By: Keith E. Crosby
Bishop Andrew Merritt and the Straight Gate Mass Choir have made a
habit of releasing chart-topping CDs in the last several years. It
started with their first CD release, “Faith in The House,”
which has sold over 150,000 units. Their current release entitled,
“Expectations: I’ll Praise,” has been a hit as well.
It debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Gospel Chart and almost a year
later it is still in the top 30. For this project Bishop Merritt assembled
an all-star cast of producers, artists, and singers such as Fred Hammond,
Steven Ford, Israel Houghton, J. Moss, Paul Allen, Noel Hall, Straight
Gate Mass Choir, and others. The result has been phenomenal. “Expectations:
I’ll Praise” earned a Stellar Award nomination for “Traditional
Choir of The Year” and a Soul Train Award nomination.
Gospel.com writer / producer, Renee'; Bishop Andrew Merritt, &
Mary Crosby, editor of Detroit Gospel.com at the Fred Hammond CD Release
party for "Somethin' 'Bout Love"
Detroit Gospel.com recently had the privilege to speak with Bishop
Andrew Merritt, the Pastor and founder of Straight Gate International
Church, and Bajada Records founder, about the success of Straight
Gate Mass Choir and his independent label Bajada Records.
Detroit Gospel.com: What does it mean to you to
have Straight Gate Mass Choir be nominated for a Stellar Award this
Bishop Andrew Merritt: We have also
been nominated for a Soul Train Award. We are grateful that our presentation
of “Expectations: I’ll Praise,” to the body of Christ
and to the world, has been accepted as inspirational, from a composition
standpoint and excellent presentation musically, put together from
great writers and producers from our team. Here again, we are just
grateful to God that we have had this awesome opportunity to do it.
Hammond in concert
DG.com: What was it like working with Fred Hammond,
Israel Houghton, Steven Ford, J. Moss, Paul Allen, Noel Hall, Ali
Woodson, David and Nicole Binion, and the others on this project?
BAM: Let’s just say it’s
the favor of God. You can’t do anything without God’s
favor and you can’t do anything without God. So to try to explain
'we did this' or 'we did this'-- we just like to say it’s the
favor of God.
DG.com: What have been some of the keys to success
for Straight Gate Mass Choir and Bajada Records?
BAM: Number one, we look at things
totally different from the world. The world looks at things totally
from the aspect of talent. Of course you've got to have the talent
to have people record it, capture it, produce it, manufacture it,
and put it into the hands of the consumer. These are steps that everybody
has to undertake. But one of the things we rely totally on, we rely
upon not just the talent, but we rely upon the anointing and the blessing
and favor of God. The scripture says that the Lord was with Joseph.
So that’s what we rely upon; that if God is with us and for
us in it then it will be a blessing. The music we create is for the
masses of people, but it is dedicated to God.
What was your motivation behind starting Bajada Records?
BAM: Because music, whether we’re
talking about worship music, contemporary, gospel, or traditional,
if it relates to Christ it needs to be in the hands of Christian people,
not secular executives.
DG.com: What advice would you share with a new artist
who is trying to make it in the gospel music business?
BAM: Number one, in anything that
you attempt to do you need to have a passion for it. If you don’t
have a passion then you’re not going to do the things that are
necessary to be successful. Your passion is what drives you. Your
passion will drive you for excellence. Your passion will drive you
to learn your craft, how to present your craft, and how to package
it and all of that. Your passion will drive you.
In particular, when we start talking about gospel
music and success in gospel music it’s whether or not you will
be a middle of the road artist or a compromised artist who is trying
to reach the other side. Number one, are you dedicated to God? Is
this project dedicated to God? Are you willing to accept less than
name recognition to do it for God? Are you marketing yourself? Are
you in it for financial gain?
There is gain, but should you profit – yes you
should, but is that your sole motive? Because if we don’t make
money we can’t stay in business, if General Motors doesn’t
make money they will go out of business. That can’t be your
motivation. Your motivation is that if you are going to be in music
ministry you have to make a decision “am I going to be a worldly
person or be a Christian?” Am I going to sing Christian music
or sing the world’s music? There are so many people inside of
the church who have a worldly concept where I say you’d do better
by going out and trying your hand in the world because the church
is never going to accept it. That’s never going to work in the
Houghton and wife backstage at this year's Stellar Awards in Houston,
DG.com: What can we expect next from Straight Gate
BAM: By June  you’ll
have another presentation that will be totally the next step in the
choir’s presentation. Israel will be one of the main producers
on that project and it’s going to be wonderful.
Go to Bajada Records website to listen to samples from "Expectations:
I'll Praise" and to find out more about The Straight Gate Mass
I'll Praise" Online
Straight Gate Mass Choir
I'll Praise" CD TRACKS:
Disc: 1 - "Worship"
1. To Him Who Sits on the Throne [Instrumental]
2. Music from Heaven
3. I Was Always There
4. Center of My Joy
5. Total Praise
6. His Name Is Wondrous
7. Jesus What a Beautiful Name
8. Jesus Name Above All Names
9. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him
10. Jesus I Adore You
11. Lord I Thirst for You
12. Say Goodbye to Me
Disc: 2 - "Praise"
1. I'll Praise
4. Can't Live Without Your Love
5. Work Your Faith
6. Designed by Me
7. Meet You in Worship
8. Only You Are Holy
9. Holy Holy Worship (Reprise)
10. Four Word
11. He Loves Me
13. Let Your Eyes See Me
14. Power in the Blood
15. I Will Praise Thee
16. I Got the Love
PRODUCED BY: Noel Hall and Steven Ford
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Bishop Andrew Merritt
©2003 Bajada Records. All Rights Reserved