Associate Editor Troy Lilly chats with Micah Stampley, whose new album, One Voice, hit stores on October 18th…
Troy: Thanks for joining me man. How are you?
Micah: I’m well, Troy.
Troy: Great, great. Shall we jump right in?
Troy: What makes the “Micah Stampley sound” different from others in gospel?
Micah: I have many peers who grew up like I did – in the church – and we had other influences outside of the church. I tend to embrace those influences differently than some of my peers. I spend a lot of time in prayer asking God for something different. My heart is always to have music that is not one-time wonder material, but music that will last forever.
When I first heard the song “Take My Life” (which people call “Holiness”), it was originally a Christian rock song, very grungy with distorted guitars screaming. And the lyrics and the notes just hit me in a different way, so I went home and started playing it on my keyboard and what I came out with was more intimate, more worshipful. It sounded like a prayer to me. Then my interpretation hit like crazy. That just let me know that God was honoring my prayer that he would give me a staple sound.
Troy: Awesome. So, if you could only describe your new album, One Voice, in one word, what it would it be?
Troy: Ok, now feel free to expound…
Micah: You told me “one word!” (laughter)
Troy: I know, I know … but I knew you’d have a lot more to share. (laughter)
Micah: Well I did one cover song on from a CCM band called Desperation Band. The song is called “Overcome” and it’s a big song in the CCM world. At our church in Houston, the congregation looked like a bag of Skittles, and I just feel that’s what heaven looks like. My sound has really emerged into this oneness.
I grew up in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC)…
Troy: Me too!
Micah: Everything was a sin. I used to ride my school bus in junior high and I would hear all these songs and chord progressions that I never heard before… you know Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors…”
Micah: I would hear all that stuff– Michael Jackson, and Prince singing “Purple Rain.” I would be like “oh, I like this stuff.” (laughter) I developed a different ear. So, I think that One Voice represents my interpretations of the different sounds I’ve heard since I was a kid.
I have this one pop tune, “Call of Love,” that kind of puts you in the mindset of the Black Eyed Peas joint, “I Got a Feeling.” It has that same vibe to it man. When Matthew Knowles heard it, he said “this sounds like a theme song for some big humanitarian movement.”
We have a few songs on this record like that, like the title cut, “One Voice,” and it’s just that whole global sound. When we sing that song live, people in the audience grab each other’s hand and swing back and forth like it’s “We Are the World.” It’s crazy, but really cool to see it happen.
And you know I gotta have my praise and worship stuff on there…
Troy: Of course!
Micah: …Stuff where I’m at a level 10. I’ve gotta have that “War Cry” and “Holy Visitation,” but that type of song on this record is the one called “Hosanna.” And, man, I promise you that song is probably the next “War Cry.” This may even be stronger!
Troy: Wow, even with the three reprises on “War Cry?” Because I remember you kept coming back each time we thought it was done.
Micah: Yeah, the people wouldn’t let “War Cry” go. This time, we don’t have any reprises, but what’s happening when I sing “Hosanna” live… the audience hijacks my song every time! But that’s a good sign. It’s a strong record.
Troy: Great. So tell me about the lead single, “Heaven on Earth,” since that’s the first thing people are hearing from this new project.
Micah: Not sure if you’re familiar with David and Nicole Binion…
Troy: Yes, I am…
Micah: Well, David wrote that song with some of his colleagues and I heard it when he visited our church in Houston. And I was just done! I was just weeping, and I said, “I have to record this song.” Then, I heard that Israel [Houghton] was going to record it. But when he put out his album, I didn’t see it on there. So I said “Uh, it’s mine!” (laughter)
David and Nicole told me to please record it. And that song has really been a blessing to me. Because if you think about the message of that song – heaven on earth – it’s a declaration, literally giving God permission to duplicate himself in us on the earth, because he created us from the earth.
Troy: You’ve mentioned before that you wife, Heidi, frequently writes with you on your projects…
Micah: My wife and I write most of my projects together. We have a couple songs on each record that we write individually, but the best songs are the ones we write together. God has just given us this ability to merge all these different influences and sounds together, and this is what we present to you guys, which comes from a place of pain, of victory and defeat, ups and downs.
Troy: How much did she contribute to One Voice?
Micah: Oh my God! Heidi wrote her butt off on this record!
Micah: On most of the songs that we wrote together, I wrote the music and she penned the lyrics. There are a few songs on there where we switched places. But God really used her lyrically on this album.
There’s one song I did at the AIM Convention this summer, called “Desperate People.” And if you grew in church like me, you’re sick of the ritualistic mumbo-jumbo.
Micah: The song says (singing), “I’ve seen the God of wonders work miracles in me, those with gifts and talents who spoke prophetically. I want the mantles of Elijah, Paul and Timothy; I want to see that power at work inside of me. I’m tired of the status quo, gotta be more than this. Gotta be more, gotta be more, gotta be more than this.”
Micah: The lyrics of this song really pull at people’s heart and people are running to us saying ”this is what I’ve been trying to say forever.” I ministered that song in Nigeria and they literally cried out to God on the floor. It’s really refreshing.
Troy: Do you feel like this new album is your most defining work so far?
Micah: To be honest, Troy, I do think this is my best work to date from a musical and lyrical standpoint.
Troy: So to go back to your early career, you won the Stellar Awards Star Search in 2004. What happened after you won that competition? Was it a positive experience, average or other?
Micah: It was definitely a huge, positive experience for me. It was my introduction to the industry as an artist. After that, I got a call from Marcus Dawson, Bishop T.D. Jakes’s road musician, who had heard me prior to the Stellar event. He had been telling Bishop Jakes about me and Bishop finally told Marcus, “Ok, let’s invite him, but he if he messes up, it’s off with your head!” (laughter)
Micah: So they called me in ’04 and I was invited that February to the Potter’s House. The power of God hit that place so hard during the second service that Bishop [Jakes] couldn’t even preach. That’s how heavy it was! And he offered me a recording contract on the spot.
Troy: Just like that?
Micah: Yes. Ever since then it has been nonstop. I’ve traveled with him across the world… to Africa, Australia, you name it. He provided the platform for my ministry and pushed me out there. I’m so grateful to Bishop, and he and I still text and talk. We still have a great relationship.
Troy: Well, the reason I asked you that is because we have more mainstream gospel competitions now. And most singers aren’t fortunate enough to have a “Bishop Jakes” as a friend and mentor – or business partner.
Troy: Do you feel authentic artists can be launched through shows or competitions like Sunday Best, where contestants have to sign contracts and agreements often before they sing a single note?
Micah: I don’t! I’m so glad you asked me that because I’ve never had an opportunity to answer a question like that or even speak of it. I don’t think that’s a wise thing to do. Now, I believe in the platform, yes, but I do not believe that artists should be forced to sign agreements when they don’t even have legal representation.
Micah: I’m a minister and I’m a worshipper – people get that from my music – but I know how to handle business. I was negotiating one contract for an entire year before I signed it. I don’t take any of that lightly.
I think they need to understand what they’re signing and not just be gifted, because you can be a household name… and poor, broke and hungry. That’s not God’s will. But artists can easily be taken advantage of because they’re so caught up in the hype that they neglect the business side. My wife and I talk to a lot of artists who ask us for guidance and counsel. They wonder how we’re prospering in spite of vying against the major companies for airplay on the radio, and shelf space in the retail store.
God has blessed us because we made an effort to understand that side of the business. And even beyond that, you have to know where you’re going as an artist whether you are traditional, contemporary, praise or worship and any other style.
Troy: I’m glad you finally got a chance to express that.
Troy: With that being said, tell me about your partnership with Music World Gospel. Frankly, are you in charge or is Matthew Knowles in charge?
Micah: It’s my record company that has entered into a joint venture with Music World. I never signed a deal with Music World as an artist. It’s not necessarily a distribution deal, but we use their channels to distribute. However, we still have the option to go through other channels as we are our own label.
Troy: So basically, you’re in charge? (Laughter)
Micah: (Laughter) I own my work, we own the masters together, but it’s a good thing for us. I want to be that example to show other artists that, ‘hey, you can do this.’ Sit down and read, ask questions and understand before you sign that dotted line.
Troy: Good, good advice. Do you plan to introduce any new artists on your Interface label? Is there anyone we should be looking out for?
Micah: Be on the lookout for Joey Oscar. He’s a drummer and he’s got this global sound. But if I told you it was a drum album, you wouldn’t listen. It’s an instrumental record. But he’s also my drummer and a phenomenal producer. And… he’s married to my wife’s sister, so he is also my brother-in-law.
Troy: Oh! Awesome, keeping it in the family…
Micah: Yeah, but he is incredible.
Troy: I’m excited to hear it. I want to thank you for sharing with me today, from the One Voice record – which I love – to some of the great advice you gave for folks trying to break navigate wisely through the industry. It’s appreciated.
Micah: You’re welcome, and thanks to you as well man.
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Check out our full album review of Micah Stampley’s One Voice right here.
And be sure to listen to snippets/buy it right here–