Listen to “Choose Me” by Latice Crawford— best known as the second runner-up of Season 2 of BET’s Sunday Best. “Choose Me” is from Crawford’s EP, Diary of a Church Girl, the follow-up to Crawford’s 2014 debut self-titled album.
About “Choose Me” Crawford says, “”Choose Me” is a song about our human need and desire to be accepted. Accepted by our families, accepted by our friends, significant other, accepted at your place of business. That’s where I was when I wrote it. I was trying to navigate through this journey called life; in an industry, religious denomination and social culture that said I should look this way, act that way, walk like this and talk like that. I didn’t feel like I fit the mold and I didn’t feel like I fit in. One day I realized I would continue to let people down because I could never be what they expected me to be, but more importantly, I would let myself down if I kept trying to be anything but who I was created to be. That’s when I decided to stop relying on people’s validation and go straight to the creator. If he could choose the likes of Moses, David, Joseph—the list goes on—with all of their imperfections he could surely choose me. I realized that the only thing that was important to me was doing his work, helping his people and pleasing him. He doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies who he chooses to call.”
Growns, check out “Thinking Of Me” from Akron, Ohio gospel trio Half Mile Home. “Thinking Of You” is from Half Mile Home’s forthcoming album, Don’t Judge Me, due to be released on July 8, 2016 on Church Boy Muzik.
About “Thinking Of Me” (From the press release): Half Mile Home’s new single, “Thinking Of Me” is a heart-warming single and delivers Holy Power through the anointed lead and harmony voices of Terence “Buttons” Burton, Darryl “Deaken” Brownlee and Todd Burton. Composed by brothers Terence and Todd with frequent co-writer David “Ready Writa” Felder, “Thinking Of Me” is a spine-tingling reminder of God’s grace in our daily lives sung from hearts of eternal gratitude and spirits of sanctified soul. The song opens intimately with piano accompaniment, then blossoms into celestial glory with production elements of synthesizers and rhythm.
Micah Stampley spoke with Grown Folks Music about his new album, To The King: Vertical Worship (released TODAY), why worship is so important in music, singing with his sons on stage and what he feels his responsibility is as a gospel artist. Read below and enjoy!
GFM: When I read the words in the title, To The King: Vertical Worship, what came to my mind is that is it worship that’s not just intended to go out, but to go up and to breakthrough. Talk about why you named your album Vertical Worship.
MS: Once you hear the album, you’ll see from a lyrical perspective this project is very, very, God centered in that most of the music, if not all of it is directed toward Him. Praise can be both horizontal and vertical. We’ll find ourselves singing songs of praise and we are literally testifying to each other of the goodness of God… of the goodness of Jesus. But, when you talk about a vertical worship, you’re speaking directly to Him. It’s a prayer. [It’s] communication directly to your father… your creator. It tells the story of the relationship between the creation and the creator. This album is every bit of that. There’s a lot of prayer songs on this project and the experience is so vertical it just brings you back to where we should all be at: the foot of the cross.
GFM: Talk about why worship is so important in music.
MS: Music has the power to enter your subconscious without your permission. I think you and I and everybody else is probably guilty of walking through a grocery store or a mall and you find yourself humming along to the music that is playing over the sound system, or you’re bobbing your head and tapping your foot. It has the power to enter your spirit man… your subconscious… without your permission. But, when you combine that power of music with what he has called us to be… I’m a licensed minister but I wasn’t created to preach. We preach today, because man sinned yesterday. God– He is His word. He gets nothing out of my preaching. In beginning was the word. The word was with God and the word was God. He gets nothing form my preaching. I can’t preach to Him… Himself. So, what does He get from me? Worship. Worship is not confound to a melody or a slow song. Worship is a way of life. I give my life to you. Not my will but your will be done. That means the secret things that nobody else knows about. We have to give that stuff up too. [We have to] give every aspect of our life to Him.
When you talk about worship, I think that worship music should teach people how to touch the heart of God without begging all the time. Just because we have a need doesn’t mean He’s obligated to meet it. Otherwise, there would be no poverty in the Earth. But He is obligated to fulfill His word. He’s not a man. He cannot lie. If I sing the word of God and I give the people the word of God and not give them an emotional experience… you know sometimes we can find ourselves singing music and writing music that is very emotionally driven… not that we don’t become emotional when we’re in the presence of God because we do, but when I write music that reminds you of your struggle without giving you the answer out, then I’m just manipulating your emotions. I want to help people get to a place of healing– not remind them of their current situation. Worship does that because God said, ‘all you have to do is lift me up. I’ll do the rest. Seek me first and my kingdom. Everything will be added unto you.’ I think we have a responsibility as artists– gospel artists to give people Jesus and not give them your own personal experiences all the time. Now it’s cool to testify of the goodness of Jesus, but just by you testifying to me won’t bring me to a place of wholeness and healing. Only Jesus can do that. So give me Him.
GFM: That’s interesting that you mentioned gospel music, because gospel music as we hear it now on the radio seems a little bit different. Do you have an opinion or thoughts about this new incarnation of gospel music that we’re hearing?
MS: As a people you think about blues. The blues can be very sad. You think about the old slavery songs. I think as a people, over generations and generations, we are so accustomed to singing music and writing music like that. I too, have been guilty of it. God really had to open my eyes and help me see a different side. I think that’s the message he is requiring me to teach and to talk about now. To whom much is given, much is required and I don’t want to just be responsible for just feeding God’s people emotionalism and “woe is me” music. I have a responsibility to lead them to Jesus and to His chambers.
Let me just put it to you like this: our job as recording artists, gospel artists, ministers of music [is] through gospel music, it’s our responsibility to lead the bride of Christ, His people, His church, into His chamber for intimacy. I’m just a mailman, but when I put myself into the equation and I’m singing music and I’m doing things that pull them into my chamber for intimacy then I’m committing spiritual adultery with the bride of Christ. So, it’s a lot bigger than what we think. Once we are open and receptive to this revelation, I believe that we’ll see a wave of God’s healing power through our music all over the world. I really, really believe very passionately about this message and about this revelation that I believe that God has given me. I dont, per se, have an opinion about my peers and their choice of lyrical content or anything like that but, I just want us to see things from a different perspective so that we can come to a place where we’re giving people Jesus, and not more of ourselves.
GFM: What is it about the live recording that you really feel captures the essence of the worship experience that you’re trying to bring forth with the music?
MS: This is my eighth album and only three of them were live. That live experience… seeing the audience, feeling the energy in the room, the excitement and seeing the tears flowing… it just brings out the heart. People [are] just pouring out their hearts. One of songs on the album, “Be Lifted”, which is my current single– the audience literally hyped the song at the live recording. They would not stop singing. Literally we had to force them to stop singing it so that we could record the rest of the album. They sang that song for like 30 minutes long. I had to edit it. It took a lot to edit the song down to five or six minutes to fit the album. All night long we had those experiences. People were just crying out. [It was good ] just to feel the room and see people’s hands lifted… just experiencing that live and we were together… my [spiritual] brother and my sister beside me. I feel them and they’re feeling me and we’re just together in a corporate setting giving our creator the best that we have. To capture that on a cd is phenomenal. I’ve had the privilege of doing both studio and live [albums] and I’ll take live above studio any day.
GFM: Talk about featuring your sons on the album during the worship medley.
MS: They’re always singing and they love worship. I’ve learned a long time ago that the atmosphere you create will always determine the product they’ll produce. Heidi and I always create an atmosphere that is conducive to God’s presence in our home, so they hunger and thirst for that worship. We’re teaching them hymns and songs like “It Is Well”. There was a moment where I did this medley so I just started calling them up one by one. David is the youngest. He’s the first one that I gave the mic to. He’s 11 years old, and I mean he just poured his little heart out singing the song, “Hallelujah! Thine The Glory”. Second was Adam. I was very shocked. Everybody was really surprised to hear the way delivered. I hear him sing all the time, but I didn’t know he could sing soprano. That was treat for us. My parents were there and they were crying. Everybody was shocked. Micah was the last one that I called up. He really concentrates on his tone and things like that, but he’s such a worshipper and [has] just the purest heart. At the end of it, the three of us sang it as a trio. They really messed the whole place up. My background singers were weeping and crying listening to them. I don’t really get a chance to do that often. It’s kind of hard to get your kids to get on stage and sing with you, but to see them be so open and receptive… my daughter, I tried to get her to sing, and she was like ‘No. I’m not doing it.” [laughs] She’s just like her mom in that. But it was really an incredible evening and it was such a treat to hear them pour their hearts out and just worship and be open to getting on stage with their dad and give God glory. It was incredible.
GFM: If we were in an elevator and I asked you what it is you do and you told me that you were a minister of music and you had an album coming out shortly, but we’re about to get off the elevator– what could you tell me quickly that would make me want to go and get To The King: Vertical Worship?
MS: I actually have had that experience once since I’ve recorded this album. I was in New York and someone asked me that. I was dressed, getting ready to go an event and I told them what I did. They asked if I had albums out. I was like, “Yeah, I have seven and I just finished recording my eighth album.” I told them I was a gospel artist and if they needed clarity for business decisions, my music can bring them to a place where they can receive clarity and be able to hear God’s voice for direction and answers. My music brings a presence of peace and is very welcoming. It was a couple actually… an older couple who were also believers…Christians. So, I actually had that experience once. I don’t think I’ve ever had it before– it was just with this particular album. It’s not a coincidence that you even asked me that question. I don’t usually do that. People see me dressed all the time because I’m in and out of hotels. That’s the first time that had ever happened. That’s the answer that I gave them and hopefully people can get that from the music– solutions, clarity, peace and joy– all of that stuff.
Interface Entertainment recording artist and international worship leader Micah Stampley’s eighth project– a live recording called To the King: Vertical Worship— is set for release on May 20, 2016. Stampley recently premiered music from the forthcoming album on Sirius XM’s “Kirk Franklin’s Praise” (Channel 64) Check out encore airings on Sunday April 17th at 11:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. PT and Tuesday, April 19th at 11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT.
To the King: Vertical Worship was recorded live at Oasis Family Life Church in Dallas, Georgia (Pastor Anthony and Christina Murray). “This entire album is about purpose,” says Micah. “We were created for worship. The Bible says, ‘The Father is seeking those that would worship him in spirit and in truth.’ This album is simply about touching the Father’s heart with our songs. It’s about songs that bring us to personal conviction and deeper relationship with Him. Songs that are to the King and point our hearts to Him. Whether in celebration or serenade, I want this album to bring us back to the idea of being intimately vertical in our relationship. This album is to bring glory to The King.”
Check out the video for “Be Lifted: LIVE”. The video was filmed at the International Center in Toronto, Canada to a multicultural audience of over 7,000 people. “Be Lifted: LIVE” was produced by House of Praise, Toronto and Micah’s Interface Entertainment.
Grown Folks Music spoke with Grammy and Academy Award winner Regina Belle about her first R&B album in 15 years– The Day Life Began. Read below and enjoy.
GFM: You’ve been away for a while… as far as the Grown Folks are concerned. Can you tell us what you’ve been doing during this time?
RB: I actually have still been working… doing what I do. I still do R&B [live]. I just haven’t recorded any R&B in a number of years, but I’ve absolutely still have been working in my capacity. I do gospel and R&B. I have to say it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do that. So, in terms of being off my gig… so to speak… I’ve still pretty much have been on my gig. I’ve been busy.
GFM: You mentioned that you hadn’t recorded R&B in quite some time. This is the first R&B album in fifteen years. Why did you feel that this was the time to present something on the R&B side?
RB: Number one, the opportunity presented itself and God didn’t tell me that I couldn’t. So, I went for it. In terms of when I did the gospel renditions that’s where I was. That’s where God wanted me. That’s where he had me at the particular time. For my time in transition it was a wonderful period. However, I think sometimes we put barricades or barriers or boundaries on ourselves when God doesn’t necessarily do that. So, I enjoy being where I am because I’m a church girl at heart. Everybody who knows me knows that. So it’s not like if I do a R&B gig that you’re not gonna understand who Regina Belle serves. That’s just a part of my makeup. It’s a part of what I do. It’s a part of who I am. It came to a point in my career where I felt comfortable. I know God was comfortable with me kinda mixing it up a little bit and being able to render a gospel, a jazz and a R&B project and it be okay– mostly because you’ve gotta know what kind of message I’m going to give. I’m still Regina Belle. I ain’t gonna sing about just anything [laughs].
GFM: In listening to the album, I noticed that the songs flow seamlessly between R&B, jazz and gospel. You mentioned the word ‘comfortable’. It seems that you stayed in a lane that you’re very comfortable in and that there wasn’t a whole lot of experimentation going on. Is that intentional? [Did] you really want to touch on something that was very much familiar to you and to your fans?
RB: There are a lot of areas of music that I’m comfortable with. I won’t sing anything that I’m not comfortable in. When I make the statement that I’m singing in places where I’m comfortable, I’m mainly talking about messages. There are many genres that I’m comfortable in. “Be Careful Out There”, which is one of the songs from the new project, was written for a country singer. It was my first opportunity to render such a piece. However I’m very comfortable in that genre, because basically country music tells stories. R&B, soul [and] gospel [songs]… they tell stories. They pull you in through what it says lyrically. It’s not just beat driven. It has a lot of girth to it in terms of what the message actually renders. I was really, really excited to do that because it was my first opportunity to do such a piece, but also to exercise my wings in that area of music.
GFM: Going back to when you said that you returned to recording on the R&B side because the opportunity presented itself– were you approached by specific songwriters or producers about doing a project? How did that opportunity come about?
RB: I actually was approached by Andi Howard, [who] was one of the executives for Peak Records years ago when I did the jazz record Lazy Afternoon. She’s working intently with Shanachie Records. She said, ‘Hey, do you wanna do this… as she calls it… R&B inspirational?’ I said, ‘I’m not really sure where you’re going with that [laughs].’ When people put names on stuff that you’re not really familiar with, sometimes it can be a way of legitimizing something that they feel you might not go with. They’ll put a name on it so it feels better for you. But, with Andi knowing me over the years and how adamant I am about certain types of music and what I’m gonna do and what I’m not gonna do, she said, ‘I have a team I know you’ll love.’ Because we have history, she kinda knows how I am and what I am to work with. She put me with a production team called The Heavyweights [who were] members formerly of [the group] All-4-One. You already know that they have hit making ability, because “I Swear” sold 20 million records or something like that. That’s why I said the opportunity presented itself when Andi came at me and said, ‘Hey, I would love for you to come and this production team wants to work with you.’ It was an honor to work with those cats and to be able to do such a project, because like I said I got an opportunity for the first time to really, really mix it up the way I wanted to mix it up.
GFM: Are there any artists out there right now singing and performing that you feel are special and you like?
RB: I like this young man… he does the song “I’m a classic Man.” I love him [Jidenna]. I think he’s great. He brings back that Motown swag on top of having a nice voice. He presents something different– something that I feel like I can identify with. First of all… the look… taking time to make sure the look [is right]. Then, he’s takes it a step further with doing that and then putting an Afrocentric stamp on it. I’m totally in love with that. I’m kind of an old school girl. Still, Aretha is gonna be in heavy rotation at all times [as well as] Al Green and Stevie Wonder. In gospel music, I still have my favorites, with people from Pastor Shirley Caesar and Pastor Donnie McClurkin, [and] the new kid on the block, Anthony Brown with [the song] “Worth”. I listen to a plethora of music. I love Blake Shelton. I listen to a lot of music. Period. I mix it up because I enjoy all genres.
GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?
RB: Grown folks music is going to be a little different for me. I think grown folks music is not necessarily just for grown folks. I think grown folks music kind of covers the gamut. When your kids can hang out and listen to it, I look at that as grown folks music… when it can surpass age groups. It doesn’t necessarily have to be older music. It can be younger music. I believe it will catch the eye or the ear of many listeners and many age groups. My kids love James Brown. When they’re cleaning up the house, you’re gonna hear “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”. You’re gonna hear that because they were raised up listening to all types of music. They will listen to anything from the latest from Beyonce’ and Jay-Z to Adele.
Regina Belle’s New Album, The Day Life Began drops TODAY (1/22). Get it at iTunes.
Check out Jonathan Butler’s, timely new single “Be Encouraged”, from his forthcoming new album Free.
About Jonathan Butler and Free (From the press release):
Three years in the making, Grammy ® nominated recording artist Jonathan Butler is set to release his highly-anticipated new gospel CD, Free, on October 30, 2015 through Rendezvous Music and distributed by Provident Distribution and Sony Red Distribution. The smooth jazz artist first catapulted onto the Gospel music scene with the Grammy-nominated hit “Falling In Love With Jesus,” and Butler once again impresses with his emotional testimony on Free, reflecting his life the past few years.
“I’ve been through a fire and all kinds of challenges. It’s been a crazy three or four years,” Butler said. “So this album is a testimony of God’s goodness. With the timing of all these things happening to me and in the midst of all of that, writing a record was pretty heavy. I was going through quite a lot personally and I wanted to make that statement very clear on this album that I’m in a new season in my life.”
Butler’s new season spawned the album Free with 11 rousing tracks, including the single “Be Encouraged,” the title-track “Free,” the joyful and celebratory tune “You Are The One,” the tender ballad “Where Would I Be,” and the worship anthem “I Am That I Am” to name a few. The album was produced by Luther “Mano” Hanes who also co-wrote “Where Would I Be” and “Never Find A Better Love.”