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.
Check out the video for “Be Lifted”