THE name James Poyser came up during a press conference at the recent Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival. American soul singer John Legend was asked about the track Humanity by roots-reggae group Prince Lincoln and the Royal Rasses, which he covered with The Roots on his album, Wake Up!
He said he had been introduced to the song by Poyser, a musician with Jamaican roots living in Philadelphia.
Poyser was born in Sheffield, England to Jamaican parents, Reverend Felix and Lilith Poyser who are originally from Duanvale in Trelawny. He now calls Philadelphia home and is making quite a name for himself as a producer and musician working with the 'who's who' of popular music.
His credits include Adele, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, Ziggy Marley, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D'Angelo, Common, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Anthony Hamilton, among others.
In addition, he is a member of The Roots, an influential part of the neo-soul movement and house band for NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
For Erykah Badu's debut album Baduizm, Poyser is credited as writer/producer for Other Side Of The Game, Sometimes - Mix #9 and Afro - Free Style Skit.
On Lauryn Hill's multiple Grammy-winning album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, he has writer, producer and musician credits. He is a musician on Adele's acclaimed album 21, as well as executive co-producer and writer on Al Green's Lay it Down album.
Poyser, an accomplished pianist, pointed to the church, and being a preacher's son, for his musical foundation.
"I grew up playing music at my church, where my father is the pastor. Music is such a huge part of the Pentecostal church experience that I guess it was natural for me to gravitate to it," he told Splash. (As a result) "I've been blessed to work with many major artistes; writing, producing and playing for these artistes."
No stranger to the land of his parents' birth, Poyser said he has visited Jamaica on numerous occasions catching up with his family, working and vacationing.
"While I've never lived there, it is still my culture." His Jamaican heritage also informs his musical stylings. Poyser has a few Jamaican artistes he would like to work with.
"I'm a huge fan of Beres Hammond, who I, along with The Roots, recently performed with on the Fallon show a few weeks ago; a really great guy. A good friend of mine whom I've worked with on his last few albums is Ziggy Marley. I'm a fan of Tarrus Riley; he has a great voice," he said. "It really doesn't matter... I guess I feel a sort of kinship with most artistes from Jamaica, and I can appreciate all that they do," he explained.
And what are his thoughts on the state of Jamaican popular music?
"I have an appreciation for pretty much every style of music, and while there are some dancehall things I'm not a fan of, there are quite a few that I am. Internationally, people like Diplo/Major Lazer, Santigold, Snoop Lion and others are still showing just how influential the Jamaican music sound is."
He continued, "I wouldn't say it's dying though. I'm sure that there are some new artistes who we haven't heard yet that are practising their craft, and are about to make some noise. So, whenever I hear the term 'such an such an idiom is dying,' I feel that, no, everything is cyclical, something fresh is on the way soon."