Boney James has been the co-host of The Smooth Jazz Cruise for 8 years. The first time was the West Coast edition of The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’13, where he and Brian Culbertson shared co-hosting duties. Since that time, Boney has buddied up with Marcus Miller, a duo that has taken The Smooth Jazz Cruise to new heights. Boney and Marcus have collaborated on stage as well, performing the very popular “Hat to Hat” show. Boney and Brian are famous on the ship for their Ping-Pong wars. They host the passenger-artist tournament every year.
A four-time Grammy Award nominee, Boney has had four RIAA Gold records and has sold more than 3 million units. His versatility and broad appeal gives him access to many genres. Boney is a two-time NAACP Award nominee, Soul Train Award winner and named one of the Top 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Decade.
Always a fan favorite, no cruiser ever misses a Boney James show! Recently, ECP Executive Director Michael Lazaroff had the opportunity to pose some questions to Boney. Here is a transcript of their discussion:
Lazaroff: Boney, we have corresponded frequently over the past few months, but it has been over a year since we have seen each other. How are you doing?
James: I’m doing well thanks! I’ve kept busy during the break, releasing my CD Solid and doing about 30 Facebook Live mini-concerts. I’ve also been spending a lot of time practicing my horns and finally getting in shape!
Lazaroff: We have already spilled the beans about your new diet and exercise regimen, but could you share some of the details with us? When we “saw” you last, on The Smooth Jazz Cruise Holiday Show, you looked great!
James: Thanks! I think just cutting out all the late-night takeout food I usually get on the road and eating healthy home cooking (my wife Lily is a great cook) has been a big part of it. Plus exercising every day has helped me stay sane and has the extra benefit of burning the calories and weight off… 25 pounds!
Lazaroff: Your latest recording, Solid, is amazing! Can you tell us what was your inspiration for the tunes you selected and when do you think you will be touring in support of the recording?
James: I’m really proud of the new record. These songs started as a reaction to how stressful things felt in the world … and this was before the pandemic. Writing the music helped me feel good, so the tunes have a generally positive vibe to them. Music has always helped me that way and the word “solid” refers to my relationship with music, and strong positive relationships in general. If all goes as well as it seems it’s heading, we should be back on the road for real in the fall. I have one show coming up at the end of May in Cabo and scattered shows through the summer. Can’t wait to play live!
Lazaroff: On stage, and off stage, you are usually in black and wearing a hat. It is part of your aura. When and how did that look begin?
James: Hmm, the hats started in the mid-90s just to keep my hair out of my face! But immediately the fans dug that so I kept on wearing them. Wearing black is just cool!
Lazaroff: We know that you are always in “mid-new album.” What is the next Boney James project?
James: I have not really felt the urge to write again just yet. With everything being so on hold and not having had a chance to work the Solid CD on the road yet, I think it might have set me back a bit for the next record.
Lazaroff: Your participation on the cruises has gone from Special Guest, to sailing a few days, to sailing a full week to being a Co-Host. This progression is consistent with your careful and deliberate manner. Can we assume that you fully embrace the cruise experience now?
James: I am on record saying The Smooth Jazz Cruise is my favorite gig we do now. It is an amazing feeling to be on the sea, on the beautiful ship with the spirit of camaraderie you get from sharing the experience with 2,500 or so folks. And all the unique musical moments that also happen out there!
Lazaroff: One last question, what is your favorite aspect of being at sea on The Smooth Jazz Cruise?
James: It’s the positive energy of sharing the ship with the other musicians and fans all having a blast. It’s a feeling you almost can’t get anywhere else.