James Fauntleroy Invents "Sexy Christmas" on His Debut Solo Album 'The Warmest Winter Ever'

The writer, producer and four-time Grammy winner sat down with Hypebeast to share more about finally “becoming an artist” so late in his career – and why he chose a Christmas album to make his debut.

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Despite working with nearly every major artist in the industry – writing and producing songs for Justin Timberlake, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Nas, Travis Scott, SZA, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna and Beyonce, to name just a few, and nabbing four Grammys along the way – R&B polymath James Fauntleroy has never considered himself an “artist.” A revered and respected industry vet, Fauntleroy finally made the leap into artistry this holiday season with his debut solo album – a Christmas album dubbed The Warmest Winter Ever.

“I was pretty staunchly resigned to not being an artist for so many different reasons,” he explains to Hypebeast – but after being in the industry for almost 20 years now, he bit the bullet over the summer. For his first foray into artistry, Fauntleroy teamed up with longtime friend and collaborator Terrace Martin for Nova, which just snagged a Grammy nomination for Best Progressive R&B Album, marking Fauntleroy’s seventh Grammy nomination – and his first as an artist.

For his solo debut, Fauntleroy, a fan of easter eggs and smartly hidden details, wanted to do something special for his longtime supporters. Though he may not have considered himself an artist, Fauntleroy had previously put out two Christmas projects on Soundcloud: Warmest Winter Ever in 2014 and Warmest Winter Ever II in 2016. Fans had been begging the musician to move the projects over to streamers for years, and almost a decade later, he felt it was time.

 

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I’m starting to move a lot of material to streaming just so people can access it differently – so people don’t have to switch apps when they’re exercising. That’s a weird, specific complaint that I get a lot,” Fauntleroy laughs. “But I’m really just trying to let everyone know that I see them and I hear what they’re saying.”

Fauntleroy previewed the sound of what he refers to as “sexy Christmas” last month when he dropped eight brand new tracks – “Bad Bad Bad,” “Bring That Sh*t To Santa,” “Christmas List,” “Magic,” “Miracle,” “Mrs. Claus,” “Sleigh,” and “Unwrapped.” He then supplemented the rest of the project with fan-favorite cuts, totaling the tracklist to 25. Find the full tracklist below. 

Always inspired greatly by the holiday, Fauntleroy cites his childhood as a key sonic player in the making of The Warmest Winter Ever. “There was this Luther Vandross Christmas project that my mom and all the moms in my life would play. Luther Vandross is sexy, but you could also play it around the kids. It has a function. It’s of use. It provides a service. I wanted to be a part of that, but I wanted to contribute in a different way,” Fauntleroy explains. “Also, people hit me up all year about [Warmest Winter Ever and Warmest Winter Ever II], so I realized that [this] had more use beyond just Christmas.” 

THE WARMEST WINTER EVER

1. Unwrapped
2. Bad Bad Bad
3. Magic
4. Bring That Shit to Santa
5. Mrs Claus
6. The Neck
7. Miracle
8. Christmas List
9. Sleigh
10. Nice Or Not
11. Body Heat
12. Spiritual Gift
13. Is It Morning Yet
14. It Rains Everywhere
15. Christmas Lights
16. Christmas Everyday
17. Christmas Everynight
18. Give You Love
19. The Present
20. Stocking Stuffer
21. Dreaming
22. Like Summer
23. Mistletoe ft. Maeta
24. Open Up
25. You Can Get It

Accustomed to being behind the scenes, being in the spotlight as an artist is surreal for Fauntleroy. “This is my first time having actual conversations about my own music and artistry. It feels like this is the beginning for me, and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to experience that so late in my career,” he reflects. “I have done everything I have wanted to do in my career, and now it’s about going even deeper into each thing I’m passionate about.”

“If I can find new things that interest me and that are pushing the envelope for myself, then I feel like that’s a good indicator that it could do the same thing for someone else” he explains. Both of my recent projects just deeply represent my endless desire to do something new and keep myself entertained while I try to entertain everyone else.”


The Warmest Winter Ever is now streaming on Spotify and Apple Music.

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