By Bob Marovich
Kenny Lewis, founder and leader of the Stellar Award-nominated gospel group One Voice, didn’t have to go any further than the current news to find inspiration for his new album.
“With the way that the economy was going and with the election,” Lewis told JGM, “we really didn’t know what was going to happen. I felt like it was time for everybody to refocus back on Jesus and loving Jesus.”
Refocus, Kenny Lewis & One Voice’s new (and fourth) album, is all about getting back to loving Christ. Released last Friday, May 19, the album’s single, “Love Song,” is experiencing radio airplay.
“Romans 8:28,” another track on Refocus, is also one of Lewis’s favorite scriptures (“All things work together for the good of them who love God and are called according to his purpose”). For him, it encapsulates the album’s theme.
“As long as we commit to loving Christ, he will take care of our business,” Lewis said. “If you invoke the masses to put their sights back on loving Jesus, he will do the rest.”
Although Lewis co-produced his second and third albums, this was the first time he produced an album by himself. He was not at all bewildered by the prospect. “Over the years, I have learned the sound I wanted to create,” he said.
He has had plenty of experience. Lewis learned his craft at the feet of two important mentors. One was Mark Hubbard. Hearing Lewis sing, Hubbard invited him to join his group and then featured him as a soloist on his debut album, Trust in Jesus (Tyscot, 1992).
Lewis later worked with another choir maestro, Ricky Dillard. He led the title track of Dillard’s 1995 album, Hallelujah, and went on to make three more records with him. “[Ricky] gave me an opportunity to see how artists operate on the road and back stage,” Lewis reflected. “He allowed me to direct his choir at times. He gave me a lot of experience. I’ll always appreciate him for that.”
In 1999, Lewis decided it was time to organize his own singing group. He assembled One Voice from friends as well as individuals who auditioned to be in the group. Lewis said that while the One Voice personnel has changed over the years, some members have been in the group “since day one.”
A year and a half in the making, Refocus is, in Lewis’s own words, “a music buffet: if you like contemporary, praise and worship, choir music, traditional, we’ve got it all on this project.”
The buffet represents Lewis’s own music eclecticism. “I’m a big quartet head,” he said. “I love quartet music. I love choir music. I love female groups. Sometimes when you are on other people’s labels, you have to put out the music that they see fit. I was really able to express my genuine feeling in this record because there was no one to tell me I had to put a specific kind of music out. So I believe [Refocus is] relatable to everyone.”
Lewis wrote seven of the album’s songs. One, “Love Song,” is the current single. “There are a lot of distractions that tend to get us off course or off focus,” Lewis said of the inspiration behind the single. “‘Love Song’ is about focusing back on loving Christ and not letting anything separate us from his love.”
His songwriting style is as eclectic as his musical influences. “I can sit at the keyboard and vibes will come to my head, but in the last three or four years, the Lord will give me music and messages and it will come in parts. So I always have my phone with me and I’ll record while I’m driving, or in the middle of the worship service, I’ll slip out and record it [on my phone] so I won’t forget it. And then come back and piece things together.”
Guests on Refocus include firebrand vocalists Lisa Knowles (“Defeated”) and Zacardi Cortez (“Romans 8:28”). “Love Song” features a Chicagoland artist named Christopher Robinson.
An album tour is in the works. Meanwhile, Lewis serves as minister of music at St. John’s Baptist Church in Chicago.
“I wanted to convey something inspirational, something encouraging,” Kenny Lewis said of Refocus. “We’re living in a time when people are really discouraged about a lot of things. My prayer has always been that God will allow the music to transcend and minister to the many faces that I will never see and I will never meet.”
For more information, visit: www.kennylewisonevoice.com. To read JGM‘s 2010 interview with Kenny Lewis, visit: http://journalofgospelmusic.com/gospel/kenny-lewis-one-voice-is-on-a-mission/.