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Tag Archives: Kierra KiKi Sheard

  • Donald Lawrence - Leading Others in Worship

    Posted on October 18, 2013 by John van der Veen



    The man who wears many musical colors...

    Those seven words eloquently capture the multifaceted essence of who Donald Lawrence is. He is a songwriter. He is a producer. He's a composer, a music/choir director, recording artist, and the list goes on... The guiding force behind such No. 1 hits as “Encourage Yourself,” “Back II Eden” and “The Blessing of Abraham.” Equally at home in both the inspirational and contemporary arenas, the multiple Grammy and Stellar Award winner has collaborated with a diverse roster, including such marquee names as Karen Clark Sheard, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.

    The question is, "What is behind the eyes of such a talented man of God?" I sat down with Donald in search of the answer for that question in particular.

    John: Donald, I personally appreciate your history within our industry and the amount of talent and records that you have brought forth to encourage people in their walk with Christ. I’m wondering, Donald, if you’d be willing to share a few moments about how you were introduced to Jesus, or at least how you began your walk as a follower of Him.

    Donald: Okay. I think that we all have different journeys when it comes to our Christianity, our relationship. Me, I was brought up in a Christian household, so I’ve been in church since I was a little baby. I can never remember not ever being in church. I think you grow, and as you grow and as you mature, you look at your relationship with Jesus Christ differently. I can’t say I remember one particular time when I became a believer, because I never ever remember not ever being in church. Church was just part of my upbringing. It’s a part of my culture.

    However, I think that as you mature, you realize your purpose, and I think I started realizing my purpose when I was in my late teens. I realized that there was a calling on my life to do what I do, to inspire people, to help people live a better life based on biblical and spiritual principles, and that it was going to come through the music. And it has turned into something else as I matured, and I’m learning that, and I’m still learning to see my path as it continues to open up and becomes more visible to me.

    I would definitely say that me learning my purpose is really what I call the beginning stages of my relationship because that’s when I knew why I was put here. I really believe that everybody who is born, God sent here for a reason. The biggest reason is to restore the earth and to bring people back to Him. Once I learned that, that is what I considered, and still do, my connection, because then I know what my job is to do here. I would say definitely that was in my teens; since then, it’s just been listening and following my heart. God is in my heart, and that is just why you still have me here doing what I do now.

    John: Don, you’re a singer, a songwriter, a producer, a composer and a choir director. You are the epitome of a recording artist. When somebody looks at your life and says, “I want to be like that guy,” what would you say to them? Let’s say to someone who is in high school or college who says, “Hey, I want to … I feel like God has given me that purpose, that sense of direction, and I want to move into that same type of calling that Donald has.” How would you communicate with that person in their walk?

    Donald: I would really tell them, based on what I’m doing now and what I’ve studied now, that I do think that there are people who inspire us, that we may see ourselves in them, but we all have our own individualized grace, and our grace is our gift. So if you have a calling, if you have a gift in you, it might be similar to mine, but God has stylized us all to have our own thing. You’ll see people that will inspire you and make it wake up, and then you have to learn what your direct path is. What I would tell everybody is when you awaken and you realize that there’s this gift and it’s likened to someone else’s, let that inspire you, but listen to God because I think He’s given us all people that are assigned just to us and things that are assigned just to us. Listen and follow your heart, and don’t let anybody tell you or anything make you doubt what you know has been called on your life.

    I think that’s the time that we live in now that because, especially in the music business, because somebody thinks that this work, they’ll come to you and say, well, you don’t need to do that. You need to do this like that person, but that’s not my grace. My grace is to do this, and we have to trust the grace that’s been bestowed on us. If you do that, if you honor that, God will find ways to open up doors and paths for you that nobody can even close and nobody would even have thought of, and I’ve just learned to trust the grace that’s been put on my life, and that’s what I would tell anybody. Just be you. Be who God ordained you to be, and trust it.

    John: Donald, you sound like a theologian. You sound like a pastor. Do you feel like at certain times, God has called you into that ministry as well?

    Donald: No, I really don’t (laughing). I know that’s usually the typical thing that people will say when you can speak like that, but the one thing that I do feel like I am directed in is what I kind of think like would be more of a spiritual therapist. I think my music is like revelation music. It’s spiritual. It’s biblical principles and song, but it teaches you kind of how to live from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday with real life situations; so if there was anything that I would ever do, it would be a center where people could go talk to spiritual people like a therapist that maybe had a music component, so I see myself being more of a spiritual teacher, more of a person that is like a spiritual psychologist or with a music element. That’s how I see myself.

    I don’t see myself as a pastor. I don’t think that’s my path. I don’t think my path has ever been a normal path. It’s always had its own odd road, and that’s what makes me uniquely me, and I just kind of know that, so that’s why. I know that pastoring is what it seems like it should be, and counseling and pastoring is very much the same thing. I just don’t see myself with the church, and with the choir, and with the band, and with the praise team, and with anything like that. I don’t think that’s my path. I know that’s not my path, but I do think that being a spiritual teacher and a person that teaches people how to use biblical principles to live life every day is in my path but not the way somebody would think it would be.

    John: Donald, you have a new recording out called Best for Last. You’ve recorded basically a day and a half, and you decided to put one album out this fall and another album out next spring, correct or am I mixed up here?

    Donald: Actually, one in the fall and one next fall like …

    John: Oh, a year from now. Okay. It’s Best for Last volume one and then volume two?

    Donald: Best for Last: Donald Lawrence 20 Year Celebration, Volume One, Best for Last. Volume two might be titled something else like Donald Lawrence Celebration Continues, and then another title cut, but volume one definitely comes out September 24th. It’s featuring a lot of people. Actually, the title song, “Best for Last,” features Yolanda Adams, and I have a lot of guests who show up and join me: Kelly Price, Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans, Hez Walker, Vanessa Bell-Armstrong, Natalie Grant, Karen Clark, Kierra Sheard; just a lot of people join to come in and celebrate with me these 20 years because I’ve worked with so many people. It was great to have a lot of them come back, and we’re going to still do it. Tri-City came back together to sing two songs on volume one, and they’re coming back together again to do more of a live thing on volume two, so we’re really excited about all of that.

    John: I’m glad that you brought up all the guest appearances that you have on the records. You certainly have worked with a lot of artists through the years both within the gospel community as well as out in the mainstream community. What is that like being a man of God, and how do you stay faithful to your calling and your purpose even though you may be doing a job per se out in just secular culture or mainstream culture?

    Donald: I think that everybody that’s on this planet does a job in secular culture, just about. If you work at McDonald’s, that’s not church. The post office is not at church, so secular culture is secular culture. Sometimes people put a different law on top of it when it’s music. I think sometimes people don’t think of music as an occupation, but what we have to realize is that when you have a call on your life, your call is for you to deal with whoever is assigned to you; and where some people might be assigned to more believers, there’s some people who are assigned to believers and people who potentially will be believers, people who are believers who are not necessarily inside the church.

    For me, I don’t look at it like that. I look at it as people, and God loves the whole entire world; so when I’m working with people, I just show them the love of God. That’s it. I don’t beat them over the head with a Bible. I don’t tell them what they’re not doing right or wrong unless they ask me my opinion. I just show them love, and love draws. I’ve learned that over time, so that’s how I can go work with anybody, come back out because when I go there, I’m going to be me; and when I leave, I’m going to be the same me that went in, and I’ve learned that since I was a younger person, and that’s why I don’t even think about it.

    I just look at it as people, and this is my assignment, and I’m going to go and do my assignment well. Pastor Winston says that, and that’s the pastor that I go to, Dr. Winston from the Living Word Christian Center. He said something so powerful for me, and he really, really spoke about how I am in life and what my path was. He says that there is a mechanism that’s not in the church that will ignite God’s glory inside of you. I just thought that was such a profound statement because God’s glory inside of us is His attributes. Usually, when His attributes, which is His glory, shows up in the earth, it shows up through something that you’re graced with, something that’s great about you like when a dancer dances a beautiful line. That’s God’s glory in the earth.

    We see something that is beautiful, and you just go, wow, that’s breathtaking! That’s an attribute of God; or when a tree grows or when somebody’s voice sings a great operatic note, you just go, wow! That’s His attributes. Whenever I go out and I get a chance to do something that I wouldn’t do or I learned something in a secular system that I can come back and apply in the kingdom, that is waking up something in me that wouldn’t have woken in church.

    You can’t learn how to produce great records in church because they don’t (or rarely) have studios. Sometimes the best engineers are not in the church. They’re somewhere else where you can go and learn great things, and you can come back and make the kingdom great. I’ve learned that, and that statement stays with me, that there’s a mechanism that’s not in the church that will awaken God’s glory inside you. That’s really what happened to me. I learned how to produce and be who I am outside of the church, and I got to do it with some of the top people because that’s where they were, and He needed to send me there so I could come back here and be who I am now. I just always thought that was a powerful statement.

    John: Donald Lawrence, 20th year anniversary. I’m excited. Congratulations, my friend, and may God bless you, and let’s hope for another 20 years.

    Donald: Thank you.

    John: God bless you, brother.

    Donald: God bless you as well.

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Hezekiah Walker, Karen Clark Sheard, Kirk Franklin, Kierra KiKi Sheard, Donald Lawrence, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, Natalie Grant, Vanessa Bell-Armstrong, Tri-City Singers

  • Turning It Up - an interview with J. Moss

    Posted on November 26, 2012 by John van der Veen




    Born into a legacy of gospel music, J. Moss continues to blaze an R&B trail with his addictive beats and no nonsense message. Through his new album Volume 4… The Other Side and powerhouse production team, J. Moss is breaking new ground in the industry and challenging gospel artists to let even their stage presence open new doors for ministry.

    Family Christian: Would you start us off by taking a few minutes to describe your childhood?

    J. Moss: (laughs) Well, it’s kinda fast. My dad basically stuck a mike in front of my face at the age of 5 years old and I’ve been doing it ever since. At the age of 41 this year, that’s 36 straight years in music. So of course, you can only imagine what that type of childhood is like, being in the limelight right at the time you can complete full sentences. But I think it took every bit of that time to nurture and shape who I am today. But it also took me away from being on the local football teams and basketball teams, a lot of movies I didn’t see, a lot of parties I didn’t attend, get-togethers at school I didn’t get to experience. During the summers my dad had us on the road. I wasn’t able to do things with my friends in the neighborhood because of the calling that I had and of course what my dad required of us. Definitely a very fast, expedient (if you will) childhood. I missed a lot, but that’s why I’m making up for it now – still a kid at heart.

    FC: So you come from a long line of musicians – your dad was part of the Moss Brothers and your cousins are the Clark Sisters. As you just alluded to, you went on tour as a child. At what point did you realize that your life was going to continue moving in that direction, as a Gospel singer?

    J. Moss: I always knew it, way back from when I was 5, on those old 45 records that we put out years ago. I always knew I’d be a singer in some capacity. Whether I’d be in a group or a solo artist I didn’t know, but I definitely knew at a young age that a calling was on my life and I was different from other kids. No better than the other kids, but I was different; the pull on my life (and not just what my mom and dad were requiring of me), there was something to my heart. A passion deep down that hadn’t even been awakened yet. It probably came [to fruition] when I was at Michigan State University. Those years are where it really started to shift and I was kind of able to guide it to where God wanted it to be.

    FC: May we ask what you went to MSU for…?

    J. Moss: Electrical engineering.

    FC: So you’re one of those guys (like a lot of us) who are not doing what you went to college for…

    J. Moss: Right, not at all. (laughs) It wasn’t easy, but I definitely utilized that education, I programmed microphones and was a programming instructor for Microsoft for 7 to 10 years. I was able to utilize some of that training and even get more training (at a certifiable level) with Microsoft. But I’m not using a lot of that now. It’s all about music and music production.

    FC: Let’s talk about music a minute. You seem to take the listener on a journey in every single one of your songs. What is your process for writing a new song?

    J. Moss: Well, it varies. Sometimes [I get ideas while] mowing the lawn, pulling weeds out of the garden, sometimes it’s on a plane. There’s no finite way to write a song, it comes in many different forms. You just have to be open and available for it to drop in your spirit. That’s what I love about art; there is no right or wrong way to do it. We just have to be open to those feelings as they drop into us. That’s pretty much how I live my life. It could be 3 AM or 3 in the afternoon that I go to the piano and get something going on. That’s just how it is. That’s how we make it happen. I don’t run from that, I embrace it and my family understands that. My wife automatically knows that if I jump up in the middle of the night and run out of the room, 9 times out of 10 it’s not an emergency, it’s that something’s been pulling at me during the night, during my sleep. I’m just always in a receptive place for whenever or whatever God wants to do.

    FC: How would you describe your music?

    J. Moss: My music is definitely very in-your-face, very one-on-one. Humanistic, if I can use that word. Just a real down-to-earth kind of writing. They’re songs that people can put in and say “that’s neat” without having to decipher through. I write by Scripture, but there’s not a lot of scriptural “jargon” to pick through. A lot of the songs just kinda hit you in the face just dealing with your everyday situations. Marriages, parent/child relationships, things that go on in our churches, our jobs, things that happen while we’re driving home from work, things that happen in school, in relationships. Things that aren’t miracles. Just a real, in-your-face, down to earth, grimy kind of style that hits home with everybody.

    FC: In writing your latest album Volume 4… The Other Side did you set out to write around a specific theme? We aren’t music critics, but we’re pretty sure we’ve picked up on one…

    J. Moss: Well, [typically] the theme you’d guess is exactly what we set out to do. We’re very strategic with our albums. Very strategic with what’s going to be the direction or focal point. We try not to be all over the place so we can give the listener or those who are going to experience the project a pleasurable experience. So this album is definitely one of victory and triumph, being on the other side of victory. So many gospel albums are very somber, slow, very “in the struggle” or “in the storm,” types of concepts and what we wanted to do was go on the other side of that; get into a more celebratory, triumphant and victorious type of delivery. Where we’re talking about the advantages of God bringing healing and bringing you out of it – God doing what He promises that He would do. So probably what you felt is what we set out to do.

    FC: What would you say to a person who is spiritually “in the wilderness?” They realize that God is there, but in their heart they feel abandoned…

    J. Moss: Well, that’s where the song “Good and Bad” comes from. I just got so tired of people falling into this hopelessness. And it’s not necessarily just individuals; it’s those of us who are leaders, ministers, recording artists, what have you. It’s our job, our duty, to let them know that God has not abandoned us. That’s a really serious thing. That’s heavy on my heart. I’m on a campaign to let everybody know, hey look, God is still there, He’s still healing. As long as you have breath, the Lord has your back. All we have to do is tap into that. A lot of times we stray so far away that we can’t find our way back home – so basically what you have to do is use your spiritual GPS system (which is the Word of God), and a healthy supporting cast – your friends and family. You want to hang around the people that actually speak those things into existence and you’ll be able to find your way back to the light. But by no means has God punished us, left us, abandoned us. That’s what this record is about. It’s about reminding people of God’s faithfulness. Great is His faithfulness. It’s because of His mercies that we’re not abandoned, we are not consumed. And I live by that promise. Every single day we are renewed. That means every morning He gives us a clean slate. The things we’re ready to ask forgiveness for He’s already thrown into the sea of forgetfulness. Now all we need to do is just press on toward the high calling which is in Jesus.

    FC: J, you’ve said “this record is a clear reflection of my life and where I am at this moment.” You’ve talked briefly about going through the wilderness and living on the other side of that. Do you write from your own experience, or for a particular audience?

    J. Moss: Well, I’m definitely writing [in response to] things that I hear on Facebook, read on Twitter, what I get in emails and from people walking up to me at the end of shows we do. People saying “thank you J for your transparency.” I’m hearing these stories and these issues and experiences that others are going through, so a lot of the final form is not targeted just at J. Moss – but he gives you a lot of himself. [I showed you] the fragile human being in the 3rd project Just James, but with V4… The Other Side we came out of that and decided to really just be a servant of the people again and give them what they needed to hear – a word of encouragement to continue to press on…

    FC: So obviously you’re a solo artist, but also along with your business partners – Paul Allen and Walter Kearney – you’ve formed PAJAM Music Group and have had the privilege of working with a ton of heavy hitters: Byron Cage, Hezekiah Walker, the Trin-i-tee 5:7 girls, Karen Clark Sheard, N’Sync, Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle…? Dude, seriously?! How do you continually balance all of this and keep Christ at the center of your heart?

    PAJAM

    J. Moss: You have to balance it out. You know, you can’t say yes to everything. Sometimes you just have to say, “look I’m unavailable right now” even if it’s just for a 30-40 minute reading or meditation session with God, or I’m going to Bible study and I’m not going to be bothered. A lot of times it’s family that will keep you rooted and grounded in those things. You have to balance family, spirituality and business all at the same time and you only get 24 hours a day to do it per day. Plus you gotta get sleep in there, exercise, health, all of that in there. Balance and management of time truly is key. And again I can’t say enough about the supporting cast. You gotta have management and partners around you who understand the demands on your life and will allow you to breakaway and break free to do certain things. A lot of times it’s our business affairs guy, Walter Kearney, who handles most of that [for me]. He’ll call me sometimes and say J, we have an interview in five minutes and I’ll say, Walter, I just sat down at the table with the family to eat. And he knows that we’ve been out of town for a few weeks and that the time is important, so I won’t even have to deal with that – he’ll intercept it for me, call the radio station or media outlet. You need people like that around you so you can keep a level head about these things. Because you’ll always be pulled in different directions, and eventually you’ll just explode. So I thank God for the people at PAJAM, my family, friends, siblings, mom, all of them who really understand what it takes to be somebody like J. Moss and they really help me the best that I can be.

    FC: This is kind of a curve ball – In all of the various people that you’ve worked with in the past, do you have any embarrassing moments or hilarious memories with them that you’d be willing to share?

    J. Moss: Well if anyone follows us on Twitter or YouTube you’ll know we always have a top 5 or 10 [artists]. One artist that is consistently in our male vocalist top 10 is Marvin Winans. He was gracious enough to lend us his talents on the V2 project that we did with Byron Cage. So we did the vocals, recorded it and he did a wonderful job, and somehow between Paul, Walter and myself, after it was done we somehow threw the vocals into a digital trash can and could not get them back. We had nothing. I mean, man, for days we went back and forth first to try and find the vocals, and once we realized that it was just a no-go, we had to call him. We almost did everything but flip a coin to see who was going to have to call Marvin. (laughs) I mean we were so on edge, He’s a Grammy award winner, he’s our mentor, he’s helped us in so many areas and given so much to our ministry, he’s just been a great friend down through the years. But still, out of respect for who this guy is and his time, how do you tell him on a vocal that he already approved that we lost it and now he’s got to do it again. On one hand you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, and ya know, on the other hand he’s busy and he may not want to do it again, or he may get upset with us. So Paul and I had a time on our hands just trying to figure out the best way to break the news to him. The funny part about it was, I ended up being the one to break the news to him and really all he did was laugh. I mean, he couldn’t stop laughing. He’s a jokester so he clowned us. We have a very personable relationship with him. If you would have seen us, you never would have thought the end result would have been him laughing and clowning with us. It was definitely a time to be remembered.

    FC: Ok, last question - every time we have seen you live or on video, you are a ball of fire! So we’re wondering, do you drink Mountain Dew or Red Bull? Are you just jacked up on caffeine all day long?

    J. Moss: (laughs) You know what, that has been one of those things people have always said to me. If you look in the gospel music industry, especially black gospel, there’s just not a lot of artists that can target the young person in how they want [music/ministry] presented. So when you look at Kiki [Kierra Sheard], myself, Deitrick [Haddon], you know, outside of the few of us, there’s not many more. Of course Kirk [Franklin] does what he does, but just for that incorporating of the dancers and all the movement, jumping from one side of the stage to another, it’s all really just trying to give people in general (not just young people) an experience, and let them know that we’re excited and having a good time. We’re happy with this commission that we have on our lives. I just think that’s where God put me, not just in a place of standing flat-footed to sing, it’s always about being excited about Him. I think the more people can see the excitement in you, they will be more engaged and that will prompt them to get more involved in the service and what’s happening. When you can capture their attention on that level, then you can start feeding them that word of encouragement from the Word of God and start [seeing] changed lives. So PAJAM and I are all about artists who are sticklers for their presentation, because if we can get their attention and get them in the palm of our hand, we can start feeding them what our ultimate purpose is – the Word of God.

    FC: We love it. We just really appreciate your music and have especially enjoyed this last record.

    J. Moss: Thank you so much, we appreciate your love and support – allowing us to use you as an outlet to get this message out. We are going to continue to stay in the studio, in the books, on our knees before the Lord and try to provide excellent product.

    Bonus - video for God's Got It

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Faith, J. Moss, Moss Brothers, Clark Sisters, Byron Cage, Hezekiah Walker, Trin-i-tee 5:7, Karen Clark Sheard, N'Sync, Boys II Men, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Winans, Kirk Franklin, Kierra KiKi Sheard

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