Follow-up: Michael Booth on Declaration

Two days ago, several other bloggers and I posted a mega review of Declaration, the Booth Brothers’ latest CD. Via Nate Stainbrook, tenor Michael Booth sent and gave us permission to post some fascinating follow-up thoughts (via Nate Stainbrook).

He explains why over half of the songs are from other genres:

There are truths that I can’t get to in our concerts because of time. I talk enough as it is, so I cannot take any more time away from the music. I shared this frustration of truths un-proclaimed with my close friend Scott Fowler. He suggested that we sing the truths in songs. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?

The problem was finding songs that contain certain truths that I was wanting to proclaim, that would fit our audience. One might think that gospel songs cover everything that needs to be covered but I TOTALLY disagree. Many SG songs have fallen short of seeing truths (such as God’s wrath) through in a concise way. I have never heard a SG song address this truth in an effectively concise way. If I did, then I can’t remember.

Fundamental truths are sadly taken for granted and left unclear too often in gospel songs. Now I realize the almost impossible task of clearly presenting some truths in three to five minutes, however I still believe that we can do better. So with Declaration we made an attempt at growing to a new level of intelligible, concise doctrine and theology in music.

. . . We feel good about the truths in Declaration. Our hope is that it will influence others to take note and pursue an effort in growing the level of material on future recordings.

He discussed the choice of Lari Goss as producer:

Someone asked when they heard that Lari produced the recording if it sounded like everything else that Lari does. It made me laugh because that “Lari sound” is why we went to Lari! We wanted it to sound fundamentally like all of Lari’s other recordings—but we believed that we could make it unique enough with our sound and input. Lari is one of a kind.

Another thing is that we recognized the Cathedrals’ Symphony of Praise recording has lasted and continues to sustain its initial impact. Meaning that if Declaration is anything like SOP then it will last and sell a LONG time. That is why we could justify the great expense of this recording. We put three times more money into this recording than for any of our past recordings.

He also addressed an issue Brandon Coomer raised in his summary, the percentage of ballads:

Now the negative issues.

It’s too heavy for simple listening. My mother said that is wears her out to listen to all of it. It does the same to me also. We knew that this would happen. The problem, as one of you said, is that it is an in-your-face-ballad, lyrically-heavy recording. I agree! The problem was that it was almost impossible to find up-tempo songs that could hang with the ballads on this recording.

To ask the average SG up-tempo song to stand beside one of these diamonds would certainly prove to be unfair and would diminish the purpose of a fresh sonic approach. However it was made more challenging to record an up-tempo that would be palatable to our current audience and sonically fit with the Goss ballads. This was one of our greatest musical challenges in our entire career. We “almost” did it. I think at the least ONE more up-tempo would have helped—BUT then we would get into higher production cost, royalties etc. At some point ya just gotta stop! Also…. I just couldn’t find another uptempo song. Not at the time anyway.

So far the recording is working very well in concerts and people are being impacted by the truths. That is all that we could ask for.

. . . Your positive comments are greatly appreciated and any negative comments, I feel, were accurate.

The last sentence is astonishingly humble—after all, this is the Tenor of the Year from the Group of the Year talking to a bunch of (mostly) amateur bloggers. (Even though one of us does have a day job in the industry, all of us run these sites on an amateur basis on our off hours.)

Several years ago, the Booth Brothers started sweeping the Singing News Fan Awards consistently. For the first year or two, they did the typical acceptance speech routine, thanking the fans for their support.

But somewhere along the way, they realized that it could be a God-given platform to challenge the industry to move to the next level. So, for the last year or two, they have been urging groups to bring more Scripture into their concert emcee work. This statement goes even farther, urging groups to carefully re-examine the theology in their songs.

Perhaps more than any previous group who has been Group/Quartet/Trio of the year, the Booth Brothers are redefining what the role can mean. Challenges like this one, if heeded, can reshape a genre into what it could and should become.


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10 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I was challenged by their approach last september when we worked together and have redirected the message in response. It is important.

  2. Two quotes from Michael Booth and then comments:

    “The problem was finding songs that contain certain truths that I was wanting to proclaim, that would fit our audience.”

    “Fundamental truths are sadly taken for granted and left unclear too often in gospel songs. Now I realize the almost impossible task of clearly presenting some truths in three to five minutes, however I still believe that we can do better.”

    1. Surprising and encouraging words. Keep going down that road, Michael. If artists are willing to record stronger songs, songwriters in SG will feel more free to write at a deeper level, knowing the song will still find a home. Now, not so much.

    2. Yes, Jim Brady is a great writer for the Booth Brothers, but maybe it’s time for Michael Booth to sit down in a room with some writers, too. Or at least Michael can put the word out about the particular message he needs to find in a song. I imagine many options would soon be available, since that’s what writers (who are also called to ministry) love to do — match a song with a spiritual need.

  3. “…we made an attempt at growing to a new level of intelligible, concise doctrine and theology in music”.

    Though some of us will have to wait a while to hear what you reviewers have already heard, I think in more ways than one, we know the bar HAS been raised in the Southern Gospel genre.

    Not forgetting the quality of the excellent review already posted; the bench mark quality of the Lari Goss’ input, the matured and signature harmonies of the Booth trio, the growing comparisons to an iconic SGM classic from a revered quartet, the breadth of material on the project and the adaptations from parallel gospel genre…

    Leaving all that aside, the visionary yet humble spirituality quality of Michael’s comments, are themselves, a bench mark in the aspirations of SGM groups.

    We will go a long ways down the road before a higher aspiration is desired.

    The Lord is greatly honoured in such sentiment, and their presentation of the gospel message will be eternally blessed if such Christlikeness is reflected in their public performance.

    May the Lord truly stir the hearts of all who follow in this field to emulate such sincerity and truth. The technical excellence matters little if Christ is NOT ‘extolled and made very high’.

    That sentiment alone, should be the goal of every project which claims the title of ‘Christian Music’, regardless of genre.

    Amen to that Michael. God bless you all richly in His service.

    • “Leaving all that aside, the visionary yet humble spirituality quality of Michael’s comments, are themselves, a bench mark in the aspirations of SGM groups.”

      My thoughts exactly. I couldn’t have put it better.

  4. This is fascinating. A surprisingly candid look at the SG genre from one of their own.

    Speaking as somebody who loves this kind of music, I would say that while I think there’s nothing wrong with fun, light stuff, gospel music does tend to lean towards “feel-good” material. To be fair, there’s plenty of solid, meaningful stuff in the genre as well, but I would agree with Michael that it doesn’t cover everything that needs to be covered.

    To me, it’s refreshing to see a SG group thinking outside of the box like this. I hope their example encourages other artists, even established ones, to consider similarly refining their musical approach.

    Michael’s humility is most refreshing as well. He’s striving for excellence, yet open to criticism. Very talented, but not full of himself. I like that.

  5. Michael’s comments here (as well as private conversations I’ve had with him, Jim and Ronnie) are one of the reasons why I’ve learned to love this group so much!

    This group has a PURPOSE when they hit the stage – and unfortunately – I can’t think of a whole lot of groups who also have a defined purpose when they hit the stage like these guys.

  6. I’ve listened to older SG songs – the ones that come to mind right now are “Plenty of Time” and “How About Your Heart” – and it made me sad that truths like that aren’t very well accepted today. I do find myself excited by a commitment to get past the watered-down religion that is so common today.

  7. When the Booth Bros. first hit the scene, Michael was flighty and the comic all night. The last two years, he has become a “mini” preacher in concerts with a purpose. He has challenged the listener through scripture, and it is really enjoyable to watch him grow this way.

    • Interesting. I don’t know much about the group, but Michael seems like one seriously funny guy from what I’ve seen so far. I loved it at NQC when Ronnie was up getting his “favorite lead” award and was thanking his family members (wife, kids, etc.) for their support…then Michael stands up and starts waving his arms like “Hel-LOO! Remember ME?” Priceless! Then Ronnie’s response, “And when I get to heaven I’m gonna ask the Lord, ‘Lord, that thorn in my flesh…was it a little brother named Michael?'” I love it!

      But I think these comments and the purposeful preaching you’re noticing are revealing a deeper side to Michael as well. He’s a funny guy, but he’s also thoughtful, and he brings a message with what he says.

  8. Michael,as I read the discussion by you and the and comments of fans I was reminded of may first knowledge of you (the Booth Brothers). We have been priviledged to enjoy a few of the concerts you have performed in Mississippi. I remember Ronnie for his sincere quality of rendering a peace to his audience. I remember Jim for his ability to capture us with his youthful but mature manner of completing the great sound that you as a group bless our heats in song with. And Michael, I have to share with you (if I can put it in the correct words)how you with your unique way of presenting the Gospel to us blesses everyone who understands that none of us is perfect. We attended the concert in Philadephis, MS in the spring of this year and I must say that night was a night of blessings. Yes, you are funny and comical. But, as one of the comments I read, you read the Gospel of God’s word to us in the second half of
    the concert that still blesses my heart often. I know you will reach higher plains in your ministry for we know the scriptures teaches us if we will be obedient to his call he will give us the desires of our heart for our good and HIS glory. As your audience prays for you as a group, remember to pray for your audience each time you come before us. MAY GOD BLESS AND KEEP YOU SAFE!!!!

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