SG Insights: Steve Lacey

Google can lead you to some interesting places. Recently it led me to rediscover Steve Lacey, former Gold City baritone and Kingdom Heirs lead. Steve has long been one of my favorite singers, and the Gold City lineup of Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Steve, and Tim Riley really had something special vocally. Steve graciously agreed to do an interview for the blog, and I think you will enjoy this!

WB: Can you catch us up on what you’ve been doing since you left the Kingdom Heirs?
SL: I left the Kingdom Heirs in December 1995 and moved my family back to our home state of Alabama. Along with my wife Penny & brother Mark, we formed the Steve Lacey Trio. We had some pretty good radio success with “Down On My Knees,” “I Still Believe.” and “On The Road Home,” all songs I had written. Mark left after a couple of years and was replaced by our good friend, Russ Randolph. Russ was with us for about 3 years and then left, replaced by our oldest daughter Kelly. When the kids (we have 3) started high school, we decided to stop traveling and I would focus on working as a music evangelist/worship leader for revivals and conferences, which I did for 5 years. In June 2005, I accepted a Minister of Worship position at Gilliam Springs Baptist Church in Arab, AL and served there for 4 years. I returned to working as a worship leader for conferences/revivals and doing some solo dates. Penny has worked for a company for many years and was offered a really good opportunity in the corporate office in 2011. Our kids are all grown up now and married, so she accepted the position and we moved to the Dallas/Ft Worth area in May 2011. I have been working as a worship leader for conferences and special events, doing a few solo dates, and getting our trio together occasionally for a song or two.

When I left the Kingdom Heirs, I really intended to just write songs and do a few solo dates, nothing serious. I recorded a solo project in 1996 with songs I had written. “Dare To Be A Daniel,” a song I wrote for that project, was later picked up and recorded by Brian Free on his debut solo project. It went to #3 on the Singing News charts. Won By One recorded “He Found Me” from that project. In fact, the idea for the trio came from my asking Penny and Mark to record parts for 10 new song I had written. It started out as a demo to pitch songs, but turned into our first project. Signature Sound, The Trio (Ivan, Kirk, Anthony), Steve Brock (TBN) & Gold City all recorded songs from that project.

I’m currently working on a new solo project, my first since that 1996 project. It will be made up of several new songs I have written along with a few old favorites. We’ll see what happens :)

WB: Do you have a favorite album that you recorded while you were traveling full time?  A favorite song?
SL: The Pillars of Faith project with Gold City would have to be my favorite, simply because it was the first and has so many great stories behind how it all came together. I was thrilled to see that fans of your blog still favor it too!! Some may not remember this, but it won album of the year 2 years in a row at SN Fan Awards, the 2nd time after Ivan & Brian had already left the group. I don’t think that had ever, or has since happened again. I’m very proud to have been a part of it.

There Rose A Lamb has to be one of my favorites for many reasons. First, it’s just an awesome song, but second, because of the story behind it. Kyla Rowland, a wonderful lady and songwriter, pitched the song to us for the project. When we first heard it, it only had 2 verses. Ivan sent it back to her and asked if she could add something to it, he liked it, but it needed something. She sent it back with that last verse,

I wasn’t there when Jesus died,

I wasn’t there to see Him rise,

But, I was there when He saved my soul,

Now within my heart, this Lamb arose!

When we started recording the project, we worked in the studio for a couple of days then had to go out for 5 days for dates. There Rose a Lamb was one song we had not recorded yet. We came back to the studio on Monday, worn out, voices shot, but managed to record everything except Ivan’s solo on There Rose a Lamb. Only Ivan and Garry Jones went back on Tuesday to record. Garry went on to Nashville to record strings for the project. A few weeks later, we all boarded the bus on Wednesday night (midnight was a regular schedule) and Garry said, “You guys want to hear the project?” When he played There Rose A Lamb, we all just cried. It was the first time we had heard that 3rd verse. The emotion in Ivan’s voice still gets me!!  The song went on to win a Dove Award in 1993.

WB:  What do you miss most about traveling?  What do you miss the least?
SL:  I miss the guys. We really enjoyed being together, had a lot of laughs, made a lot of memories. I miss meeting new people every week. SG has the greatest fans! But, I miss the singing the most. Nothing like singing harmony.

I enjoyed the travel, but that’s also what I miss least. It’s really hard on the family. When I joined GC in 1992, my kids were 7, 5, 3. It was hard for them because, Dad had been home every night, then all of a sudden, he was hardly ever home. It was really tough on Penny as well. She had to handle so many things on her own. It would never fail, the group would leave on Wednesday night, I’d call home on Thursday morning to check in only to find that the car wouldn’t start or the hot water heater went out, etc. That was always so tough.

WB:  If you could change one thing about the Southern Gospel industry, what would it be?
SL:  The SG market is not a big market like country or contemporary music, so it’s really hard for new artists to break in. It will be hard to change that, but if I could, I’d make it more like those markets where labels are “discovering” new talent and getting behind them. It seems that in SG, an artist almost needs to be well established before anyone really takes notice.

WB: Can you share a favorite story that happened while you were in SG?
SL: Back in the early ’80’s, I had a friend at our church who was close with Eldridge Fox. He told me that Foxy was planning to form a quartet called the “Kingsboys” and that I should audition at a concert he was promoting in our town. So, I went and after the concert met back stage with all the Kingsmen. Anthony Burger played and I sang “How Great Thou Art.” When I finished, Jim Hamill said, “You gotta a good voice kid, but you’re just not cut out to be a quartet man.” Well of course, I was disappointed.

In 1992, after I got the job with Gold City, the Singing News magazine called for an interview. In the interview, one of the questions was, “Have you ever had something happen that was very discouraging while pursuing your dream of singing?” I told that story about my audition for the “Kingsboys” and included what Jim Hamill told me. I didn’t think anything about it at the time.

The week before the article came out, we were scheduled to sing with the Kingsmen. Of course, GC and the Kingsmen worked together a lot and always performed together at the end of the evening as “Kings Gold.” Brian Free had told me that if Jim Hamill likes you, he’ll pick on you while you’re on stage, if he doesn’t, he won’t. No pressure!! :) As we sang that evening, I spotted Hamill backstage, listening to our set. He never did that. Suddenly, all I could think about was the article and what Jim Hamill would think of me after he reads it? I was terrified.

During the break and before we went out as Kings Gold (my 1st time), I knew I had to say something to Big Jim, so I went to the Kingsmen bus and proceeded to tell him the story. When I finished, he said, “Don’t worry about it kid. I told Elvis one time that if he wanted to sing in a quartet to go start his own!!” We had a big laugh about the whole thing and talked about it even years later.

I worked with Hamill about a year or so before he died. While I was on stage singing, I caught a glimpse of him backstage… listening. After I finished a song I broke into “Someone To Care” acapella, something I’d heard him do 1000 times. As I came off stage, I said, “That was for you!” With a tear in his eye he said, “Elvis ain’t got nothin’ on you kid.” I’ll never forget that.

Thank you, Steve for agreeing to do this interview post, and I hope you readers have enjoyed catching up with Steve Lacey.  You can find him on the web at http://www.stevelaceymusic.com.

SG Insights: Brent Mitchell – Gold City

It has been quite a while since I did one of these, but with the recent buzz about Brent Mitchell becoming the new tenor for Gold City, and with this past weekend being Mitchell’s first official weekend with the group, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his first weekend.  We’ve seen the YouTube videos and heard the reports that have trickled out, I think it’s a bit unique and interesting to hear Brent’s thoughts and perspective.  With that said, off we go…

WB:  Overall, what did you take away from your first weekend with Gold City?
BM:  It was such an honor to get to stand on stage with a group that I have been a fan of my whole life. But more than that was having the chance to get to know each of these guys personally and to see that these great guys live exactly what they sing. I am so blessed to get to play a small part in this quartet.

WB:  It’s been a while since you were on the road every weekend with Mercy’s Mark. Was it hard getting readjusted to life on the road?
BM:  Not at all, I had a blast. I was worried I would have to learn to sleep on a moving bus all over again, but I slept like a baby.

WB:  Gold City has had a pretty stable set list since the first of the year. Are there any planned changes to the set list? Any songs that are going to be staged just for you or at your request?
BM:  The set list will remain the same I assume. GC has had so many hits over the years and there are many of those songs that will always be included in a GC concert.  Being my first weekend I have not actually practiced with the group yet. So we have not got that far as to know what songs I will be doing yet.

WB:  What are the plans for the mainline recording?
BM:  I will start my vocals on the new project asap. I can’t wait to get to work with Michael English!

WB:  What was the most challenging part of your first weekend? What was the most fun?
BM:  The most challenging was trying to remember words to 20+ songs and where,when, and what part to come in on.
The most fun was just sitting on the bus getting to talk and learn from a legend like Tim Riley. It was so interesting to hear the stories of all the experiences he has had being in gospel music for so many years. He is one of the most down to earth people you will ever meet.

Brent also stated that as expected, “I Stand Redeemed” is going to be scratched from the mainline CD, but it will be replaced with a song that is chosen just for him.  They just haven’t decided on one yet.  That’s good to hear, and that particular song may be the most important going forward for them, as it will be the one song chosen specifically to fit Mitchell’s voice and style.

I’d like to thank Brent for agreeing to do this interview.  Brent has been a long time, faithful reader of this blog, and has been incredibly encouraging to me as blogger.  He is one of the absolute nicest guys in SG music.  Thanks for the support and the readership Brent, and congratulations on your new position!  If Gold City is in your area soon, go see them and support them as they transition.  Then come back and tell us how it went!

SG Insights: Bryan Hutson – Kingsmen

I recently had an opportunity to converse with Bryan Hutson, baritone vocalist for the Kingsmen, about several topics, including their new CD, Missing People, which is currently available digitally on Crossroads store.  Here is the text of the interview.

WB: How strange was it to rejoin the Kingsmen as the baritone after your tenure as the lead singer?
BH: It was strange at first, vocally I am used to going to the third under the tenor (in singing harmony) so, getting used to singing the lower part is my biggest transition. I still sing a lot of the leads/melody especially on songs that I recorded during my first tenure.

WB: When God Ran was a big departure for the group stylistically, both the song and the album as a whole, but both have also been acclaimed as a big success and step for the group.  What was the decision making process like for taking such a big risk?
BH: We (The Kingsmen and Crossroads Entertainment) wanted to branch out a bit. Our goal was to reach a new audience, but yet still embrace our “Kingsmen fans” who have supported us for 53 plus years. Some of the Kingsmen’s biggest songs were songs that pushed the envelope and were songs that NO ONE was doing anything like that ..at the time. Ex: “Old Ship Of Zion”, “Excuses”, “Stand Up”, “Wish You Were Here”,”Rise From The Grave”. So we decided to modernize the tracks a bit and look for great lyrics in our songs for “When God Ran.”
WB: How has the group seen the rewards of the risk?  What have you seen that has made you think, “You know, that was a big risk for us, but it was worth it.”
BH: Yes we have seen rewards for the risk. We have had several new fans come to concerts due to hearing “When God Ran”-(the song) on the radio. They had never heard of the Kingsmen and some even admitted not REALLY liking the “Three Chords and Cloud of Dust Kingsmen.” People have embraced the song and we have seen or talked to prodigals who have came home due to hearing the song.

WB: The title track of the new album, “Missing People”, is also a unique song.  Where did you find it?
BH: Crossroads found “Missing People” from a new songwriter named Dave Williford. He has another cut on the album called “God Knows.” I love his style because he is able to take an idea and use lyrics that are simple yet profound.

WB: What can people expect from the new project overall?
BH: I think people can expect some powerful ballads and some fun uptempo songs. There are some tunes that will make you pat your feet and some that will make you think of what Christ truly did for us on the cross.

WB: Can you give us a glimpse into the song selection process for “Missing People”?  Did you have a central theme in mind for the album, or was it more a matter of picking the best overall songs for the album?
BH: After the success of “When God Ran”, we knew that we had to keep pushing forward with great material. You can wrap a song with orchestration and a lush arrangement but it will all boil down to the lyrics. We wanted the songs to say something. I feel very proud of every song on “Missing People.” Phillip Hughes really loved “Mountain Of Grace”, so we gave that to him. “God Saw A Cross” really caught Harold Reed’s ear, so we submitted it for him. I really liked “Missing People” because I love the message of never “missing” anyone in heaven. I lost my dad in 1999, and I know when I get to heaven, I will never miss him again. “When It’s All Said And Done” was written FOR The Kingsmen. This song is Ray Reese’s forte.

WB: Have you started staging songs from “Missing People” yet?  If so, which song or songs seem to go over the best in a live setting?
BH: We have began singing some songs off the “Missing People.” By the time this week is over, we will have sung most of them “out loud.” The audience seems to enjoy the ones we have done thus far.

Thanks Bryan for taking the time to answer these questions.  The Kingsmen really made a statement that they were moving forward with When God Ran, and Missing People continues them down their new musical path.  Both albums are superb, and you definitely need to pick them up and catch the Kingsmen in concert when they are in your area.  Believe me, you won’t regret it!

SG Insights: Rich Crist – Crist Family

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rich Crist, co-producer and musical director for the Crist Family, about their ministry and their new CD, Declaration.  This is one of the up and coming groups in SG today, and their new CD is fantastic.  Here is the text of the interview:

WB: You guys are still fairly new to the SG scene, and some readers may not know much about your ministry.  Give us a brief history of the Crist Family.
RC: We started in 1987 and over the years grew from a solo ministry to a duet to a trio and we now have a septet (7 singers) gospel music ministry.  In the first seventeen years of our ministry we we’re only part-time.  We sang around the Northwest where we are all from originally.  In 2004 God called the three families that now make up Crist Family Ministries into full-time service.  We sold our homes, quit our jobs and said goodbye to our extended families and moved from the Seattle area to just north of Knoxville, TN to a small town called Maynardville.  We all live on 57 acres of land in the hills of East Tennessee and LOVE IT!!!  God has blessed our move of faith over and over.  He has opened the floodgates of opportunity for the Crist Family to minister a message of hope through song in 28 different states and Canada over the last four years.  We are so grateful to God not only for his call on our lives, but for answered prayer as well.

WB: How were you discovered by Crossroads?
RC: This is a long story with lots of amazing twists and turns, but I’ll just hit the highlights!

We recorded our fist album in Seattle in 2002 and a woman bought it at a concert we were doing on the coast of Washington State.  She took it home and her son came to visit her shortly after she had bought our project.  He lived in Portland, OR.  He listened to our CD while visiting his mother and really liked the CD.  He took a copy of it home with him and shortly after getting back home in Portland he contacted a friend and working acquaintance by the name of Mickey Gamble (executive producer) at Crossroads Records in Arden, NC.  The man in Portland was an employee at a company in Portland named Pamplin Communications and at that time Pamplin owned Crossroads Records.  He told Mickey that he had a project by a group from the Seattle area that he wanted him to hear, so he sent a copy of our CD across the country to North Carolina.  Mickey actually listened to it (amazing in itself) and as Mickey told me later, he was compelled to contact us and just encourage us.  That was the beginning of our relationship with Crossroads records.  They never promised us anything; they just said that they wanted to encourage us in our ministry.  We didn’t sign a contract with them until after recording our first project after moving to Tennessee.  God used Mickey to confirm the call on our lives to go into full-time gospel music ministry.  Mickey said that if we were going to go full-time we needed to be located “where it was at”, so we moved to Tennessee on faith.

WB: While your previous CDs have all been good, your song selection has seemed to take a big step forward with the new project.  Was this something that was deliberate on your part for this album?
RC: Yes it was very deliberate.

We played it somewhat “safe” on our first three projects as we were trying to learn who we were as a group.  We have done several projects now (six since our move here in 2004) and we have learned so much over the last 4 years.  We as a group love a wide range of styles and yet we want to stay true to that good tight harmony.  What we did on this project was take songs with strong lyrics and melodies and arrange them with differing styles. We also gave leads to 5 different singers in the group which helped in answering a request by many of our fans to hear songs that featured different vocalists in our group.  The CD also features a trio with my two daughters and myself and a “Smokey Mountain Trio” (bass lead with two male vocals in harmony above the bass lead).  We love big anthem songs and we did a couple of these on the project as well, one of which has live orchestration.  We wrapped up the entire project with another a cappella song which we are becoming known for singing and putting on our projects.  We feel that in order to grow as a group, we must take musical risks.  This keeps us and the music fresh and ever changing.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying!

WB: You and Jeff Collins came up with some very inventive arrangements for this project, how long did you spend ironing out the vocal arrangements?
RC: Let me start by saying this.  I love Jeff Collins!   He has become not only a great producer for our group, but a very dear friend…..and golfing buddy!  It is one of those relationships in the studio where you don’t even need to talk, you just both think the same thing at the same time and magic happens.  I have learned so much from working with Jeff over the last 4 years.

We begin by meeting with Jeff after all the songs are selected and do what is called a “pre-session”.  During pre-session we select the proper keys for the songs and come up with arrangement ideas.  I let him know the feel that I want on the song and we discuss any ideas he has had on the song.  After that, we scratch out a rough arrangement.  Once we are done with pre-session, Jeff writes charts for all the players who will be playing on the project.  When we get together for tracking, all the players take our ideas one step further by adding fresh ways to play the songs.  Once tracking is completed the engineer runs a rough copy of the tracks.  I take the rough tracks home and begin doing the vocal arrangements.  I get these arrangements scratched out and then begin working with the group at home.  We put together the vocals in some very intense rehearsals!!!!  :-)   We then go back into the studio and record vocals with the help of Jeff making little tweaks here and there on our vocal arrangements.  In the end we hope we have something that will honor God and touch someone’s heart.

WB: Which song was the most challenging to get it right?
RC: A Cappella!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WB: Which song is the most fun to sing in concert?
RC: “The Rock” and “There is No Other Name”.

WB: You’ve included an incredibly lush acappella song on your last 3 CDs.  Do you have any plans for an all acappella CD?
RC: Yes.  We have had many requests for this along with doing a Christmas CD.  We will most likely take 5 of the most requested a cappella songs we sing and then record 5 more to make our first all a cappella CD.  We will do the same thing for a Christmas project.

WB: How challenging is it to arrange for 7 voices?  How do you draw the line between what you keep in 4 parts and what you split into 5 or more parts?
RC: Most of the stuff that has more than 4 parts is either an a cappella or some really intricate arrangement of a song.  On this new project we did a few songs where we split our group of seven into a group of 4 and a group of 3 and did some sing/answer stuff.  This kind of arranging is fun, not only for us, but for the listener too.  On our more straight forward 4 part harmony songs we put two girls on soprano, two girls on alto, two guys on the male part and then 1 guy on the bass part.  If I added correctly I think this makes seven.

WB: Your new disc seemingly serves as an announcement that the Crist Family deserves to be regarded with the best of the best in SG.  Was that an overriding motivation in the recording process?
RC: First of all, let me thank you for such a kind comment about the CD.

Our motivation is this, to give all glory and honor to God.  In doing this we strive to be the very best we can be, to not be lazy and to give God the very best with the talent He has given us.  I believe God will bless those who strive to honor Him.

Thanks to Rich for taking the time to complete this interview.  This is a fascinating look into one of the rising “stars” in SG music, and their dedication and focus, both spiritual and musical, is to be commended and should serve as the model for all other SG artists.  Be watching for great things from the Crist Family in the months and years to come!

SG Insights: Ricky Atkinson – Ricky Atkinson & Compassion

I recently caught up with Ricky Atkinson via email on the heels of their new album, I Know He Can.  Here is the text of the interview.

WB: You and Loren Harris obviously knew each other from your days together with the Wilburns.  How did you get hooked up with Greg Cook?  Which one came on board first?
RA: I called Loren and Greg Cook the same day, I had pre-determined that if I was gonna do less RAC  group dates and more solo dates, that I would call 2 of the best, highly recognizable names and faces with former popular SGM groups, ( and also knowing that Loren and I had been with The Wilburns back in the late 90s and I knew we had a great blend) it wouldnt take much to create a fresh new tight sound with a tenor in our range, and Greg is that tenor.

WB: You released “Encore” fairly quickly after Loren and Greg joined, but took your time in getting a mainline release out.  Was that the plan from the start?
RA: Yes it was, I felt like at the start and for our first full year, when people come to hear us sing, they would want to hear these guys do the songs that made them popular in SGM, so we did an album right out of the gate that featured each of us on our former hit songs, and during that first year I was writing and planning for the first mainline album and everything was actually on time and went according to schedule.

WB: The new disc has several different styles, from very country influenced to inspirational ballads, to fairly progressive.  Is that by design?
RA: Every CD I have ever recorded, 13 CDs in all, are all extremely versatile and cover a wide range of music styles. It is by design, I have never even branded my music, I leave that to the critics and the people who want to listen…. I’m sure one generation are skipping some songs, while another generation are skipping others, HAHA!  BUT, I have never been one to do  a certain kind of song, I create and write and arrange a song as needed to get that message out, and whatever RAC albums are, whatever you call them, it works. I call it Gospel Music, because that’s what it is….

WB: Which song took the most work to get it right?
RA: If you mean vocally, none of them were hard.  I have worked as a producer for many groups in 13 years and when you work with professionals its not difficult at all to  even exceed the goal.  Musically, I use the same band and players for all my productions, so they also know what to expect on an RA production, and I know what they can  do also…. its all in pre-planning and preparation, of which I do fairly well since I am a little OCD and ADD.  I have to be ready for everything, which makes me wierdo to deal with, but makes me a pretty good studio guy.  : )

WB: Which song is the most fun to sing?
RA: Love Mercy and Grace, but the whole album is stage ready and carefully planned and put into the lineup before we ever recorded the album, so they are all fun to sing.

WB: Which song goes over the best in concert?
RA: I Know He Can, Waving On The Other Side, Get On Board, man you name it…. crowd response so far has been A-1!!  The entire album is a crowd pleaser, again, by design before we ever cut a track.

WB: You have quite a different vocal dynamic when you sing lead versus when Loren sings lead.  Was that something you hoped would happen, or was that a pleasant surprise when you started singing together?
RA: Loren and I sang together for 3 full years every weekend sometimes 5 dates per weekend, and so when you do that , you learn how to sing and blend with people and pronounce the same.  It’s a unique difference when we switch but I think it gives us a flavor that no one else has, at least that’s what the good ol’ critics say. All I know is we have been given this talent by God to use for His Glory and we try to do that with the best of our knowledge, and HE chooses to bless that.

WB: How strange was it for you to switch from singing tenor with the original male trio to lead with the mixed trio and now with the new male trio?
RA: Not strange at all, I can sing all the parts except the bass ( man have I tried that, HAHA!) I tell people all the time, I started as a tenor, then lead, and I would next skip all the way to bass and not do baritone at all…. well that didn’t happen, I am now doing most of the baritone on the new CD, Loren covers it when I’m on lead, but  I ain’t quite got the bass yet. I need about another, I don’t know, 4 or 5 notes!!  In singing all the parts, it allows me to demo the songs after writing them and arrange the keys and changes and musical fun things and vocal fun things before we hit the studio, then when we do cut them, its a matter of just playing it and singing it like the demo.

WB: Finally, the question I’m sure you are tired of answering…Is Gene McDonald joining you guys permanently in the near future?
RA: As of right now, Gene has not been able to work his schedule out to  officially sign on with the group, BUT he’s more our bass singer than anyone else’s!  His schedule and other obligations in life doesn’t match up with our tour for now, but we are praying for him, HAHA!  Gene is a tremendous bass singer, as you can readily tell from the 2 song cameo on our project, but he is gonna do some dates with us in the near future, and we have plans to on the main stage on Thurs night this year at NQC!  You don’t wanna miss the RAC set, trust me.  : )

There’s an old axiom posted in the library of a place I used to work that said “Three weeks in the laboratory can frequently save two hours in the library.”  Ricky Atkinson seems to have taken the intended sentiment of this saying to heart.  It is obvious that he and the rest of the guys take their craft very seriously, and take great pains in their preparation for recording and performing their music.  This dedication shows and pays dividends, as evidenced in my review of their latest album.  Thanks Ricky for taking the time to do this interview!

SG Insights: Wes Hampton – Gaither Vocal Band

I have had the opportunity recently to speak with Wes Hampton via email and to ask him a few questions about the new Gaither Vocal Band Christmas CD, Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style.  Here is the text of the interview.

Wes Burke: This Christmas CD is very different from the previous Christmas CD in it’s approach, focusing on standards rather than original material, as well as a laid back approach to the arrangements instead of staying “in your face”.  Was this intentional from the start?
Wes Hampton: Yes, I would say it was.  The last Christmas CD (Still the Greatest Story Ever Told), in my opinion, is one of the greatest GVB CD’s of all time.  It’s impressive on so many levels.  Bill wanted something that was light, easy to listen to, and something that went a totally different direction that the last.  Plus, it just says “Christmas” to me.

WB: It’s been remarked that this CD would make for a good soundtrack that would be playing at Christmas parties.  Was there discussion about its intended use?
WH: Not necessarily, but as we got further along in the process, we soon realized that this was a very laid back, easy-listening CD that you could play in the background.  We also believe that, even though it has many standards on it, it still clearly states why we did this CD.

WB: There are some very lush, complex harmonies on this disc.  Who was primarily responsible for the arrangements?
WH: Russell Mauldin is the man responsible.  He is so amazingly talented and has done many of the string arrangements you hear on GVB albums.  It was an absolute blast working with him.  It was a different process for me because all the vocals were sung by chart.  We usually just go in and everything kind of falls in to place.  Not so on this one.  If you weren’t singing what was written out in front of you, you were singing the wrong part!

WB: Which song did you personally find the most challenging to sing?  Which one seemed to be the most difficult to get right overall?
WH: I would say the a cappella songs were the hardest for me.  Everything is so exposed, plus I had to sing to a click track/piano track that would “pigeon hole” me at times.  It was very easy to sing everything straight and mechanical.  The hard thing was to stay with the click track while still trying to emote and allow the song to breathe at times.

WB: Which song was the most fun to record?
WH: I particularly loved recording “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas.”  The harmonies were so lush and satisfying, so it was a very enjoyable process.

WB: You will be celebrating this Christmas with a newborn son.  How has his arrival changed your perspective toward this Christmas?
WH: Every one of my sons has given me a different perspective on how God loves me.  The one thing I can’t get over is how much of a miracle a baby actually is.  I am blown away every time I watch our home videos of our boys being born.  It is such an inspiring, overwhelming experience for me.

Be looking for a review of Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style in the next day or so.  Thank you Wes, for graciously agreeing to do this interview!

SG Insights: Jodi Hosterman – Skyline Boys

I recently had a conversattion with Jodi Hosterman, tenor for the Skyline Boys, to discuss the group and their soon to be released debut album from Crossroads.  Here is the interview:

WB: Some folks may not be too familiar with the Skyline Boys. Can you give us a brief overview of the quartet?

JH:The owner of our group Dennis Powers created the Skyline Boys in 1995. The group consists of Rob Nykamp at lead, Bob Nitz at baritone, Dennis Powers at bass, and myself at tenor. This lineup has been together almost 2 years now.

WB: How were you able to catch Crossroads’ attention? What role, if any, did your connections from your Kingdom Heirs tenure play in getting signed?

JH: Our affiliation with Crossroads came about through some business dealings with Zane King who co-owned Journey Records with Dennis. Zane was actually very instrumental in brokering the deal with Crossroads and we are very grateful to him both for his work in producing 2 of our projects and for “selling” Crossroads on the Skyline Boys. To my knowledge, my tenure with the Kingdom Heirs played no role whatsoever. I’d like to think it helped on some level, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a factor.

WB: Stylistically, what can we expect from the new CD? Is it similar to what you have recorded previously and how did working with Crossroads for this release stretch you musically?

JH: This CD is what fans have come to expect from the Skyline Boys: great songs, good singing, and a diversity of styles. This project has something for everyone. We have some straightforward Southern Gospel quartet songs. We have a cover of the classic Goodmans song “Look For Me.” And we have some great inspirational ballads on this CD. Our producer, Jeff Collins, was fantastic to work with. I had worked with Jeff before and I was really looking forward to working with him again. Jeff is great to work with in that he has a very clear idea about what he wants but he allowed us to present our musical ideas as well and we combined a little of each to make a great record. We sang some very intricate harmonies on this project and it was really nice to hear our hard work rewarded in the end product. I also wanted to mention the street date for the project. It is entitled “Free And Forgiven” and will be released on Wednesday night September 10 at the National Quartet Convention.

WB: What two or three songs really stand out to you on the new project?

JH: It is really hard for me to pick just a couple songs that stand out. This is by far our best project to date and I am thrilled with the results. One song in particular is called “Blood On My Hands.” It was written by Daryl Williams and is a fantastic song. I am very surprised that someone hadn’t cut this song before us but, maybe, it was meant for us to record it. It looks at the Crucifixion from our point of view. Meaning that, even though we weren’t present at the actual Crucifixion, we are still just as guilty as the soldiers who drove the nails and that blood they spilled is on our hands as well. But it is that very blood on our hands that has brought redemption. What a message! Our first radio single is also a “stand out” song in my opinion. It is called “I’m Moving Out Of Here” and was written by the President of Crossroads Chris White. Many people don’t know that Chris had quartets and used to travel back in the day and is a very accomplished songwriter. Now let me just say that we didn’t record the song just because Chris wrote it. It was pitched to us along with about 100 other songs and we wanted to cut it from our first listen. It is as pure “Southern quartet” as you can get. We are very hopeful that radio will embrace it and that folks will love it as much as we do.

WB: How much of an adjustment was it to go from the theme park schedule back to a typical road schedule?

JH: It was really no adjustment for me at all. Prior to the Kingdom Heirs, the road was all I knew. It was a bigger adjustment for me to go from the road to the park than vice versa. Now I will say that those KH guys have the best situation there is. You are home in your own bed most every night and you can watch your kids grow up before your eyes in real life instead of through pictures and the cell phone. But they pay a high price for that luxury. I have a lot respect for those guys and the work they do.

WB: What can fans expect from a Skyline Boys concert?

JH: A Skyline Boys concert is, for the most part, what you would expect from any quartet concert. Not a lot of hair, bad jokes, and some questionable fashion choices. Apart from that though, we take the presentation of the gospel very seriously. We want to be the best we can be musically so nothing gets in the way of the message we are singing. We are presenting Jesus when we sing and we want folks to see Him in every aspect of our program. We ask permission to give an invitation at the conclusion of each service as we feel that is the most important thing we will do: to give folks the opportunity to meet this Jesus we have just sung about. That is the primary goal of each member of the Skyline Boys and we are honored that God has entrusted His call to us.

Thanks Jodi, for taking the time to share a little about your ministry and your new recording with this blog and its readers!  Be looking for a review of the CD soon.

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