James attended high school at Peter Johansen High School in Modesto. She graduated in 1999 and was quickly accepted to The Juilliard School in New York City at age 18. There, she studied opera, and eventually earned her Bachelor of Music in Voice in 2003.
She has appeared in numerous Broadway plays, including Motown: The Musical, Godspell, and The Addams Family. Her first studio album, Hunter, was released by Epic Records in November 2014. The family moved frequently when James was a child, going from Idaho to Utah, Tennessee, and eventually Modesto, California where she spent her high school years.
Her grandmother also bought her a karaoke machine and agreed to pay for singing lessons until James went to college.
In college, James also took a master class headed by Broadway veteran Barbara Cook. After college, James initially struggled to find work and looked for jobs that utilized both her operatic and classical training.
James did not make her Broadway debut until 2010 in the musical production of The Addams Family, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. In 2011, James appeared in Frank Wildhorn"s Wonderland and the Broadway revival of Godspell.
James was injured (sprained ankle) in a rehearsal for Godspell in October 2011 and was unable to perform during previews.
She recuperated and, by November 2011, was performing in the play at the Circle in the Square Theatre. In 2013, James took on the role of Teena Marie in Motown: The Musical. She stayed with the cast until December 2013, at which point she left to pursue a vocal performance tour.
During her time on Broadway, she also moonlighted as a solo artist with a backing band often composed of Chris Fenwick, Matt Fieldes, Damien Bassman, and others
She has played at numerous New York City clubs including (Le) Poisson Rouge, 54 Below, Rockwood Music Hall, Birdland, and more. Her first solo album, Morgan James Live: A Celebration of Nina Simone, was recorded at New York jazz club, Dizzy"s, and is a collection of Nina Simone cover songs.
lieutenant was released via Epic Records in December 2012. Her second solo album (and first studio album), Hunter, was recorded in 2014 and first released via Epic Records in June 2014.
The 11-track album was produced by Doug Wamble and is James" first album of all original, solo material.
In 2014-2015 James collaborated with Postmodern Jukebox, producing several cover songs on their YouTube channel and joining them on tour. Besides touring with PMJ, she has also been on a solo tour with her band during the summer and fall of 2015, with scheduled tour dates well into 2016.