Kim Burrell is hailed as one of the greatest voices of our time– in gospel and beyond. You knew I’d be chattin’ with her Japanese Teapots eventually, right???
The interview was incredible. Not only is she hilarious, she’s open and honest, conversational and real– that always makes an interview fun for me. We chatted so long that I’m gonna have to break it into two-parts… I know how much y’all like when I do that. LOL
In this, Part One of my discussion, Kim responds to some of the complaints about her latest project, No Ways Tired, and explains why she recorded this type of album. She also gives some EXCLUSIVE info to GospelPundit.com about another album from her, due sooner than you’d think… and you’ll never guess the label she’ll be releasing it on!
Dear friends, I give you Part One of my chat with the one, the ONLY, Ms. Kim Burrell…
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EJ: Hi! How are you?
KB: I’m really good!
EJ: I wanna thank you for taking a minute to chat with me. I really appreciate it!
EJ: I wanna jump right by talking about your most recent album, No Ways Tired. I don’t wanna say you took 9 years “off,” because you were still working like crazy, but there was a considerable amount of time between albums. Why?
KB: It was nothing pre-planned whatsoever, but after the first year, it was starting to really feel good to NOT deal with record companies. *laughing*
KB: After the first year of taking a break, I continued working with other artists. And that’s more comfortable for me– much more comfortable than having to deal with a record company situation. That’s the reason that I’m not signed to any record company now. I have a relationship with Shanachie— they’re a reputable company and, because of what they represent, I wanted to attach myself at this hour, but for the most part, I just kinda took a break from the whole record company scene.
And as I said, I’ve continued to work with ministries, doing other people’s albums… just kinda doing that.
EJ: Sure. Months ago, I said on the site that you’re one of the only artists who can go 9 years without a commercial release and remain relevant in the industry.
KB: Oh! Thank you!
EJ: For real… you were everywhere, as if you were still releasing albums on a regular basis, but it had been years and many people didn’t really notice. And then one day, you just decided “it’s time”?
KB: You know what I did? I had a conversation with Danny Weiss at Shanachie and decided to give it a go. And I’ll be honest with you– I was intrigued. After doing a song with George Clinton, I was intrigued by the producer– Chris “Big Dog” Davis.
I felt there was a sound and an approach that I had not experienced in quite a while. It was mature, it was gospel, it was laid-back… it wasn’t the “hype” gospel, as I like to say.
KB: And there were songs that he and I talked about that made sense. Like “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” we always hear… mostly at funerals. But I liked the way he voiced it, and I wanted to sing along with it.
To be honest with you, I took advantage of a sound that I was intrigued by, and interested in doing. And that’s what made me do the album. He presented several things. Then, of course, we decided to do the “Happy” song.
EJ: Yes! Love that.
KB: I know Vickie Winans has done the “if you’re happy and you know it” thing, but I had an interest to do “I’m so happy and I know it.” And, of course, not to counter her song, because that’s been around for ages, but we did it.
Eventually, one thing led to another with music and we had enough songs to do an album. We said “why not?!” *laughing*
EJ: *laughs* Sure.
KB: And we did it in about 3 weeks… just went in and knocked ’em out. Said “Hey, y’all like this, Shanachie? There ya go.”
EJ: There ya go. Mastered… delivered!
KB: *laughing* Honestly! Honest to God, that is exactly how that happened.
EJ: Well, I love the album something serious.
KB: Thank you. I’m enjoying it, too. Really, I am. I think I listen to it at least once a day.
EJ: Oh, it’s lots of fun. You’ve got me and several people I know talkin’ about “using our happy” on a daily basis– it’s like a movement!
KB: Alright! *laughing* That’s wonderful to hear. What I really like about it is that a lot of young people like it. At our church, in one of the classes, that’s their theme– “Use Your Happy.” And it’s just exciting to know that I’ve been able to affect and become a part of other people’s lives on an every-day basis. It’s just a blessing and I’m glad that God trusts me to that degree, you know?
EJ: Absolutely. Now, having said all of that, though, I have to acknowledge some of the concerns of the readers at GospelPundit.com. I want to give you a chance to respond to some of those, if you feel inclined. Otherwise, feel free to just say “you’ll get over it” or something.
EJ: First, the style of the album. After this amount of time, I think several people were anticipating another Everlasting Life.
EJ: But I think it’s somewhat of an unfair expectation because, to me, that album was one of a few projects that defined this new era of contemporary gospel music, so it’s hard to replicate it. But was that even your focus on this album? Were you trying to make another Everlasting Life for people to go bananas over?
KB: Absolutely not. Because there’s an Everlasting Life that exists. It’ll always exist. And if that’s what they would like to hear, some people still listen to it. I know some of the greatest musicians, some who have nothing to do with gospel training, absolutely live by it. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, George Duke… all of them. I respect those artists because they have gone to school for what they do.
Now, I respect– trust me– and always WILL respect, our gospel listeners. But that’s what they are for the most part. Most of them that are complaining– cuz trust me, I’ve heard it before– are gospel music listeners and not gospel music makers. And you know, sometimes, when all you do is listen to music, all you really expect is something different. But when you LIVE music, whatever an artist does, you’re cool with it because you have an insight on music, a love for music, and you’ll find something to be intrigued about. You don’t have any unrealistic (or what I would consider unrealistic) expectations.
KB: Because I’m the type of person… and I tell people to check me out on YouTube, especially songs that I’ve done repeatedly, I don’t do them the same. And it’s not that I try not to, it’s just not my personality.
KB: When you let God live in you, the creative side of God will come out of you as often as needed. And for me to REPEAT myself is, in a way, almost spiritually phobic… to say that God wasn’t creative enough for me to come out with something else.
EJ: That’s real. And when I first reviewed the album, I said “this is NOT Everlasting Life,” so if you’re looking for that, you may be disappointed. But if you’re a music lover, you need this in your collection. You have to have it.
KB: Yeah, yeah… I feel you. Can I tell you something? It’s amazing– after 20 years or so in the music business, I know the sound, I know the posture of a real music lover. I know you guys. And I realize wholeheartedly that you all respect everything about music. And trust me, I can tell by talking to you in just a few minutes, that you know.
You have no idea how much it intrigues me to hear other people’s opinions that differ on this. You have to allow people to be themselves, but they’ll say “well, I’m your fan… I may not be a music lover like you, but I’m your fan and I like what you do.”
But when you’re a fan, it doesn’t matter what it is that I do.
KB: I guarantee you this– on Michael Jackson’s WORST album, when it comes down to product sales, I can guarantee you that most of the sales are from his FANS. No matter what he puts out, the sales come from people who love him.
Other people who, pretty much, judge what you do in a negative way, are people who just have an expectation of you out of judgment. They’ll buy it just to have another to reason to judge you.
KB: So, those people, I don’t necessarily consider too deeply, and I mean “pay attention to.” I don’t mean any harm, and everybody should be regarded in some way, maybe, but as it pertains to that, I don’t know.
EJ: Sure. And you’re not doing it primarily for us anyway. God gave you a jazzy album in 2009, maybe in 2015 it’ll be something else. I think that’s a great outlook to have.
Now, you performed a couple of new singles over the past several years, though, and people always thought an album was coming– like “That’s What He’s Done,” and “Have Faith In Me,” for example. To be honest, I’m STILL mad at Bad Boy for not releasing “Special Place.”
EJ: I’m so serious. I have a snippet of it from some teaser and I promise I listen to it, from the first verse to the chorus before it fades out…
EJ: *laughs* I listen to it like it’s a full song! But where’s the album that’s gonna feature those songs, or will there not be one?
KB: There WILL be one. There ABSOLUTELY will be one. I’m actually going to work on that album, probably, around December. It’ll be a 2010 release. I’m going to work on that album so that it can be out in early 2010 and people can kinda… not you, I’m talking about other people that are fussin’… they’ll be alright.
But that goes to show you– that was me. I didn’t want to put those songs on this album, because that’s not the kind of album this was.
EJ: Right. You did a PROJECT.
EJ: With a THEME, a CONCEPT… imagine that. *laughs*
KB: Yes. And that’s not the album this was. This wasn’t *starts singing the first line to “That’s What He’s Done”* No, no. It wasn’t gonna be that. It was *starts singing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”*… because that’s what I felt.
EJ: Right! A rough estimate– how many unreleased tracks do you have recorded?
KB: Oh, probably 40.
EJ: Wow! 40 that are done and ready to go if you needed to?
KB: No, done and ready to go? Probably about 10. A full album.
KB: Yeah. Full and complete… ready. But I’ll release it on my label, though.
EJ: You’re starting your own label?
KB: Oh, absolutely.
KB: I’ve already started, actually.
EJ: Have you?
KB: You’re the first to know that, publicly.
EJ: Well, thank you! Is that off-the-record?
KB: Well, you know what? NAW! Actually, I’m gonna solicit to get other artists in just a few days.
You know, my Ephesians 4 conference allows me many opportunities to do quite a few things. And that’s the most important baby to me right now, in my life.
EJ: I’ve heard great things about it, by the way.
KB: Oh, it is a force to be reckoned with. It really is. And that’s not a competitive thing. That is a statement based on what God has done in these settings. I promise you, it is nothing anyone would ever want to miss.
It is one of the most life-changing experiences that I have had. There is an anointing that rests on Ephesians 4 that affords me the opportunity to meet with God in a way that… it’s incredible.
When God shows up at Ephesians 4, everybody who is anybody that has been to these conferences, they forget about who they are. We did it in Atlanta– you walked in that room, you would’ve thought “what’s going on here?!”
You had Jonathan Nelson in one corner on the floor, crying out to God, Tye Tribbett in another corner… I was in another corner. The only reason I knew they were in their corners is because I had to watch the video… I was messed up!
KB: Donnie McClurkin gone in, Dr. Bobby Jones… I mean, when I tell you that this conference is one that makes you SOUL SEARCH… It is nothing to play with.
And that’s why I always invite everybody, and it changes each time. It’s getting better and better. We do our last set this year in October at Perfecting Church in Detroit, Pastor Marvin Winans.
EJ: You know, I think that’s great… that there is a place for artists to come, meet, and experience a time of restoration. We’re hearing a lot these days about artists falling and messing up, scandals that haven’t even come to light yet. There’s a need for accountability for artists in the gospel music industry, and a need for artists to be able to come together in a safe place of refuge, to hold up one another.
KB: Yeah. And one thing about it, I’m given to this. Love covers. I grew up in a church environment where the doctrine of it was sometimes unforgiving and borderline judgmental. But it’s learned behavior. And I tell people, “make sure that in our relationships with Jesus Christ, we have encounters with Him, personally, and not necessarily functioning off of what we’ve learned.”
There’s nothing wrong with adhering to what seemingly has worked for us. But if you happen to hit a glitch in the road, with what it is you’ve already learned, search it out in the Scripture and through prayer. And find out if that’s the route that your life should be going in. Don’t become bitter, destitute, upset and rebellious… just take a little time, press pause, and search after God.
EJ: Sure– that wrestling is where growth occurs.
KB: And I say that because a lot of what we, in ministry, suffer comes from trying to hold to what we’ve LEARNED, not necessarily what we’ve experienced. We function off of what we’ve heard, not what we’ve tried out for ourselves. And when we get to that place in the road where that thing that we’ve learned doesn’t work for us, the enemy comes in and tries to make us doubt EVERYTHING.
That’s why it’s important that we know what to embrace and what not to. We’ve all got to take time and learn God for ourselves.
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Aaaaaand, we’ll take a break there.
Hopefully, you enjoyed her insight as much as I did. She really has some great stuff to SAY, not just sing, as it relates to our walks with Christ.
Plus, how excited are ya?! NEW ALBUM from Kim Burrell in early 2010, AND she’s starting her own label! Tell your friends, but don’t forget that she told GospelPundit first, aight?! 😉
Ok, that’s it for now. Check back TOMORROW for our conclusion– it only gets BETTER.
/// EDITOR’S NOTE: For Part 2 of this interview, click here! ///
What do you think so far?!
And just for the heck of it, here’s a great video of her singing “That’s What He’s Done”: