Grammy nominated, Dove and Stellar award-winning singer-songwriter Jonathan McReynolds dropped a new project called People. With it he continues to provide the transparent and relatable music that fans of the young artist have come to love and follow him for. We chatted with him about the EP, our belief that he is the “Kirk Franklin of his generation” and how once rejected by BET’s Sunday Best as a contestant– he’s now one of the judges on the show. We also joked with him about whether or not after a giving us a teaser he’d ever complete the Usher “Climax” singing challenge that circulated on Instagram. He gave a great answer. Read below and enjoy.


GFM: People is the new project coming out. The title track, “People”, is one of the most real songs I’ve heard in a long time. It’s very well written. I had to stop and rewind and write down one of the lyrics. I was just listening to the song and it was pleasing to my ear, but then you stopped me in my tracks. I had to rewind and write this part down– “She was the reason I smiled in the morning. He took the last bit of joy I was storing. That too much power for anything human.” That absolutely floored me. Talk about where “People” came from.

JM: Thank you, you know, “People” was written, obviously somewhere in the middle of last year when I was having an incredible year professionally– tours, accolades, TV and whatnot. But, a really, really challenging… if not the most challenging year personally. And a lot of my issues, of course some things I brought on myself, but a lot of my issue was the weight and the significance that I gave people. You know, we are meant to look to people for certain things. But when it comes to your inner security, your inner peace, your sanity, your healing… you have to pursue that yourself. You can’t really expect people to spoon feed that and to protect it for you.

Whether it were people close to me– family and friends doing things that I wish they wouldn’t have done, or thinking things that I wish they wouldn’t have thought, or giving opinions that I didn’t want to hear, or people on Instagram or Twitter– you know, a lot of times those people really shoot and go for blood because they have like a filter in between.

Whoever it was, I needed to make sure that I learned to reason within myself and have a perspective that only I and God had access to and influence over. So, I just needed to kind of recalibrate myself. If I take all of their words and their opinions out of the picture, who am I? And that to me is what truly being delivered from people would mean for me in my life.

Movin’ On

GFM: “Movin’ On” is the new single. You have brother Mali Music on the track. Can you talk about that and how that collaboration came to be?

JM: Yeah, so you know, I don’t know if you have turned 30 yet, but when you turn 30– and I know this is Grown Folks Music– so maybe its some people out there that can remember when they turned 30 how much shifted and how much changed about the way you thought about things. Some of the effort and the care that you once had you no longer have anymore. You realize, ‘You know… forget them.’ There’s a certain thing that clicks in your mind that you definitely just want to start closing that chapter which was the 20s. As amazing as it was… there’s some new lessons learned… there’s some new approaches now that you want to get to.

For this particular song, I wanted to have kind of a soundtrack to my own kind of journey and shift from one chapter to another. I was literally, physically moving from one city to another. But, I was more importantly moving spiritually. I was moving mentally and emotionally. Things that I once thought and once cared about and once worried about in 2019… I wasn’t going to carry that over as I turned 30 at the end of the year.

So, this is just a soundtrack for that. Then as I kind of got done with it, I started to feel the vibe and I thought it  was perfect for my brother Mali Music. He agreed to come do it with me. We recorded it in a hotel room [with] the most hood setup ever. It worked out pretty well and we had a really good time doing it, and now we’re just really blessed how it’s resonating with people. Apparently, a lot of us had some chapters we wanted to end and some pages we needed to turn.

The People’s Champion

GFM: You have such an unique sound. How were you received when you first came into the recording industry? Did they know how to receive your voice? Talk about that– your entrance and how you got into the industry.

JM: It’s interesting, I just got off the phone with a friend of mine. We were just kind of talking about just the perception of the trajectory of my career, and how on my end I definitely felt some of the resistance. My manager, and just random people within the industry– they fought battles to try to change the status quo enough to even allow somebody like me to have a chance. He was telling me that the long-running kind of… I don’t want to say joke… but just the long-running response… I guess… was, ‘We love him, but we don’t know what to do with him.’

That was literally from whether you talking about label wise… you talking about radio wise… anything wise… there was a certain level of, ‘We love it. We don’t understand how it would fit business wise. We don’t understand how it fits industry wise.’ So, what happened was the music started to just meet people on a very human level. It got past whether you worked in radio. It got past whether you were the pastor of a church. It got past whether you were just a consumer of gospel music.

What happened was God just worked through people. People are the ones that championed this music. Whether it was in their world of just their home, or whether their world was a full label or a radio station. I’m just really blessed at how people… even though there wasn’t a template… there wasn’t a model and a true, straight up path to succeeding with my sound… people just championed it and created this weird world where sometimes my most popular song is not on the radio. Sometimes my song that gets nominated for Grammy is not the single. It’s just really an interesting world and interesting way that we have carved out a space because yeah, the general idea was, ‘Something about his music we love a whole lot and it’s hitting me in a different way. We just don’t know how it fits with all that we already have, you know, called gospel.’

Generational Game Changer

GFM: Thank you for mentioning that your music has met or hit people in a different space because I really believe… my personal opinion is…. and this is not a comparison or anything like that, but I really think that you are the Kirk Franklin of your generation. The reason why I say that is because of how strong your writing pen is. And two– the very thing that you talked about– how you are meeting people where they are and your ability to get people of your generation to listen to music that they may have not otherwise.

JM: Thank you. I mean, that’s an honor. Obviously, you know, a lot of us in our generation including me look at Kirk as one of, if not the greatest of all time when it comes to gospel artists. So absolutely, for you to say that and honestly for him and other incredible legends and G.O.A.T.S… from the Winans to Mary Mary to a lot of incredible people… Yolanda Adams… they have definitely given me a vote of confidence. Several votes of confidence. Several necessary votes of confidence throughout this entire process. And so, you know, I’m really blessed. I wanted to make the music that would comfort and educate and challenge me. You just realize that sometimes the things that you needed so many other people did too.

Sunday Best

GFM: Speaking of votes of confidence, I heard that you tried out for Sunday Best and you didn’t get very far. You didn’t even get to the TV round. And now fast forward you are a judge. How has your not making it that far in the process to [now] being a judge… how has that given you a different perspective? Or, does it give you a different perspective when you’re giving feedback to the contestants?

JM: Yeah, I think it does. I think it gives me a perspective of, ‘You know, this is a great route, but you don’t need it. This is a shot, but it is not your only shot and this is not your only path.’ I’m always looking for the people that have something different to offer. The people that we might not have been able to see a path for their success a decade ago. Because when I was 17 or 18 and I was just auditioning for Sunday Best, I ain’t  even really know what it was. It was the first season and I was just kind of throwing myself out there. I sang for three seconds and they told me, ‘no’. That allowed me to even have my own path and do things in a way that has certainly proven to be the way that was created for me.

I always look for people that have that difference. They have that that weirdness… that kind of off centeredness… that non traditional-ness. I really love to see that because now I’ve seen how that can affect the world. I’ve seen the different types of people that are going to listen because you come with a different vibe or you come with a different approach, and so I just love that.

So I definitely, you know, secretly, unconsciously love the unique ones. I would probably choose great and unique over great and traditional every time. But of course I’m only one of the judges [laughs], which is great because they need to balance that, because I definitely love just how the new generation of people are coming. They’re singing differently. They’re approaching songs differently. I love to see that element of artistry in some of these singers that come up through the ranks of Sunday Best.


Quarantine & Artistry

GFM: How is this time that we’re going through now affecting your artistry [and] your writing? How do you think it’ll affect it?

JM: Well, you know, we have discussions like this amongst the artists. While financially, of course, we have so many shows canceled. You know we’re used to traveling. I’m used to at least going to two cities or something a week and we’re not having that part. But, when it comes to just the normal… when we finally get home and we just want to write and we want to make music… we are normally pretty quarantined.

This is kind of normal as far as me being home. Am I home this long? No. But when I am home, what am I doing? It hasn’t really changed. We’re writing. Me personally, I’m doing a lot of promotion for this particular record, which is another creative, fun process for me within itself. Just to expand upon what the music is saying or about to say. I love that part of it. It allows me to be creative in different ways.

Where [before] I was just writing and recording music, now I’m thinking of ways to present that music. I’m thinking of the extra sound bytes, the extra words, the extra literature, the extra whatever that can cause people to not just explore the music, but understand it even more to the point that it actually starts to affect them and change the way they think about things. That’s a really fun process for me. And it’s an element of creativity as well. I’m having a decent time when it comes to that. Now other things I squeeze, but when it comes to being kind of isolated and just me, my mind and God… just trying to… you know… duking it out and figuring out what we’re supposed to do next.. that’s pretty normal. So I’m pretty good.

Grown Folks Music

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

JM: I think there’s a certain level of classic-ness that has to come with this type of music. When I think of grown folks music, I think of the generation that I might have either been on the tail end of, or the one I just missed as far as age wise. I think of music that had to be very intentional about saying something and intentional about making people feel the right thing.

It was a little less tainted by the business. It was a little less tainted by trends. It was a little less tainted by, you know, popular opinion. I think people aimed for just good music… good, classic music. Hopefully, even in a  world where trendy and quick, quick success is generally what is sought after, I’m hoping that the type of music that I make gets put in along with the trendy stuff, but also the classic stuff as well.

Climax Challenge

GFM: So I have to joke with you for a few seconds. Are we ever going to get just a few more seconds of that Usher “Climax” challenge or nah?

JM: [laughs] See, here’s the thing. I have some people out there that, you know, they’re looking at me like some kind of gospel heartthrob-eligible-bachelor-symbol or whatever it is. And so, you know, I gotta be real mindful about some of the things that I do. I try to play with that idea.  I try to make a joke out of it a little bit, but I do fear that the response to the full version of that would be a little more visceral than I really want to deal with right now [laughs].  So, maybe when we’re not promoting another record, maybe I’ll come back to it.

GFM:  I was reviewing the lyrics and I was like, ‘I don’t think there’s anything in there…’  I’m with your line of thinking, but I don’t think there’s anything in that particular song. It’s not like “Confessions”. I was like, ‘I don’t there’s anything in that chorus that’s offensive.’ He’s just kind of talking about the end of a relationship, but I fully understand what you’re saying.

JM: Oh no, it would have nothing to do with the words. It wouldn’t even be about people taking it wrong.  It’d be more about people taking it too right [laughs]. No honestly, in college I used to wear earrings. A lot of us guys– at least from Chicago… the Southside of Chicago– we had the studs in all the time. When I started singing music, sometimes I would go [perform] and the words that I was writing– they were very serious to me. I wanted to make sure people heard the message. I would go up there and I would scat a little bit and all this other stuff with my earrings on, and all I would hear sometimes is, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh yeah! Oh!’ I was like, ‘Y’all ain’t paying attention to what I’m saying!’ So, the same reason why I decided to stop wearing the pretty-boy earrings when I first started this, is roughly the same reason why I probably won’t finish that song.

Jonathan McReynolds’ new project, People is out NOW! Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.