What made things particularly ironic was he was such a nice guy.
Colin was sales manager in a company I worked for in the 90s, and back then (I don’t imagine it’s any different now) sales was hard.
Put it this way: if sales were a girl she’d be the little one from the nursery rhyme: when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.
Which brings me to Black Lives in Music (and, yes, you’d be quite right to ask what any of this has to do with BLiM).
To answer that question, I need to give you a bit of background for context. Here’s a quote from their website’s ‘About’ section:
‘Talent is distributed evenly, opportunities are not!
Black Lives in Music addresses the current inequality of opportunity for black people aspiring to be artists or professionals in the Jazz and Classical music industry…
Representation matters, we need to take action together and create a level playing field for everyone to have an equal chance to succeed…’
While this extract flags people working in Jazz and Classical, make no mistake: this affects every Black person working in music in the UK.
UK Gospel: Sheltered
Where you pitch your tent on this will be directly influenced by your experience and relationships in the UK music space.
I think we’re relatively sheltered in the UK Gospel music scene – because we’ve had to bootstrap our way to any successes we’ve found over the years. (Caveat: I admit this is a broad generalisation and I’m sure it’ll be challenged by many).
As a result we have an hyper-insular and comparatively self-sustaining marketplace (such as it is).
However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t uncomfortable, inconvenient, awkward, monolithic, elephant-in-the-room questions that need asking, like:
How come there aren’t any Black-owned major media organisations in the UK Gospel space?
Why aren’t our biggest radio and TV stations in Black hands..?
Like I said: awkward.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting there’s anything untoward or underhand going on.
The underlying structural and socioeconomic issues that brought us here are complex, and the easy draw of the racism card is the least nuanced, least intelligent answer to the question.
What gets measured…
What it does do is bring us nicely back to Black Lives in Music. And funny enough: Colin.
One of the reasons people didn’t like him was because he had this saying: ‘what gets measured gets done’.
When mid-month numbers started showing our month-end sales target was fast becoming a myth, he began by asking what everyone’s current priorities were.
And that was uncomfortable.
Well, we were all bonafide experts in our relevant spheres and could fully justify whatever projects we were working on. And typically those justifications would be sound.
However, the fact still remained that we were adrift of our team target
And if we didn’t hit it, the company didn’t make money
And if the company didn’t make money, we didn’t get paid, talk less of earning any bonuses
So: nobody liked Colin‘s essentially neutral, spotlight questions:
What are you working on?
Does it directly help us hit our target this month?
They were annoying, self-evident truths that required we temporarily park whatever priorities negatively impacted the bottom line, no matter how much fun or interest we might have had in them.
Allegory and parable
Don’t read too much into this story: I’m not telling it as an allegory for Black music in the UK.
It’s not even a parable with hidden meanings to be deciphered by the favoured few
What I want you to take away is this: what gets measured gets done
You need to *do something*
And that’s what Black Lives in Music is trying to do: start with a qualitative and quantitative baseline – a measurable catalyst for proper and lasting change, if you will.
This is about your story: hard data that reflects the reality of our shared, lived experiences in Black music here in the UK
You can argue with anecdotes, but it’s virtually impossible to ignore evidence that data provides
‘You can argue with anecdotes, but it’s virtually impossible to ignore evidence that data provides..’
To quote Colin:
What gets measured gets done
So if any of this has inspired you in some way to be part of creating a compelling narrative that will genuinely and empirically shape the future of the lived professional music experience in the UK, you need to *do something*.
Tell your story by taking the Black Lives in Music survey (link below)
Do it now
Get your Black life in Music
I’ve done it, and it doesn’t take that long to complete at all
There are only 4 days left (I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks)
A decade after one of my FAVOURITE family group put out their brilliant and fantastically well-received debut album, ‘World To Me‘, family group V9 Collective is back, folks!!!
After time away from public appearances, Sam, Vernetta, Tula, Ruth and Semele return with a brand new album, ‘Message in the Music’, out 31st May 2021.
Sam says: ‘After a few years in the making, this musical offering is a collection of heartfelt songs about life and faith, with the same V9 Collective soul and flair’.
In other words: if (like me and many others) you’re in the market for brilliant organic Soul, real instruments, vocal harmonies and musical relationships like only families can do, all wrapped up in a completely unashamed Gospel message, then you need to pre-order your copy already
Pre-orders kick off May 11th 2021. Join their mailing list at V9Collective.co.uk for album release updates.
And in case you’re wondering – yes, you can just scan that QR code to go straight to their site
If you can’t wait, check out ‘World To Me‘ below to get a feel for what’s in store
Sometimes kicking back is absolutely the right thing to do…
It might be just a tad too cold outside (don’t worry, summer’s on its way) or – in case you’re one of those really weird people that prefers the cold weather – I’ve got you covered (see what I did there..?)
Whatever your story is, here are four classic UK Gospel tunes to mellow you out. You’ll find links to other great songs in the series at the end of this entry.
New Direction Crew – ‘Young Girl’
To those in the know the album this was taken from, ‘In the Saviour’s Shadow’, is arguably one of the most underrated albums of its time (circa 2008).
Featuring several early gems from Stephen GP Abramsamadu (who has gone on to produce several modern classics for S.O.) ‘Young Girl’ was an excellent vehicle for Elizabeth’s voice riding over GP’s carefully arranged RnB/Hip-Hop hybrid.
Jahaziel – That’s What Friends Are For
Jahaziel’s ‘ready To Live’ album is regualrly cited as an #UKGospel classic for good reason.
The title was an antithetical reply to Biggie Smalls’ ‘Ready to Die’, and ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ is one of several popular hits from the project (others include ‘Power’ [another GP production] ‘In My Neigbourhood’ and ‘Ready to Live’)
The bilingual, collaborative ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ remains one of my favourites with its cool vibe, clear message and classic Jahaziel lyricism
London Community Gospel Choir – Sun in the Rain
I say this to anyone that’s willing to hear – this is one of my all-time favourite LCGC songs. It’s a pure feel-good, uplifting song that falls squarely in the ‘inspirational’ category and the world is all the better for its completely relatable lyrics.
This is top drawer, musical class.
Marsha Garrick – Hello
This was a big radio hit on London Gospel radio back in the day: four and a half minutes of perfect Gospel Pop like we rarely get in the scene.
It was (and arguably still is) a very usual sound for its time but a very welcome one at that – it’s songs like this that make the UK Gospel music scene one of the most interesting and diverse in the world.
I knew I was on to a good thing when I launched the ‘Celebrating UKGospel’ series…
I get excited when I can come up with different and interesting ways to honour the great work so many people continue to put in across the UK Gospel scene.
It’s also especially rewarding when many other people share that same excitement: the ‘Celebrating the Ladies of UKGospel (Part 1)‘ article was by far and away the most shared feature in the history of all versions of UKGospel.com.
Shutting down UKGospel.com
That was particularly encouraging because I’ve seriously considered shutting UKGospel.com down once or twice in recent years, mainly as I feel there are now some great players in this space.
I’ll put a link to a few excellent websites for you to check out (as well as my reasons for wanting to shut down UKGospel.com) at the end of this feature.
Stories you didn’t know you wanted
Anyway, on to the matter at hand: the intention of this series is to make it ‘part showcase, all celebration’, while ‘making it atypical’
In other words: how can I bring you stories you want – but you didn’t even know you did…?
Over the moon
I’m over the moon about this instalment: the story of amazing people who – even when they moved abroad – continued their craft. In fact, they now ply their trade professionally
If you’ve new to the series: welcome – I hope you enjoy it
If you’re already familiar with the way this goes: have fun – it’s another good one
As with the Ladies edition, this is also part 1 of what will probably be a 2-part run, not least because there are so many other Brits across the globe also worth celebrating
I’m truly grateful to every one of the people that’s given their time to contribute to this instalment – you guys are amazing!
Before I start: huge shout out to my girl Angel Sonshine (UKGospel.com day 1 family) for the Harmony Samuels hook-up.
It wouldn’t have happened without you… ❤️
Yinka Awojobi Content Development UKGospel.com
Celebrating Brits Abroad (Part 1)
Hello, my name is: Ruth Waldron
I am a: vocal tutor, choir director, singer songwriter, event organiser
You’ll be my new best friend if: you’re an open, genuine person who likes to eat food and talk honestly about life and recipes… We could be besties
Everyone thinks I’m a:confident person who likes the spotlight
But in actual fact I’m a:person who shies away from the spotlight
The one thing I like about where I am now is: the beautiful scenery and open natural space
The one thing I miss about the UK is:there are a few things, but if I can only give one answer, it has to be my family
The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: I’d love to open an eatery, with live music and displaying art. Yeah, ok…let’s talk about my art!
You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about? Performers/artists who are Christians who are or have been involved in the secular music world in some form.
The book would give them the opportunity to share their experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Discussing the positives, the negatives, their wins and temptations whilst being involved in the industry and how it impacted their relationship with God.
Hello, my name is: Dami Adeoye
I am a: record producer, audio engineer & studio owner
I’m a Brit in: Dallas, Texas
You might know me from: being a drummer or producing songs for Faith Child, Triple O, Rachel Kerr, Christina Matovu or Guvna B
I started doing this because: initially my love for production stemmed from curiosity as young as 11 years old. I would record sounds on a tape machine because I was always intrigued with the different elements it took to make a song
2008 (when I was 18) would be my first time getting my hands on software and equipment. It was a time when pro-audio consumer products were increasingly being released at an affordable cost. I indulged. With my student loan. This marked the start of my producer/audio engineer journey
So in hindsight I started doing this because of my love for music and the various stages it take to make a song
Here’s a random fact about me: in school you would have found me both in musical theatre clubs but also the various sports teams like the football/basketball teams. I was pretty good
You’ll be my new best friend if: you buy me a new studio furniture or gear
Everyone thinks I’m an: extrovert
But in actual fact I’m an: ambivert
The one thing I like about where I am now is:the weather 😍
The one thing I miss about the UK is:friends and family
The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: my idea of success is a happy and healthy home for my wife and children. They are my motivation for everything I do.
Hello, My Name is: Harmony ‘H-Money’ Samuels
I am a: British Nigerian in Los Angeles
You might know me as: the producer that produced ‘Champion’ for Chipmunk ft Chris Brown. I started producing at the age of 14. my love for music and playing instruments at 4 years old is the reason I pursued music in the first place
BUT being able to create my own ideas in my head and write my own songs that would affect the world is why I fell in love with producing
Favourite thing I did: I’m not so hot with these kind of questions but maybe taking the step to move to Jamaica in 2014
Favourite thing I wish I did:again that is a weird one for me. Invent sliced bread
You’ll be my new best friend: if I can’t find the old one! JOKING… Well, I don’t know about best friends but if you introduce me to a bunch of music that I DIDN’T already know that I really love… that’s a good move.
Everyone thinks I’m a: very silly man
But in actual fact I’m an: outstandingly silly man. But I am actually very keen on serious conversations… which might not be the impression you get if you see me working, but it is true
The one thing I like about where I am now is: Jamaica is beautiful. As a photographer this makes a HUGE difference to the creative mind… mine at least
The one thing I miss about the UK is: the weather. JOKE
The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: ‘do you think you will be ok?’ answer to the world… ‘It may get better but it may not, so when I pray God, I pray that I’ll trust you whether or not the rain stops’ to quote Trip Lee
You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..? Intrusive thoughts, the church and our attempts to save ourselves from something only Jesus can save us from.
Hello, my name is: Naomi Parchment
I am a: singer-songwriter/producer/vocal producer/ arranger/ vocal pedagogue
I’m a Brit in: Huntsville, Alabama
You might know me from: can’t say anyone knows me from anything in England, lol or anywhere. Maybe social media?
I started doing this because: music is something that is in my DNA. Music is my innate release and freedom. Music is my way of communication with the divine
You’ll be my new best friend if: you make me home cooked meal. Food is the way to my heart for sure
Everyone thinks I’m an: extreme extrovert because that’s who I have to be for work. I love people, I love to meet new people and connect with them
But I’m:most comfortable when I’m mellow and with small groups of friends
The one thing I like about where I am now is: beautiful weather, beautiful sunsets, very quiet and calm living
The one thing I miss about the UK is:THE FOOD! My family, catching public transport, city centres, baked beans, scrambled egg, toast… Yes most definitely THE FOOD!!
The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: I am definitely very empathetic. I enjoy everything art. Recently picked up painting which has become a great release for me during the pandemic times
You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..? The process behind the art and the artist.
A lot of people only see/hear the final products, but not many people consider the very delicate and intricate lives a lot of people who have the courage to be an artist have to deal with
Hello, my name is: Jalil Saheeb aka Jay Ess
I am an: artist, teacher and film director
I’m a Brit in: North Carolina
You might know me from: Intoxicated, Questions & Answers and Live It Up
I started doing this because: I wanted to make a long lasting impression on my generation. I also wanted to have a direct impact on young people so I started working in schools to do a lot more ground work
Favourite thing I did: writing and directing my Live It Up movie (here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2). It has always been a dream of mine to produce and star in a film so I’m glad I was able to accomplish that
Favourite thing I wish I did: Well, I’ve still got time to do it God willing
You’ll be my new best friend if: you’re a Michael Jackson fan
Everyone thinks I’m: a serious and no nonsense person
But in actual fact I’m: really easy going
The one thing I like about where I am now is:happiness
The one thing I miss about the UK is:my family
Hello, my name is: Lain Gray
I am a: Singer/songwriter, producer, label owner, real estate investor and online entrepreneur
I’m a Brit in: Houston, Texas, USA
You might know me from: the Wookie UK Garage hit song Battle or if you’re not into that kind of thing, UK premier gospel/RnB vocal group Nu Colours
I started doing this because: it seemed like the natural order of things, from my home made shoe box and rubber band guitar as a 4 year old, to writing my first song aged 11 or 12.
If God gives a talent and if we recognize it and nurture it, it will blossom at some point
Favourite thing I wish I did: Songwriter envy is a real thing, but meant as a compliment really
There are so many songs I wish I’d written. Anything from early Fred Hammond or early Coldplay to name but two
You’ll be my new best friend if: You get me tickets to a Liverpool game. Ha!
Everyone thinks I’m a:Comedian (which really doesn’t speak much volumes for my music, but hey, what can you do)
But in actual fact I’m a: bit of a grump until my first tea (or coffee since moving out here) “Dem cyaa mek tea”, so I gave up ordering it. WHO BRINGS [WARM] WATER IN A CUP WITH A TEABAG NEXT TO IT IN THE SAUCER??
WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT??
The one thing I like about where I am now is:It’s nearly always sunny with blue skies, even when it’s a bit chilly
The one thing I miss about the UK is:Well, tea obviously for starters, ha! Might sound strange but, the people.
We Brits are special and I’m not sure I realized it until I left
You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..? As a black brit who was raised in the UK countryside, racism was actually very low in the pecking order of my life.
It was there and I had to deal with it when it came up, but since moving to the states, it’s SO glaringly out there, that I have to speak on it at every opportunity.
There’s the blatant side everyone sees: [police related] shot while: sleeping, jogging, playing with a TOY gun, running AWAY from police, oh and kneeling, in plain sight, on a man’s neck for the whole world to see.
And then…. there’s the church racism that is so deeply ingrained in the fibre of society at large, it seamlessly flows into church hierarchy without missing a beat.
I saw an artist (Lurine Cato’s entry in Celebrating the Ladies of UKGospel – link below) mention “why the divide of christian and gospel music?”, well it goes deep into the racism issues and not all are ready (or willing) to start that discussion.
Some may ask for specifics, so for me, seeing a new church grow its multi-racial congregation to need 4 services and then 4 additional locations is phenomenal, but if the congregation is mixed across the locations with no diversity in leadership, that’s a problem.
The thought process that black pastors are not good enough to lead white or mixed congregations is where that comes from.
Let’s start more of these hard conversations please!!!
Hello, my name is: George Mhondera/Jorge Mhondera
My nickname is: Jorgyjacket
You probably know me from: singing and writing with Matt Redman /Chris Tomlin / Passion / LZ7 /The Tribe & M.I.C / WHISTLEJACKET back in the day and maybe some of you from working in Mainstream Music Industry writing and placing songs in the (U.K /U.S /EUROPE / KPOP /JPOP / music scene).
I’m a Brit in: Nashville, Tennessee
I started doing this because: I felt I had a calling to do Music and just had a passion for Music from a very young age. Also had a desire to see the world and get to experience and engage different cultures.
I knew Jesus was calling me to serve him through Music. (Serve him within the Church as well as beyond the walls of the Church in the Mainstream). Love getting to do both.
Here’s a random fact about me: if I hadn’t done music, I wanted to be a Professional Rugby Player. I love Rugby especially the ALL BLACKS!!!!!
Everyone thinks I’m: An extreme extrovert
But in many ways I’m: Also an Introvert ……I do love large gatherings, but I also love being by myself 🙂 or with family.
The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: Well 2 things: I never get asked about is my heritage and where i’m originally from; Yes I have lived on 3 continents, but I was born in Zimbabwe and so I am Zimbabwean and African to the Core.
The other thing: yes, I love getting to perform and sing on stage, but my heart is into pouring into others behind the scenes and see them grow in their calling, musical giftings and see them hopefully achieve their dreams.
You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What is it? One story I would have to post is on Racial Injustice & Reconciliation.
The greatest Commanded is to Love your God with all your heart and with your soul and with all your mind.
The second is love your neighbour as you love yourself… If we as people did truly did this we would never have racism for this kind of love doesn’t allow prejudice to grow and where there has been injustice this love fights fearlessly for equality and for all despite our difference.
A lot has happened in the past historically and there is a lot to heal, there is a lot to learn, there is a lot to forgive, there is a lot undo and make right and this Love, Jesus, is the answer
If WE TRULY KNOW HIM, TURN TO HIM things will change!
Hello, my name is: David Oluwaferanmi Balogun popularly known as DavidB
I am a: singer, Songwriter, Vocal Producer and Coach, Content Creator
The ‘Legacy’ series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene is publicly accessible
Original publication date: 05 May 2005
Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi
The ‘Fast Fact’ series was a workstream I used to introduce artists I saw doing exciting things on the UK Gospel scene back in the day.
It also quietly signalled that the artists were worth keeping an eye on, and in almost every case they went on to be featured several more times as their career progressed.
UKGospel.com Fast Facts presents: Tryumf
Chances are you’ve heard a track that Dwayne ‘Tryumf’ Shorter has either produced, remixed or engineered as himself or as one-half of the production/remix outfit ‘Brimstone and Fire‘.
Prodigal Son‘s ‘Things People Do For Money‘ remix, Wariyah‘s classic Hip-hop/Soul evangelistic joint ‘Heart of an Intercessor‘, Zion Noiz‘s huge debut single ‘& WHAT‘, various tracks by Greenjade, ‘Favour‘ by Dwayne Lanks, music for Jahaziel and many more.
2005 will most definitely see the release of his debut album, and we’ve been very privileged to hear a lot of work-in-progress cuts.
A piece of advice: GET THAT ALBUM AT ALL COSTS!!! Just in case you’re still wondering why: remember the Incense Rhythm? It sold 3000 copies for label Jet Star in its first three months of release.
…Yes, it WAS his track!
UKG Spin! BioChannel*, (the interview channel of our online radio station), has a 35 minute interview, complete with a few tracks from his production and engineering past, as well as music from his forthcoming album.
But – just ahead of the station launch – Fast Facts brings you just that: a quick introduction to one of UK Gospel’s hot production, songwriting, engineering and vocal talents…
There’s no need to spend a lot of time talking about your background and history as quite a bit of it has been covered on the UKG Spin! BioChannel*, but seeing as the interview isn’t live yet, let’s just go through some of the basics:
Name: Dwayne Shorter Better known as: Tryumf You’re a: Producer, Vocalist, Songwriter, Business Entrepreneur
How did you get into the Hip-hop game? The first record that got me into Hip-hop was ‘The Show’ by Doug E Fresh and Slick rick. On the B side was ‘Lah-Di-Dah-Di’. That was my favourite out of the two tracks.
And how did you become a Christian…? I saw something on TV in August 1999 about the book of Revelation. I was so intrigued by this short film that it made me want to read the book of Revelation.
As I started reading I got hooked into the words, it was like I could not stop reading.
I then went on to see books in the bible I had never heard of like 1st Peter, 1st Thessalonians, and they were all talking about the last days and that this world as we know it would one day be destroyed, and thus began my quest to know Christ…
Your production work has been strong on the underground and very influential in recent years, particularly through the mid 90s to date.
The first I heard of your work was on what I consider to be one of the most slept-on UK Gospel Hip-Hop releases, Wariyah’s EP, ‘Stand Up And Be Counted‘
More recently, you’ve done work with key UK Gospel Hip-Hop players from Zion Noiz to Prodigal Son. What’s that been like…?
ZI is my family! We all share a common goal, so being in ZI is a privilege as all the members have developed in the character of Christ, and to add to that we all got MAAAAD SKILLZ so we are a force to be reckoned with.
When I did the remix for Prodigal Son, the timing was just right.
I had a lot to express and the lyrics on that track was similar to a situation that I was going through at the time.
Working with the man himself was a privilege, and when I went up to Nottingham Prodigal and the family looked after me well, so BIG UP Prodigal Son!!
And then you were contracted to the label Jet Star as a producer… It was a good time for me to learn more about the music industry and also set up my own studio and company Tryumf Productions.
We have to talk about the ‘Incense Rhythm’… Boy, I was going through hell on earth at the time the idea came to me.
I had so many fears and issues between me and God that I thought it was all over for me, even as a Christian!
But that was the time the Incense Rhythm was birthed. I remember going into the studio feeling like I could do nothing in my own strength.
Sometimes when a big tune comes to me it’s like I know where every instrument should go.
Why did you mix secular artists with Gospel artists on the album…? I wanted to bring the Gospel punch to the secular community. So many times we put God in a box, but I have found that when I would put God in a box He would jump right out of it.
The devil has put a separation between the believers and the unbelievers, so I wanted to bring the truth to the unbelievers.
To do this I put some well-known secular artists on the album and only by God’s grace the vision of the album was accomplished.
Now secular DJ’s across England are playing the gospel cuts on their shows and the truth is reaching the ghettos, night clubs and beyond.
How did you decide what artists to put on the album? I didn’t just pick the first artist that came along. There were about 6 other versions recorded that did not make the album, some of which I regret even recording… But God is good!
On one side I listened to what my heart was saying and on the other side some artists were sent to me and I watched God put the album together.
I learned that ‘God is in control’ in the midst of chaos and confusion.
What problems did you encounter when making the album? Boy… I had plenty of opposition. I was told the album would not be released, I was told my records could not sell.
When they told me that a word rose up out of my spirit and I said ‘The stone that the builders rejected shall become the Chief Cornerstone’ (at the time of this interview the Incense Rhythm album was at number 1 in the Jet Star sales charts!)
I was told that I had over mixed the album and lost the flavour.I nearly got into a fight while recording ‘That Feelin’ Again‘. Pac Deep lost his voice while we were recording ‘School Holiday‘.
When I finally finished the album I was told that they did not have a good enough response from the DJ’s so they were not sure if they would release the album.
In all this I knew that God would take care of it. He told me not to pressure the company to release the album as He was IN CONTROL!!
What has happened since? About 7 of the tracks from the album have gone on other separate albums, the Incense Rhythm is getting acclaim in various parts of the world from Philadelphia to Toronto to the Caribbean.
On just its second week of release the album went to number 1 in the Jet Star sales charts and sold 3000 copies in the space of 3 months between August and October 2004.
What’s your take on the Gospel scene at the moment? I’m liking what’s coming out of the States at the moment. I heard a mix CD from DJ Official of Cross Movement and they’ve got some HOT MC’s on the Hip-Hop side.
On the RnB side they are still the reigning champions.
The US market is just getting hotter and hotter with artists like Tonex, Kierra Sheard, Shei Atkins among others but on the UK side we are starting to give them a run for their money with groups like Raymond & Co, Siani, Four Kornerz and The Company.
What do you reckon is the most exciting project that you’re involved in pushing at the moment?
My album; it’s where I truly get to express where I want to go musically without having to change what’s in my heart. I’m taking you right ‘Back to Eden’
What else is coming out of the Tryumf beat kitchen…?
Look out for the Four Kornerz tracks, one is a Brimstone & Fire production and the other is a Tryumf production and they are both blazing!!
And finally – what more can we expect from you in 2005…?
Brimstone & Fire will drop a single, Tryumf will drop an album and will be looking to sign HOT new producers to my production company (there’s one I’ve got my eye on at the moment so watch this space!!!)
*UKGSpin! was an experimental audio project (think of it as UKGospel.com’s in-house radio station), that I never really launched
It was supposed to have themed channels, dedicated to specific genres
As you can probably guess, the BioChannel was the Biography channel, dedicated to profile interviews in a format that we would now consider podcasts
One of the most exciting things about this season in the UK Gospel music industry: invaluable, *expert* knowledge is available to ANYONE, quite literally on tap.
Here’s a fantastic example for you this weekend
@Adegail has been running these brilliant knowledge sharing sessions (that EVERYONE can benefit from) for a while!
This one is a MUST if you need essential information on:
✅ – Planning music releases ✅ – Organising music admin ✅ – Guidance on how best to use visuals/music videos, collaborations and Spotify playlisting for greater reach ✅ – Guidance on complex royalties/correct metadata registration ✅ – Reaching the right audience who will love your type of music
Pop by @_iradiate this weekend at #iRADIATESMS – the lineup is brilliant (PLUS: these guys KNOW what they’re talking about!! 🙌)
I wrote this back in April 2016, with the original intention to have it coincide with the release of Michelle John’s EP, Paper Doll.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of Paper Doll, the answer is simple: it was never released.
I asked her a few years later why she didn’t go through with it and she cited two reasons, which – on giving it a bit of thought – I concluded were different sides of the same coin.
The first: shortly after recording was completed (but before the scheduled release), Michelle appeared in series 6 of The Voice UK (she eventually gave in after years of repeatedly being invited to appear on the show).
The second was because she was struck by that thing that plagues many creatives, akin to buyer’s remorse: she simply felt it wasn’t up to the standard she had set for herself.
That meant I had this great story about one of the women I’ve come to admire the most in the UK Gospel scene, not just for her vocal ability, but also for her positive outlook on life, vulnerability, disarming openness and bags of personable charm.
Michelle has since gone on to do some amazing things, but unfortunately it seems the world will probably never get to hear Paper Doll.
I had the opportunity to listen to some of the songs being recorded live in the studio, and this is the story of that evening.
Yinka Awojobi Content Development UKGospel.com
‘I know who he means…’
The Premises Studios, Hackney, East London. It’s about 7:45 pm.
I step indoors, out of the chilly spring night.
‘I’m here to see Michelle’.
The guy behind the reception counter stares back at me, blankly.
In my head I start to work out how best to describe Michelle John: songwriter. Artist. Arranger. Activist. Accomplished vocalist…
It’s unlikely any of those will help Reception Man, even though they’re an accurate selection of the many hats she wears. And she wears them extremely well.
Another guy I hadn’t noticed pipes up from behind the counter: ‘I know who he means. Come on, I’ll take you. It’s right at the top – bit odd to get to. You might get lost, mate..’.
While it doesn’t have the profile of Abbey Road Studios on the other side of town, The Premises is incredibly significant to those in the know, and sadly becoming one of the few key, heritage music studio spaces left in London.
Last time I was here I witnessed the making of something truly groundbreaking, the end product going down in UK Gospel music history as a true international milestone.
Back then Nicky Brown was on production duties with Janine, Chris, Gillian and Lisa, led by the indomitable Isaiah-RaymondDyer working out of one of The Premises’ smaller rooms.
What came out at the other end of that process were tracks that included a reworked version of Song in the Midnight (that’s what was being recorded the day I was in), making up Raymond & Co‘s seminal Playing Games album.
Professional Background Person
Unless you’ve been around the UK Gospel scene a fair while, chances are that – at best – you’re only vaguely aware of who Michelle John is.
There’s good reason for that: she’s a professional background person, featuring both as lead and backing vocalist, as well as an arranger for some of the best Gospel talent the UK has had to offer over the years, including London Community Gospel Choir and Noel Robinson‘s Nu Image.
Michelle now occupies that rare space dreamed of by many but actually lived out by few – she’s one of the UK mainstream music industry’s go-to support vocalists for many international names you’ll recognise including Will Young, Annie Lennox, Eric Clapton and Joss Stone.
She’s in London for less than a week, having just returned from South East Asia a few days ago.
After this recording session she’s off to New York in 3 days’ time as part of Joss Stone‘s current international tour. As usual, her schedule is jam-packed.
Hang in the Studio
Michelle and I have been meaning to do the ‘come hang with me in the studio’ thing quite literally for years, but we could never make our diaries work.
Sometime later in the evening when our conversation gets round to that fact, she says, in a quite matter-of-fact, yet philosophical way: ‘nothing before its time’.
It’s a reflection of how zen she’s become in recent months, wearing years of life’s pain on her sleeve, but somehow mostly transcending it.
Like the rest of us, Michelle has her down days, but in the main she’s on the up and up.
Paper Doll – Highs and Lows
Anyone following her on social media will be familiar with her life’s highs and lows: from growing up in Peckham, South East London to the struggles of single parenthood, to personal fears and insecurities, to insight into the hard work, and – it has to be said – glamour of working across the globe.
A lot of that informs the life stories going into her second solo recording, Paper Doll, scheduled for an August 2016 release.
The studio she booked out is on the topmost floor, and Second Reception Man was right: I’d have got hopelessly lost if I’d attempted to come up on my own.
The room has a cosy, warm glow. Most of the illumination comes from a couple of spotlights embedded in the ceiling, with backlit buttons, switches and faders on the mixing desk adding to what already feels like the laid-back ambience of a Jazz club.
Michelle is standing over the desk, in deep conversation with the mixing engineer. She catches me out of the corner of her eye, comes over, gives me an exceedingly warm, familiar hug before heading back to the desk.
It’s quite obvious from watching her work that she’s one of those creative types who is absolutely clear on how she wants her narrative conveyed through her craft.
She’s also completely unfazed by the sheer physical dominance of a studio setup, with the myriad options that high-end studio equipment, people and possibilities present.
The telling of her story is paramount, and absolutely everything in the room is nothing more than a tool for her to tell it the way she needs it told.
She’s in complete control. As in: in control of everything – a solid steel fist under a sweet-looking velvet glove…
The sound engineer may know about the technical stuff: the faders and buttons, and the musicians their instruments, but there’s no doubt who’s in charge around here.
Michelle puts her hat on. It’s some kind of trendy, mini bowler thing.
Someone says it’s her ‘studio hat’ and she laughs in response, but a couple of seconds later I completely get what they mean – donning the hat seems to make her already businesslike focus dial up a few more notches, as the music playback begins.
She turns round, looks at me and does that apologetic thing many creatives do when they’re about to share a work in progress: ‘these are just guide vocals, Yinka..’
I sink into a deep leather sofa and take in my surroundings: on backing vocals in the recording room on the other side of the glass are a few faces I recognise…
Wayne Ellington (great vocalist in his own right and Michelle‘s former colleague from their Noel Robinson & Nu Image days), Faye Simpson (from another seminal 90s group, Nu Colours), Samantha Smith (whom I don’t know) and – from the new generation of vocally fantastic artists – Christina Matovu.
Pain in the Project
I take in the songs on playback and it doesn’t take long to spot a running theme here: there’s a lot of pain in this project.
But there’s also strength and several shades of hope: from tangible reassuring hope, to hope borne of a longed-for resolution and freedom from current situations.
And there’s hope that springs from the intangible optimism powered by the decision of personal determination: the choice to make a better life.
Michelle John’s Life
Paper Doll is the true story of Michelle John‘s life in song, an unflinching narrative of relationship reality and the challenges it can sometimes bring.
From the struggles, joys and aspirations of single motherhood on ‘To Raise A Man‘ to the feeling of helplessness and being trapped on ‘I’m Alone‘, to the despair of the aftermath of a strained relationship on ‘How Can I Trust You Again‘, and the beginnings of renewed hope on ‘I Found Me‘
And while these song titles broadly suggest powerlessness, the opposite actually holds true: sometimes you can only move on in life when you truly acknowledge the scars of hurt life has dealt you, and become completely comfortable talking about what you’ve learned, as opposed to the damange they’ve inflicted – there’s a freedom that comes with that level of openness…
SuggestingPaper Doll is some kind of self-pity project is to miss the point entirely: this is Michelle John in her own words: honest and deep, painfully vulnerable, her life writ large from her personal perspective, and – most importantly – she’s finding the power in her pain.
Tell Your Story Yourself
The session still has a while to go, but there’s a break and we resume our conversation – I share my thoughts on how personal the songs are, and wonder about her thoughts around making so much of this public.
Her reply is telling: ‘when so many people have told a version of what your story is, you might as well tell it yourself’.
She says this without suggestion of much bitterness. However there’s a quiet determination that suggests there are a few records that need setting straight.
I decide not to push for more details on Paper Doll‘s narrative, even though I’m curious to find out more about the cast of characters in these true-life stories.
But: the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t really serve much purpose beyond satisfying a crude tabloid need… Besides, the title says it all: the protagonist in this story is the doll, not the other characters in her life.
I have a feeling that – as personal as some of the incidents being recounted are – they are all too familiar for all too many people, both within and outside the church.
And even if it’s for that reason alone, Michelle John‘s Paper Doll is one to look forward to...
The ‘Legacy’ series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene remains recorded and publicly accessible
Original publication date: 15 July 2005
Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi
About ‘Behind the Beat’
‘Behind the Beat’ was an ongoing set of stories where UK Gospel artists presented a track-by-track exposition of their projects, typically albums and EPs (as opposed to the more prevalent singles format), sharing their thinking behind creating the projects.
This approach allowed for a more complete exploration of these recordings in their entirety, without the potential distraction of focusing on the more visible – or popular – singles from the CD.
2005 has been somewhat quiet in terms of huge, big-noise, sit-up-and-pay-attention album releases.
We still have about five months to go, but there really hasn’t been anything MAJOR, like we had with the buzz about Siani and Raymond & Co in 2004…
However there’s a quiet revolution in the making. And this one already has a groundswell of serious proportions.
You may not recognise the name Lain, but you more than likely would remember the group Nu Colours from the 90s, of which he was a member.
His debut album, Brother Soul, holds the distiction of being the first album to have sold out, and in record time, on UKG Shop**.
And there’s good reason for that. It is one of 2005’s best releases, as Lain puts top-drawer British Soul back on the map…
And what better way to learn more about the man and the music than to read about the album in Lain‘s own words…?
Kick back, relax and find out about one of this year’s genuine, high-quality sleeper hits.
This album will make you think, reflect and – if you’re open to it – act on the positive dictates of our faith.
Yinka Awojobi Content Development
‘Behind the Beat’: A UK Gospel.com Report
Yinka:Congratulations on an excellent album. Gotta say it’s one of 2005’s strongest by far.
I know we explore your history in detail on the UKGSpin! BioChannel* show, but I’d like to touch on a few points that we didn’t cover in the audio interview, particularly as far as the album goes.
It’s different from the usual ‘Black’ Gospel album in that it’s quite introspective, but despite that, it’s accessible and has range and depth…
LAIN: It was written over quite a long period of time. I’ve been through many experiences, and shared these with the people I’d been working with.
And I didn’t write it as a ‘black gospel’ album. I wrote it as a man of faith writing about every aspect of his life and beliefs.
Yinka: and in many ways it also has elements of the kind of uplifting message that ‘Battle‘ had.
While most people probably won’t recognise you as an artist, almost everyone remembers Wookie‘s ‘Battle‘ as this HUGE Top Ten Garage tune from 2000, but won’t realise you were the voice AND pen behind the song…
It often happens that way, that you love a song and find out years later who it was by
I was talking to a friend recently about a song I did with Nu Coloursand he didn’t know that I had done the track he used to rave to!
And l imagine even fewer people realised ‘Battle’ was a Christian song in the first place…
I remember when these major labels were trying to sign the single, and about 3 weeks into their bidding one of the guys rang up in total amazement saying ‘that … tune it’s like … a gospel tune!!‘
A lot of people raved first, then listened later. I found that to be a common trend.
Anyway there’s more on that in the audio interview*, so I’ll leave it there.
Let’s do this. I give you the track name and you tell me the story behind it…
TRACK: PEACEFUL WATERS (One of my favourites)
STORY: written with a friend of mine Mike McEvoy, this song is about an ever-shrinking world of hustle and bustle, where everything is instant
Importance is placed on things that are meaningless…
STORY: When I first started visiting London I was amazed at seeing so many homeless people on the streets. It seemed to be normal to everyone walking past them
It kind of stuck out in my mind…
TRACK: IF ONLY
STORY: As a young guy you think you know it all, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I guess you live and learn
TRACK: EVERY MORNING (Another one of my favourites)