By Bob Marovich
Some twenty years ago, Phillip Carter gathered a half dozen of his friends into a local studio. He had written some songs and wanted to hear what they sounded like as performed by a vocal group.
Carter told JGM: “I taught them the music, and we thought, ‘Man, this sounds pretty good!’ I decided to record some of it. One thing led to another and we started the group.”
On September 23, Carter and his group, called the Sounds of Victory (SOV for short), released their sixth live recording, Live From Zion, on Phillip Carter Music distributed through Maranatha! Music/Capitol Christian Music Group.
Live From Zion is “all church choir-oriented music,” Carter explained. “That’s kind of my motto: stuff people can learn in two rehearsals or less!”
“I look for the greatest song I can find,” he added, “and I am not concerned with the style, because most of the time, the greatest song I can find is something that fits me and my group. More than likely, it will be traditional gospel music or what I call ‘light’ P&W that has some substance to it.”
A Stellar Award-winning gospel singer, songwriter, and educator, Carter draws inspiration from three of gospel’s greatest choirmasters: James Cleveland, Thomas Whitfield, and Richard Smallwood. His professional career in music began at Bowie State University, one of America’s oldest HBCUs, when he learned that his classical piano teacher doubled as the school’s gospel choir director.
“When I first auditioned for [the piano teacher],” Carter recalled, “He said, ‘Man, you play gospel really well. Do you teach?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ve been doing it since I was nine.’ He said, ‘Would you mind taking over the [Bowie State University] gospel choir?’ So I took over the gospel choir!”
At the same time, one of Carter’s best friends and a member of SOV was directing the storied gospel choir at Howard University. “He asked me to come and help him be his assistant director at Howard, so I ended up juggling two choirs at the same time. And I had just completed my first album. It was a crazy time, but it was exciting!”
Carter added another choir to his growing resume in 2010 when he assumed the directorship of the Georgetown University Gospel Choir. This assignment continues today.
Carter explained that Live From Zion was recorded in 2012 and re-released after he signed on to do distribution through Maranatha! Music/Capitol Christian Music Group. First the single, “A Friend Unfailing,” was re-released in 2014, and now the full album, but with a new single, “We Worship You.”
Members of SOV and other friends, such as Carlton Burgess (a Grammy Award-winning songwriter), Mike McCoy, and Darnell Moore, wrote most of the songs on the album. Collectively, they are part of an alliance known as DC Gospel Artists United. Featured soloists on the album include Tynette Pierre, Ronette Harrison, Burgess, Matt Kelly, and Pastor Antoine Hutchins. While SOV contains only one original member, Carter is satisfied to have had “the same solid core for the past ten years.”
At the moment, Carter and SOV are working the single, “We Worship You,” and readying to appear at the Church of God in Christ Convocation in November.
Carter also keeps busy with the Independent Gospel Artists Alliance (IGAA), which he co-founded with Earl Bynum in 2010. “We realized there was no education for independent artists,” Carter explained. “They have nowhere to go to get the nuts and bolts, the raw truth, on how to operate in the music industry. We started the IGAA Conference and it’s been going well ever since.”
In addition to creating music, Carter teaches Music and Computer Technology in the Fairfax County, Virginia, public school system. Asserting that there are many good uses of technology to preserve gospel music and capture performance information, he also noted that when it comes to the gospel music audience, “Physical CDs are still the number one deal. It hasn’t changed. Everybody says [gospel is] five or ten years behind, but I really don’t mind that. We like to play the physical CD, hear the continuity between songs and the emotion of it. It gets taken away when everything is downloaded.”
Carter also has a hymns project available on his website and looks to release about five new albums on his label next year. So for Phillip Carter, the words of the song ring true: he’s been running for Jesus a long time and he’s not tired yet.
For more information, visit www.phillipcartermusic.com.