An Interview with Allison Durham Speer

Earlier this week, Allison Durham Speer launched the GodSong Music Academy.

Daniel: Most of my readers know that you have a connection to the Speer Family, but many are new enough to the genre that they don’t know the connection. How are you connected?

Allison: I married into the Speer Family in 1989. I married Brock and Faye Speer’s son, Brian. He played guitar for the family for five years and retired to continued his education at Trevecca Nazarene University. He was an accountant at the Benson Company and several companies as he aged. He now owns and manages a recording studio. He is an engineer and producer. It has been an adventure to be in the Speer Family. What giants they are in our field of expertise, and as saints of God. I learned the importance of education from Brock, Faye (and my beloved). I also learned from them what it means to love and respect one another in marriage. They were lovers and partners eternally.

Daniel: I would venture to say that most of my readers have seen you on Gaither Homecoming videos, but probably some do not have any of your solo recordings. If I could talk my readers into purchasing one of your solo recordings this week, which one should they get?

Allison: My last recording “The Holy Hills” is my best work to date. I have a new recording in the works, at present. It is called “The Writer”. I have co-written every song on the new one and am excited about the possibilities for the project. “The Holy Hills” is my first attempt at production. It has three Dottie Rambo songs and several new titles, as well. It has a celtic flare and is musically diverse.

Daniel: This week, you announced a new venture, GodSong Music Academy (www.godsongmusicacademy.com). What is the vision of this academy?

GodSong Music Academy is a training ground for musicians who want to be better communicators from the stage. We have seen, over the years, a “cut and paste” mentality in Gospel music. What I mean by this is that many performers just repeat what they hear another group or singer say and do. In digging beneath the surface though, we have found that most of those who are just mimicking another’s blueprint of music have very deep spiritual threads running through their lives. They just do not know how to tap into those core emotions and then articulate them with music and speaking. With just a basic communications foundation artists develop a right sense of their calling and the ability to captivate an audience with their performance. This increases their invitations, finances, audience base and ministry opportunities. It is worth investing in musicians if we can teach them to be ministers in the realm of the church. At GodSong we train people in each aspect of ministry- music, speaking, writing, voice, appearance, people skills, fund raising, booking, management, recording, etc.

Daniel: I understand this academy arose out of the Elijah School of Performance. Are there any differences in focus or emphasis that prompted the name change?

Allison: Yes, this Academy has several different tracks of study that one can pursue. Voice, writing, speaking, instrumental performance, and managerial areas will be available. We are developing an online curriculum for members to access classes and video events that will further their learning. A person may want to take voice from a coach with a teacher through Skype, or continue music theory through the internet classes. I will also be available to help people with segues, writing, speaking and designing their musical sets of concerts. A master class of GodSong will be available later in the year and we will also take Godsong staffers on the road to do smaller conferences in other areas of the country. This is an exciting new model of education that will build ministry teams who will do music specifically designed for the church. Now days people do music that appeals to the throngs of positive country lovers and the church. We are targeting the musicians who really feel called to work specifically in the church. We are developing a record label, publishing company, and online magazine, as well as the conferences.

Daniel: How long does the academy last? Where is it held, and how does someone sign up?

Allison: GodSong is in June 26-29 (Wed.-Sat) 2013, at Grace Church of the Nazarene in Nashville, TN. The web page www.godsongmusicacademy.com has a registration page and more information about our staff and seminars. We keep the attendance at a number of guests small enough to allow me to work with every person individually. Each person gets to sing several times and receive coaching and instruction on how to augment the performance to make it dynamic. We also have a panel of music professionals who come in on Friday afternoon to hear every person and give their advice and critiques. We have seen three GodSong attendees hired to full time groups and several go into full time ministry because of the direction received at the conference. This year we are offering voice lessons from a vocal expert named Ben Waites. We are also planning to have a professional songwriter, a comedian, a graphics designer, an instrumentalist, a producer and a record label executive, as well as other professional singers. We develop the community and allow those who are there to grow by mentoring them.

Daniel: Thank you!

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Past the Press Release: An Interview with Mark Clark

Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. In years past, you may have met Mark Clark when he was filling in or singing backup for former Inspirations tenor Archie Watkins. Now it’s his turn to fill that legendary role. Let’s get to know him a little better!

Daniel: Let’s start with a little background. Did you grow up around Gospel Music, or did you discover it as an adult?

Mark: I was introduced to Southern Gospel Music through my parents. They took me to singings when I was a child because they had no one to keep me. I remember going to see such groups as the Kingsmen, Gold City, McKameys, and yes even the Inspirations. My favorite group was the Kingsmen (sorry Martin). The songs they sang with that Southern Gospel beat really grabbed my attention.

I was 27 years old the first time I sang in front of people, it was in our church. I was so nervous I started off singing with my back to the audience with my pants legs visibly shaking. After the shock, I sang for 9 years with my wife and another couple, we called ourselves Vessels of Praise. In 2004, Melton Campbell called me and asked if I would be interested in singing tenor in his group called Common Garments. I accepted. I was introduced to the Inspirations through Melton.

Daniel: What sparked your desire to sing Gospel Music?

Mark: I have always said that I was born in the wrong generation. I love the harmonies of 4 part singing. The only music that fits that style is southern gospel. I would rather sing harmony than do a solo any day.

Daniel: This actually isn’t your first time on The Inspirations bus; I recall seeing you with the group before, in March 2007, assisting Archie. How long were you the assistant or backup Inspirations tenor?

Mark: I helped Archie off and on from 2005 through the first part of 2008. Daron Osborne and I rotated on that duty. The opportunity was so awesome. I was singing with a living legend. Since his beginning, very few had been given such an honor.

Daniel: Do you have an all-time favorite Inspirations album and/or song?

Mark: My favorite album of the Inspirations is “I Know” because I helped with that project while Archie was out. Archie actually sang on the recording. I had a part in working out the harmonies.

Daniel: Could you tell us a little about your family and about interests or hobbies you have outside of music?

Mark: Well I have been married to my wife, Gay, for 25 years this September and she supports me in my singing and travels. I have two children, daughter, Yancey, 21 and son, Hunter, 16. I love to hunt, fish and play golf in what little spare time I have.

I love singing with the Inspirations because the guys are a lot of fun. There is never a dull moment on the bus. Also, with the schedule we have, I am able to make it back for church 95% of the time. Church is very important to me and my family.

Daniel: Thank you!

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Past the Press Release: An Interview with Paul Harkey

Paul HarkeyPast the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. In years past, you may have met Paul Harkey at an Anchormen or LeFevre Quartet concert, but today, he is the newest member of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. Let’s get to know him a little better!

Daniel J. Mount: What inspired you to want to sing Southern Gospel? 

Paul: Well I grew up in church. It was one of those “every time the doors were open” situations. My parents are some of the most amazing people I know. My mother was the church pianist/organist so I grew up hearing all of the hymns not only in church, but also at home when she would practice. I did my first solo when I was around six years old. I got so nervous. I was supposed to sing the song through twice, but once through was quite enough for me! 

It wasn’t until I went to the Homecoming Texas Style in Ft. Worth in 1995 that I truly fell in love with Southern Gospel music. That was when I first saw George Younce and the Cathedral Quartet. Not only did I know I wanted to sing, I knew I wanted to sing bass! It was the greatest thing I had ever heard!

Daniel: Has your voice tended toward the bass end of the spectrum since your teens, or is the ability to sing bass one that you discovered more recently?

Paul: I was classically trained in college as a baritone but bass singing was always the part I leaned toward any time I heard a quartet singing…which is still what you would hear if you rode around with me in my car.

Daniel: What bass singers have you studied (or studied with) to develop your vocal technique?

Paul: Of course, George Younce though I never got to meet him. Jeff Chapman has been my biggest personal mentor. He also happens to be a great friend. I have also had the opportunity to study from Tim Riley (Gold City) and Joe Brown (The Diplomats). All absolutely wonderful, and coincidentally, hilarious men of God.

Daniel: Glorious Day, releasing on April 2, is your debut recording with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. What are some of your favorite moments on the project?

Paul: There are so many great moments! It’s really hard to choose just a few. All of the orchestration and instrumentation headed up by Wayne Haun is breathtaking! We did a live acoustic version of “Sometimes I Wonder” as well and it is quite a moment!

Daniel: Most of my readers have seen EH&SS at some point, but for some, it’s been a few years. How would you compare the Signature Sound live experience today to what it was five years ago? What’s new or different, and what’s the same?

Paul: Well besides the obvious member changes, I think that the goal is still the same…JOY! We all want to spread God’s love, hope, and joy to as many people as God puts in our path. Here more recently, if you come to a “Siggy Sound” concert, you will get an intimate look at our hearts and truly what we are about in this wonderful ministry with which God has blessed us. Your spirit will definitely be lifted and there will be a song in your heart!

Daniel: Thank you!

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Interview with Daniel J. Mount

We had the opportunity to interview Daniel J. Mount, editor of SouthernGospelBlog.com, at our home on November 3rd, 2012.  

Join us for a fun “round-table” discussion with Daniel, in which we talked about everything from the beginnings of Southern Gospel Blog to which President had the biggest frown.  Also, don’t miss the hilarious blooper reel!

Thanks Daniel for letting us interview you, and for your patience as we had a great time laughing with you!

– Sam, Jayme, and Caleb Garms

Here’s the link to the video: http://youtu.be/eq3Sqrt3iBo

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An Interview: Five Questions with Ernie Haase

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Ernie Haase, manager and tenor for Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, co-owner of StowTown Records, and, most significantly for this particular interview, the Cathedrals’ tenor for their final decade on the road. We discussed the upcoming Cathedrals album Live in Chicago, releasing November 6.

Ernie was kind enough to offer audio answers. For users with devices that do not permit installation of Adobe’s Flash Player (like iPhones and iPads), we’ve also offered a transcription.

Daniel: How large was the auditorium where this was recorded? The crowd didn’t just sound enthusiastic – they sounded large!

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/4-The-Crowd.mp3]

Ernie: It’s a great question. It sounds like there were 10,000 people there! The crowd was still very large. Moody Memorial Church, where that was recorded, seats about 3,000 people, and that place was packed to the rafters. So it was very energetic. One thing you will hear on the CD that Signature Sound has found out, too, as we play the larger cities and as we do international dates: Whenever you have a diverse crowd, and I mean diverse by ethnicity and by different economic backgrounds—whenever you have more diversity, when you finally bring people together, there seems to be more energy, because you’re bring everybody’s life experiences into the room. Everybody worships and celebrates and expresses their feelings differently.

When you’re in a room full of people who are methodical and stoic in the way that they present their feelings, it has a ripple effect throughout the crowd, and mostly it takes on that personality. But when you have a room of Jamacians, and people in the room that are from Sweden and from Japan, that’s something that the city gives you. We have found that to be true of international crowds. So that’s what you’re sensing there, and that’s what people need to know.

Was it just a big room full of people there to have a great time? Yes and no. The rest of the story is that there was a diverse crowd of people there that night that let it all go and just got into the moment. And to me, me personally, that’s what Heaven’s going to be all about. That was a taste of Heaven.

Daniel. How often would Glen sing all four parts on Heavenly Parade?

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1-Heavenly-Parade.mp3]

Ernie: Yeah, Daniel, that’s a great question. Glen would actually sing all four parts; he knew all four parts. He was a student of the Stamps-Baxter School of Music; he attended there in the late ’40s or early ’50s, and was a member of the original Stamps-Ozark Quartet. So he took great pride in knowing all of those convention songs, and the shape notes. And if we missed one accidental note here or there, he let us know! He wanted it to be just as it was written.

So, as it goes, one night in Houston, Texas, George had the idea of telling the crowd, “Hey, this is an intricate—this is a tough, tough song. Glen, show them your part individually, so people can see just how syncopated—just how the notes bend”—in music, we call them accidentals, where they move and bend—and so, Glen took off. He sang, and the crowd went crazy. And Glen just had one of those senior moments [and sang Scott’s part]. It was time for Scott [Fowler] to sing; Scott was going to try to adjust and move on, but he didn’t know the other part. That’s exactly how it happened. 

That particular night, I remember in Houston, “Let’s just go with it and see what happens!” That’s usually how a particular routine takes place. One night, it just happens organically, and you go with it to see if it works. If it does work, maybe it’ll work the next night. And lo and behold, there for a long time, it worked every night. That night in Chicago, he pulled it off—every night, as if it was the first night.

I’ve been asked many times, most recently by Mr. Gaither, “Boy, I wish there was a recording of that skit that he did.” I was so surprised when I pulled that master out to hear it on that live recording. People I’ve played it for, even my family, we sit and laugh, laugh, laugh. We keep looking at each other: “Why are we laughing again, after all of these years?” But they just keep pulling us in. They keep reeling us in. That magic that George and Glen had, I’m so glad that we were able to capture it on this new CD, Live in Chicago. Enjoy!

Daniel. Had you all rehearsed “Life Will Be Sweeter” with Buddy Greene, or was it totally spontaneous?

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1-Heavenly-Parade.mp3]

Ernie: Yeah, song “Life Will be Sweeter Someday” with Buddy Greene was totally off the cuff. I remember right before we were going on stage, George was very anxious, because this was a live broadcast. They did have a clock at the edge of the stage that was counting backwards. Those of you who had ever been to a Cathedrals concert know that our concerts would go for two or three hours. George would just move from one song to the next. It was a roller-coaster ride, not only of songs, but of laughter, jokes, testimonies, tears, shouts of joy.

So that night, George was very anxious about being held to a 55-minute time clock. How was he going to get all the songs in that he wanted to do? And, of course, the bantering.

And I remember that night, [they said] right before he walked on stage, “Hey, Buddy Greene’s going to be in the audience. Buddy’s going to be ministering here the next day. Is there any way you guys could do something together?”

George, being the statesman and the class act he was, I remember him saying, “You know what, I’ll try that. It sounds like a good idea.” I remember him looking at me and, not rolling his eyes, but looking at me with that thought processing. It was like, “Oh! One more thing we need to think about and try to get in the 55 minutes!” 

But George was the best. He was just the best at weaving and bobbing when it came to emcee work. He took great pride in that. What a great singer, what a great performer, but, most importantly, what a great programmer. What a great emcee!

That night, he called Buddy up. Buddy had his harmonica in his pocket. He said, “If you know “Life Will Be Sweeter,” just jump in somewhere. So that was one of those moments that was kept, off-the-cuff. 

Later, when we did our Farewell Celebration video, that was something that we just knew that had to be a part of it, bringing Buddy Greene up on stage.

Of course, the bantering that you can’t see that actually took place that night between Roger Bennett and Buddy Greene—who was going to play the solo, who was going to show off the most. I’m just glad that was on there, too.

I saw Buddy Greene last week. We worked a date together, and I said, “Buddy, you’re going to be surprised at what I found in my basement!” I told him all about it, and he just smiled from ear to ear.

“Ah, I wondered about that night! I wondered if there was a recording of that night! What a great night that was. Send me a copy.” 

I can’t wait for Buddy Greene to hear this. I can’t wait for you all to hear this, too! I’m excited—can you tell?

Daniel. I was a little surprised that the set list didn’t include “We Shall See Jesus.” Was it not done that night? What percentage of Cathedrals shows would Glen sing the song – was it 95%+ or less?

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/3-We-Shall-See-Jesus.mp3]

Ernie: “We Shall See Jesus” was a staple of our program every night. You asked what percentage of the concerts we’d do where that song was sung. I’d say you’re probably right—90%-95%. But as I said before, we were on the clock.

That was the time period when we’d just found out that Roger had had a special touch from the Lord. He had been battling so bravely the first round of cancer treatments. And then the song “Don’t Be Afraid” was such a powerful song to sing after Roger’s testimony. I remember, that night, the clock was winding down, and you just knew that to go into “We Shall See Jesus” after that moment was not something that would have been anti-climactic; it would have been wonderful. But I think George sensed that the people were ready to worship.

There’s a lot that has been said about worship music, praise and worship services. I have found that you cannot stop people from worshiping when you give them a reason to praise the Lord, when you show them something that God has done in someone’s life. A testimony like Roger’s erupted in immediate praise and worship with the crowd.

So I think, right after that, we sang some songs together. Then George dropped his mike and we sang “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood.” I’m so glad they were able to capture that with the house microphone! You’ll be able to hear on the recording the house noise—people coughing, someone moving around in the seat. But nevertheless, you’ll capture the spirit of that moment.

So, to answer your question, “We Shall See Jesus” typically was an every night song, just like “Oh, What a Savior.” But at that moment in time, you could sense that George was just feeling that people were ready to worship the Lord. That heart and that spirit made its way onto that CD, and I’m hoping that people who are going through a tough time right now, whatever the case may be, maybe it is cancer, and we know there are some other challenges people are going through right now, with the economy, with families, and the stress levels of just trying to make ends meet: Don’t Be Afraid. God is still in control. These are just other reasons to trust him more and to realize, in the end, everything’s going to be okay. And if it’s not okay, it must not be the end! Don’t be afraid.

Daniel: Did the Cathedrals record any other performances with Moody?

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/5-Lastly.mp3]

Ernie: I believe the Cathedrals did do one more concert for Moody, a year or two later after that performance. I’m not sure if it was recorded or not.

So that was the magic, that was the moment. It was meant to be that that was preserved, and I’m thankful that it was handed to me. And I’m thankful that I had the foresight to still hang on to it, and not put it aside. It’s been sitting there, and thankfully, it was digitally saved, so that it was not that deteriorated over time.

I want to say a big thank you to Moody Bible Institute. Although their format has stayed mostly the same throughout the years, things change. Business models change. Of course, this was something that was not on their docket to do, but they caught the vision. So I want to say a big thank you to all the people there, who entrusted me to take this vision and to run with it, and to license to us their rights, their likeness, their logo. I just want to thank them for seeing the bigger picture.

I also want to say a big thank you to the Glen Payne family and their estate, and to the George Younce family and their estate, which I am intimately involved with. They saw this as something that would be wonderful, but they also said, “Hey, Ernie, if you would take this, and treat it, promote it, edit this thing down, and do what it is that you do, we give you permission.”

So everything was handled legally and above-board, and I just want to thank Moody, the Paynes, and the Younces for entrusting me and StowTown with this record.

I want to thank our distributor, Provident/Sony, for catching the vision. Thank all the retail stores for buying it into their store. They didn’t have to twist any arms; they all grabbed it and put it in their stores. I am so thankful, more than anything else, that the legacy of two wonderful gentlemen will continue to be introduced to a whole new generation.

That’s a heartbeat as I continue to share my dreams and visions for Signature Sound—to always take George and Glen with me everywhere I go.

The CD can be pre-ordered here. [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed.]

Thank you for doing this interview!

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Past the Press Release: An Interview with Chad McCloskey

The new kid on the block: Chad McCloskey.

Chad McCloskey (Photo by The Garms Family)

Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. Meet new Ball Brothers bass singer Chad McCloskey!

Daniel: When did you become interested in singing Southern Gospel?

Chad: Well Daniel, to be honest, I was never really interested in singing growing up, even though I had been singing since I was just a kid. Both my mom and dad grew up singing with their parents and siblings, so naturally it carried on into the rearing of my sister and I. I guess my interest in music didn’t really come until 2006 when my family and I started traveling full time in evangelism.

Daniel: Have you sung with any groups before knowing the Ball Brothers?

Chad: I sang with two of my close friends in college but nothing on a stage of recognition by any means. I also traveled with my family for 3 years prior to going to college.

Daniel: Have you known Andrew and Daniel and been familiar with their music for years now, or are you still relatively new to their repertoire?

Chad: I’ve actually known Andrew, Daniel, and their family for about ten years now and have gotten pretty familiar with their music over the last several years. I’m still in somewhat of a learning stage with some of the music, but things seem to coming together better week by week.

Daniel: What is your favorite Ball Brothers song?

Chad: “Healer of My Heart” and “It’s About the Cross” would be in a dead heat for favorite songs. Both songs have such a deep meaning and direct message, it doesn’t seem fair to just choose one!

Daniel: I’m not sure it would be an interview of a Ball Brothers member without at least one random question. Is your biography page on the Ball Brothers’ website empty because you haven’t thought of any interesting to say yet, or is it because it would be so interesting that the other group members are afraid that nobody would visit any of the other pages? 🙂

Chad: Well, my life is just so exciting it’s hard to condense it into a simple paragraph or two! Plus, I’d hate to make the other guys jealous! All kidding aside, things have been a little busy over the last several months, I’m still playing catch-up on emails and messages.

Daniel: Do you play any musical instruments?

Chad: Unfortunately I do not play any instruments. I took piano lessons for roughly two week when i was 11 but the urge to play outside got the better of me.

Daniel: If you were to put together a dream-team Southern Gospel quartet, who would be in it? (Let’s say that you can pick anyone besides Ball Brothers members, just so you don’t feel obligated to name them.)

Chad: Dream team Southern Gospel quartet… This is kind of a tough question. I would have to say David Phelps, Josh Cobb, Marshall Hall, and possibly Tim Duncan.

Daniel: Have you had any voice training?

Chad: I have not had any vocal training, even though my mom did vocal coaching when i was growing up for people in our church/community.

Daniel: Are you married? If so, could you tell us a little about your family?

Chad: I am not married but I am open to that concept later down the road.

Daniel: What are good ways for fans to keep up with you and the band?

Chad: The best way to stay in contact with the Ball Brothers would be through our Facebook Fan Page, our individual Facebooks, Twitter, email, or through our website.

Daniel: Thanks! By the way, the Ball Brothers have a Kickstarter campaign going to fund their upcoming album; check it out here.

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Past the Press Release: An Interview with Chris Jenkins

Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. Meet new Kingsmen tenor Chris Jenkins!

Chris JenkinsDaniel: Have you grown up around Southern Gospel your whole life, or did you discover it more recently?

Chris: Since a very young age I have loved Southern Gospel music. My family introduced me to this great music by taking me to concerts with such groups as; Gold City, Heaven Bound, Hoppers, and of course, The Kingsmen. My grandfather sang in a regional quartet in North Carolina and I longed to be able to do the same. I knew from this moment, this was what I wanted to do when as I grew older. Most people follow sports and it’s statistics through the years. I was very different I ate, slept, and breathed Southern Gospel Music. I studied many groups, their styles, and their history.

Daniel: Which group(s) most influenced you to want to be a singer yourself?

Chris: The very first group I remember seeing live was Gold City. By this time, the line-up included Free, Parker, Lefevre, Jones, and Riley. They always seemed to have a very structured sound and presentation. This was very different from that of the Kingsmen line-up I remember, which consisted of Garry Sheppard, Ray Dean Reese, Arthur Rice, and Ed Crawford, who seemed to always call their songs “off the cuff” with the guidance of Jim Hamill from the stage.

Daniel: I understand you trained under one of Southern Gospel’s most beloved tenors. Could you tell us about that, and any other musical training you’ve had?

Chris: I have always loved the tenor part, mainly because I could sing in that range as a young boy as the other parts were too low for me at that time. As I grew older I prayed for the Lord to allow me to maintain my tenor range. I feel blessed that the LORD gave me the desires of my heart. As a teenager, I had the great privilege of sitting in with Brian Free for a short time during his solo years in which I received feedback, guidance, and tips in the technique of my singing. I have to say that it was not an immediate understanding and gratification in my singing. At one point, I seemed to have had an epiphany in my singing. Everything just seemed to “click” in my head regarding my singing voice and technique. I practiced daily to get it right and after the years that have passed, I still revert back to a lot of these techniques. After high school I went on to study music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville, TN.

Daniel: You sang with several groups before joining the Kingsmen, most recently the Vintage Quartet. What other groups did you sing with? What are some highlights from your years on the road prior to this point?

Chris: From about the age of 18, I traveled with a group from my home church called, Redeemed Voices. In the summer of 2010, we were booked at an event with Karen Peck and New River with one other regional group. From that concert, a couple of members from the other regional group and I formed the Vintage Quartet. While traveling with the Vintage Quartet, we were awarded Grand Champion Group of the North Carolina Singing Convention in 2011 and signed a recording agreement with SkyLand Records, a division of Crossroads Entertainment, the same parent company that the Kingsmen recorded with. I am glad to still be a part of the Crossroads Family and the great people there.

(Click the “read more” button—or, if you’re reading via RSS or email, click through to the post—to see the rest of the interview.)

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Past the Press Release: An Interview with Andrew Goldman

Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. Meet Union Street baritone Andrew Goldman!

Andrew GoldmanDaniel: Over the last few months, Union Street (formerly The Ryan Seaton Quartet) has generated enough buzz and won enough fans that I thought readers would be interested to see an interview with the group’s newest face. I understand that this isn’t your first time singing with a Southern Gospel group, though. What group(s) have you sung with previously?

Andrew: I’ve been around Gospel music my entire life. I joined the Conquerors Quartet as their lead singer in 2006, when I was a Sophomore in high school. Once, I began my college career at Oakland City University, I joined their ambassador Gospel group, Earthlight. I traveled with both groups during my college years.

Daniel: What or who inspired you to start singing?

Andrew: My family has been my inspiration. My dad started singing with the Conquerors Quartet when I was six months old. I always wanted to be like him, and be a member of the group. I have had the honor of singing alongside of him with the Conquerors since 2009. Not only is he an amazing vocalist, (100 times better than I’ll ever be), he’s completely in tune with what God has in store for each and every one of our concerts. Not only does my father sing, but my mom has one of the smoothest alto voices you have ever heard. She sounds a lot like Karen Carpenter. I’m blessed with such talented parents. I also have had the opportunity to sing with both of them as a trio.

Daniel: Have you had any vocal training, formal or informal?

Andrew: Yes, I actually just graduated with degrees in Music Education and Vocal Performance from Oakland City University. My instructor, Cynthia Retana, has been a tremendous influence in my music. She has helped develop my voice, and helped to take it to the next level. I have studied Italian Arias, Opera, English Oratorio, German Lieder, French, and English Arias under her direction.

Daniel: Readers might be interested to know about a musical connection you share with Ernie Haase, Scott Fowler, Jeremy Lile, and Dusty Barrett. Could you elaborate?

Andrew: Yes, these fantastic artists were once members of Oakland City University’s ambassador Gospel group, Earthlight. I have been a member of Earthlight during my college years.

Daniel: Why the big glasses and bow tie? 🙂

Andrew: Union Street wants to not only appeal to current Gospel music fans, but we want to appeal to future, younger fans of Gospel music. Our style and sound is more progressive gospel. The glasses set me apart from others, and I’ve always been a huge fan of the bow-tie.

Daniel: I love bow ties, by the way—I wear one myself when I wear a tie! Do you have other musical talents, perhaps playing an instrument, running sound, or something else?

Andrew: I’ve played the drums since I was 11. I’ve had the opportunity to play alongside some great musicians. I actually started with the Conquerors as their fill-in drummer during their time traveling with a live band. I would not consider myself a sound man, but I did run sound during my time with Earthlight.

Daniel: How long have you known Ryan Seaton?

Andrew: I met Ryan during his time with Signature Sound. At the time, I wasn’t aware that he lived, basically just down the road from me. I later found out, we actually graduated from the same high school (He, of course, long before me). We became friends during this time and have kept in touch.

Daniel: When did you first find out about what is now Union Street, and join in?

Andrew: Ryan called me one day on my way home from work asking me if I would be interested in singing for fun at his upcoming solo concert at his home church. He said that he had an itch to sing with a quartet, and thought it would be fun to put a group together as a surprise at the concert. That’s how it all began.

Daniel: Can you fill us in on plans for Union Street’s debut recording?

Andrew: Union Street is hoping to get into the recording studio soon. We are currently raising funds for this. If you or someone you know would like to help, check it out on KickStarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/unionstreet/union-streets-debut-recording

I’m also currently working on my first solo project, set to release this summer.

Daniel: How can readers keep up with you and with Union Street?

Andrew: Follow us on Facebook (Union Street). You can also follow us on Twitter @unionstreetqt. You can also follow me @agoldman_12, Tony @TobyHitchcock, Ryan @rseaton1.

Daniel: Thank you for taking the time to do this!

Andrew: Thank you, sir!

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An Interview with Haskell Cooley

Haskell Cooley

Haskell Cooley (image from www.haskellcooleyfamily.com)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Haskell Cooley, who played piano for the Cathedrals from 1974-1979. Listen in to this fascinating conversation!

Daniel: When did you first become interested in Gospel Music?

Haskell: All right. I was raised up in church, hearing the old hymns of the church, and hearing how beautiful the melodies were and still are. My mother was a piano player for the church. I became the piano player when I was twelve years old; she turned it over to me. I just grew up, and that’s all I ever knew. There was a lot of quartet signing going on at the church where I attended. I tried to lead songs when I was six, seven, or eight years old. I was leading the songs! You know, they’d have a singing in the church, and people would come up and lead a song. Of course, I couldn’t use my hands like a director would, but I’d get up. It was the way I was raised.

Daniel: You started playing piano for church at age twelve. What age did you start playing piano?

Haskell: Well, we got a piano at home when I was nine years old. I started beating on a piano – I wouldn’t say playing – and learning at nine.

For the full interview, click the “read more” button!

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An Interview with Ernie Haase

Ernie HaaseComing next Monday: A CD Review of Here We Are Again!

We have featured interviews with Ernie Haase three times before—December 2006, April 2010, and January 2011. So when we had the chance to interview him this time, we skipped the background questions and dove right in!

Daniel: Your last recording of (mostly) new songs, Dream On, came out over three years before this one. Well, to be precise, 3 years, 3 months, and 10 days (not that anyone has been counting)! Why did you wait this long?

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/1.mp3]

Ernie: Yeah, we did wait a while, and that was done on purpose. And the main reason was, we needed time to find the right songs and to write the kind of material that Signature Sound needs. We’re coming into our own, ten years after we started this group. I feel we laid the foundation, and now, on this record, the Here We Are Again project, you’re going to hear the heart, the soul, and the musicality of this quartet.

We released a tribute record, and we did that strategically at that time to buy us more time to write the songs. And I really, really, feel – well, I don’t feel, I know – these songs, because I had a hand in helping write eight or nine of them, were born out of a lot of questions, a lot of fear, a lot of pain, a lot of loss, and some victories. All those times are embodied in this new record.

The bottom line is this: If we feel it, we’ve experienced it, we’ve lived it, on stage, we’re not going to have to try to sell anything. And it’s going to entertain the hearts and minister to the spirits of the people who come to our concerts.

So I guess you could say, we’re hoping that it was worth the wait!

Daniel: I understand that you wrote eight of the album’s twelve songs. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a higher ratio than on any previous quartet album you’ve been a part of recording. Has songwriting become a higher priority for you in these last three years?

[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2.mp3|titles=2]

Ernie: Yeah, writing the songs was a higher priority for me.

I can tell you, and this is the honest truth, and I’ve thrown the evidence away, so you’ll have to take my word for it, I started writing at about 15 or 16. My goal was to write about 100 songs every year. I had folders and folders of songs – none of them you would ever hear!

When I joined the Cathedrals, I continued to write. I had a little bit of success.

But I just think it’s written into the fabric of the universe: We do need each other. When I get into the room with certain people that I trust, people that know my heart, and start knowing my stories, and know what I’m going through, songs just start pouring out.

So now more then ever, I guess as I’m getting more reflective, to be able to share from the stage what has gotten me thus far in my walk of faith… So, yeah, it was a risk. Honestly, I’m not my own favorite writer. But I have surrounded myself with some great writers, and I have a total confidence that they would not have let me leave the room with something that they weren’t proud of.

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: Ernie Haase, Devin McGlamery, Doug Anderson, Ian Owens

To read or listen to the other eight questions and answers, click the post title or the “read more” button!

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