Deluxe version of his album, what to expect in his future, and much more.

YouKnowIGotSoul: We were supposed to get this in a few months ago, but I’m glad that it gave me some more time to sit with the project. Before we get into it, tell me about some artists and albums that really inspired your sound. Obviously I hear some D’Angelo and Maxwell, but tell me your perspective on how they inspired you and really how you started making your own stuff.

Felix Ames: I’ve been singing since I was talking, like two or three. Obviously it was a lot of D’Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu growing up. Paul Simon on the songwriting side, I love the Beatles. We listened to a lot of blues bands from Chicago, I grew up in Milwaukee, but there’s a blues band in Chicago called the Mighty Blue Kings and we had one of their CDs in this boombox. Every time we cooked or anything, it was on. That album was really like my first musical introduction. Then from there, my dad was really into Motown. A lot of Stevie, Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks things like that. The soul music always hit for me, and Stevie always hit for me. I love Blues too. I don’t think you can hear a bit of it in the music yet, so I have a lot more to explore I would say. I think the music that was played when we were all together is what really stuck with me the most. We went to church for a few years, super intensely. It was like a four hour service where the band was just jamming for 90 percent of the service. I think that was a big influence too, cus’ those guys are all improvising. It was just crazy. I kind of look at that and I feel like that’s where the bar is at for me.

YouKnowIGotSoul: You have to tell me a little bit about making the album. What was your whole process for making the project?

Felix Ames: When I started the album, I was living in my mom’s basement in Milwaukee. She was still living there. I was at a crossroads trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I was at the point where I’ve been making music for like five years. Some things were happening, but I was still trying to figure it out. I had to choose it again… so I did, and then I built a studio in my mom’s basement. Got a new laptop and was like, all right, let’s see what we can do. I started recording again, and made 7711 in her basement. I was like taking trips off to LA when I could go work with my producer, Calvin. Calvin Valentine, man, that’s like my right hand man.m I think going into it I was doing a lot of self exploration because I had so much time. No one was worried about me sitting in my mom’s basement. That’s the place I’m coming from where everything was so isolated because there was like no noise around me. It was like I want to come out of making the album with a better sense of self. An understanding of like what torch I’m carrying, you know? In the meantime, I was doing stuff for TV and film, trying to get some bread in my pockets. That allowed me to move to LA and finish making the album. A lot had happened in my life. I guess like every year for the past four years has felt like 10 in good and bad ways. It was just like therapy sessions. I would come in and hang out. I felt very safe and comfortable the whole time just with myself. It just kind of happened and we had the final tracklist. Start moving some things around, so that’s how it was made. The songs on the Deluxe we made kind of as afterthoughts to the album. It felt natural to kind of just tack them on there. I’m very intentional about the whole arc.

YouKnowIGotSoul: The majority of the songs are all like standout singles to me, but the ones that really got me were actually the singles already. “Don’t Be Alarmed” was stuck in my head for a long time. What inspired that song? Speak about making that one.

Felix Ames: That wasn’t even gonna be on the album actually. It was the last song we added to the album because it felt like we needed another breath of fresh air. That was the song that felt like a breath of fresh air. I made it right around the time, if I’m not mistaken, where I was moving into the album rollout. It was time to start actually getting ready to put the album out.

There was a lot going on and also like romantically, I had a lot going on. I think for me when I’m making music, I’m almost like telling myself what I need to hear. I like making sense of things in the same way that journaling helps with that as well. The song just wrote itself. That was one of the ones that I made with Calvin and my homie Lucas Gorham on guitar. It was just another day. We just got in and jammed, made the best shit, and went home. You feel me? I treat this shit like its part of my week to week life. It helps take the ego out of the creation process.

Cause you can’t have that. You can’t have that in the room. I think pressure, pressure can bring great work out of me, but I think baseline creating with no pressure and just rather like trying to explore is more conducive to making good shit for me.

YouKnowIGotSoul: It seems like most of the songs, if not all of them, are just kind of the flow of you. What’s coming out of it is coming out. That makes sense because the project feels that way, and it kind of ties into your whole story of how this all just kinda happened, you know?

Felix Ames: Listen, you can’t make this s*** up man. Whenever I have the Netflix special in 10 years looking back on s***, like so much lines up. That’s why I’m like, man, I’m just grateful to be able to do this for a living. To be able to play and put music out, and have people that are going to listen to it. Having people that are going to buy tickets, like that’s just the hardest s*** to me.

YouKnowIGotSoul: One song I want to talk about is “Half a Man”. I told you already, but that’s definitely the song that probably touched me the most. Why don’t you just speak about that a little bit?

Felix Ames: I was in Phoenix, I had just said goodbye to my grandfather. He hadn’t yet passed, but he was on Hospice. I was going back to work kind of thing, so I flew back to LA and I had sessions. My therapist always tells me, no matter what you’re feeling like, that doesn’t mean you can’t create. You never know what’s going to be there, and any emotion could come out to be anything. So, we got in the studio. It was at Calvin’s house. The whole album was made at Calvin’s house. My homie Wyatt came over. I think we had tried a couple of things and we were like maybe it’s not here, let’s try a couple more things and see what happens. No pressure. Then he was like Oh, I actually have my final project for college. He went to school for jazz piano. So the “Half a Man” keys is actually the composition he did for his final project for college. It’s exactly what I wanted to hear. The song was almost done already, and I was like just you have we have to get a piano solo after this hook right here He put his s*** down quick and then he just walked straight out. It’s interesting too because I think that was like only the second time I had met the homie Wyatt. I’m like, this is interesting as an artist to have to train yourself to be able to get very vulnerable in front of people you don’t really know. We also sent it to the string arranger Phil, who’s in Seattle, but that’s how that song came about. I found a voicemail from my grandfather too. It’s like a proper goodbye. He would always just call and check in on me and be like, “just wanted to call to see if you’re doing all right”. Me as a little kid feeling like this grown person actually cares what you think and about your thoughts and about your life, gives you a sense of confidence as a kid. I feel like the voicemail and having that song be the outro is my carrying the torch moment.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Are the tracks on the Deluxe of JENA going to sound similar to “Mr.Weatherman”?

Felix Ames: I would say it’s album 1.5, you know what I mean? It wasn’t even for the first album. I really found the ones, and we found a way to mold it into telling the sequel a little bit. Sonically, it’s very different even from Mr. Weatherman. The other joints that are on there are very different too. I’m excited to start diversifying and building the catalog. The first album was only when we first stumbled on the sound, you know what I mean? There’s so much building out and exploring to do.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Are there any more goals you have for the rest of the year? Any more hints you can give us for what’s coming next?

Felix Ames: My whole career I’ve been thinking in terms of objective goals that I want to hit. But, I think this year I’ve been trying to focus more on doing everything I do, like a hundred percent. It’s easy to cut corners because when you’re only one person and you want to be hands on with everything, it just becomes a lot. I just wanna be 100% all in on everything I do. Every show I play, every festival I play… because you never know the timing of things.I just want to keep pulling up from half court. Seeing I could bank a couple of them things in, you know what I mean? I’m still making the music. I’m still in process. I’m working on the next album. So I’m fully in that mode and I’m just trying to keep building my life, keep building the sound, and keep exploring.

Rapid Questions

Favorite Album? Voodoo – D’Angelo

Favorite Song? “Superwoman” – Stevie Wonder

Album that you wish you were featured on? Gold – Cleo Sol

Song you wish you wrote? “She’s Gone” – Hall & Oates.

Dream collab? Snoh Aalegra or Cleo Sol

A song from your catalog that describes you the most? “What A Good Time”