Interviews

Bryan Popin: Created for Such a Time as This

By Bob Marovich Bryan Popin, the singer, songwriter, producer, and musician whose national debut gospel album, You Can Make It, was released by eOne Music in 2013, is back with a new single and new career momentum.  But as he tells JGM, his journey has had its share of challenges. JGM caught up with Popin just prior to his departure to appear on BET’s new gospel music television program, A Joyful Noise. Bryan Popin was born and raised in Middletown, New Jersey, about 45 minutes from New York City.  “My mom had an incredible gift for teaching piano,” he said. “She ...

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“Live the Life You Dance About:” Vanessa Odom on the Praise Dance Phenomenon

By Bob Marovich Once upon a time, there was an artistic expression of worship, inaugurated and performed by youth, that wasn’t accepted by all members of the church. I’m not talking about gospel music, or Christian hip hop. I’m talking about praise dancing. Like its musical forebears, praise dancing was once seen as anathema to the Sunday worship service. Today it is more broadly embraced, but Vanessa Odom of St. Luke Gospel Expressions, representing St. Luke Community Christian Church in Chester, Pennsylvania, knows there’s a long way to go. A dancer her entire life, Odom was first exposed to praise ...

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The Gospel Sensations: Trendsetting With Old School Harmonies

By Bob Marovich To carve out a niche in a quartet community crowded with local and national artists, the Gospel Sensations are employing a time-honored principle that has been all but abandoned in gospel music. A cappella harmony singing. That’s right: trendsetting by going back to the way gospel quartets sang prior to the 1950s: without musical instruments. And people like it. “Sometimes music takes a more commercial turn, and I get that,” said Robert C. Marion Jr., member of the Gospel Sensations. “It takes money to finance a ministry, but the a cappella sound, when it is done right, ...

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Darrell Hines II Puts God First

By Bob Marovich “Bringing talented people together and finding their strong points and making beautiful songs” is the mantra of producer and record label owner Darrell Hines II. His ensemble REVERB’s debut single, the acoustic-flavored “God First,” is impacting gospel radio. “I’ve been immersed in music all of my life,” Hines told the Journal of Gospel Music. “I didn’t get the gift of singing, but I got the love of music. It was just a matter of how I would fit in.” Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Hines comes from a long lineage of pastors. As a child, he ...

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Shirley Caesar on Forgiveness, Her New Album, and Membership in the “B Club”

By Bob Marovich Pastor Shirley Caesar watched the news with incredulity as she learned how Dylann Roof killed nine people during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. “I found it very hard to forgive the boy,” Caesar told the Journal of Gospel Music. “I kept asking myself: ‘Who would come and sit in a Bible study and be a part of it, and people show love and friendship and favor, and then turn around and kill nine people?’” For two weeks, Caesar channeled her internal struggle into the Bible study she led at her church, Mt. Calvary Word ...

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Feeling Good: Dr. Leonard Scott Reflects on 40 Years at Tyscot Records

By Bob Marovich As a young person growing up in Central Indiana, Leonard Scott had an inkling of what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to be a rock star. “I wasn’t into gospel music [at that time],” Dr. Leonard Scott told the Journal of Gospel Music. “I was into rock and R&B. But I had an experience with my Maker. And at that experience, I learned that music had been my God.” Rather than transition from secular to sacred music, howeve,r Scott’s religious conversion kept him away from music altogether. “I didn’t want anything to draw ...

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Charlin Neal, “The Little Girl with the Big Voice,” Goes Solo

By Bob Marovich Nearly a decade ago, singer Charlin Neal stood on a stage in Trinidad as a member of Israel & New Breed. It was her first official program with the multi-award-winning group. “I was excited and intimidated,” Neal told the Journal of Gospel Music. “Of the 30 [Israel songs I learned], we maybe did eight of them—and two other songs I had no idea even existed!” Israel Houghton liked Neal’s sound and invited her to travel to Nigeria with the group. “I’ve been going since then,” she said. Trinidad and Nigeria are a long way from Bakersfield, California, where Neal ...

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For Chicago’s Cynthia Eubanks, It’s All About the Ministry

By Bob Marovich With its infectious aisle-walking vigor, “Nobody Like the Lord” couldn’t be more Chicago if the CD cover had a photo of the Picasso on it. It’s the debut single by Cynthia Eubanks, a Chicago artist who has wanted to sing gospel music ever since she was a young girl, participating in regular family singalongs. “My Uncle Eugene and Aunt Wilma would start off singing doo wop songs from the 1950s and 1960s,” Eubanks told the Journal of Gospel Music, “then they would sing gospel songs and it would turn into a mini gospel concert. Being one of ...

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Christian Hip Hop’s Amour Raps to Change Lives

By Bob Marovich Amour has a two-fisted passion for life. Growing up in her father’s church, she sang, played drums, led the youth choir, and joined the dance team. In college, she focused on business, law, fashion, and graphic design. Among a kaleidoscope of interests, one was a gift for rhyming and rapping. Channeling her gift into a means of higher praise, Amour is now emerging as one of only a handful of female Christian hip hop artists. She is also using her talent, and her story, to change lives. Amour (born TerDawn DeBoe) now lives in Cleveland, Ohio, but ...

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Micah Stampley’s Eighth Album Has Vertical Worship, Hymns With a Twist

By Bob Marovich On May 20, Micah Stampley releases his eighth album, To the King…Vertical Worship.  The live recording, which took place at Oasis Family Life Church in Dallas, Georgia, on June 26 of last year, finds the gospel crooner offering up a batch of new songs, many co-written with his wife and songwriting partner, Heidi. “Be Lifted,” the album’s first single, is already impacting gospel radio. Stampley talked with JGM about the new album, first explaining what he means by vertical worship. “To be categorized as a gospel artist,” he said, “we have to sing the gospel.  It’s not rocket ...

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