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By Keith Crosby:
Gospel artists and brothers Jeral and Percy Gray launched the almost
40-voice-strong choir, New Direction, ten years ago in the heart
of Chicago. The mission of the choir, which began as a youth outreach,
was to use the life changing power of the gospel through music as
a means of impacting youth. This joyous and jubilant youth choir's
name reflects its purpose of illustrating God's power to move us
all in a "New Direction!" After more than 10 years since
their inception, New Direction is one of the top gospel choirs around.
They also have the hardware to prove it, having won "Choir
of the Year" at the 2005 Stellar Awards.
New Direction was here in Detroit for a concert at
Open Door C.O.G.I.C. Having been a fan of their music for several
years, it was a blessing to witness their ministry in person. After
doing so, I have an even greater respect and appreciation for their
gifts. Their energy, voices, vocal arrangements, and spirit displayed
that evening were absolutely phenomenal. Before the concert, Detroit
Gospel.com had the privilege of interviewing two of the powerful
tenors from New Direction, Paul Elliot and Brandon
Love. We sat down with Paul and Brandon to talk about the
choir's longevity, their recent Stellar Award, and more:
What has been the key to New Direction's success? Your choir has
been around since 1994.
Paul Elliot: The reason I feel that
we've been around so long is because of our leaders. Our leaders
play a big role. Jeral and Percy Gray are second to none, and it's
just a joy being around them. The love they portray to us -- they
make us work hard, they want us to be dedicated. It's a business
and a ministry, but when your heart is in something, and when our
heart is in the choir, and just to minister to different people
and seeing people's lives changed and lives altered, it's a blessing.
And it keeps us coming back, it keeps us working harder, it keeps
us more adept into our word because we want to live what we sing
about. That's the key. We must live what we sing about. Our leaders
are second to none. I love them to death. That's why I've been here
Brandon Love: I believe that it's
just a family atmosphere. Jeral and Percy Gray are brothers and
their family members, wives, children, cousins -- everybody is kind
of related. When new people come to the choir it's like a family
atmosphere and it's just that, a family. We love each other like
family. When we have rehearsal it's like a family reunion, and I
believe that's key because a lot of choirs come and go because they
don't have that unity.
DG.com: What did it
mean to the choir to win a Stellar Award in 2005 for "Choir
of the Year?"
Paul: I believe in seasons. I believe
in God doing things for a reason. He prepared us for this time.
We've been nominated for Stellars, Doves, and things of that sort.
It really didn't mean anything, but we kept on working hard, kept
pressing and God just opened up the flood gates of heaven and He
let his mercy and grace and love rain on us this year and allowed
us to win. It felt so good. We were like, "It's been 10 years
and we got a Stellar!" I really believe in seasons and God
does things for a reason. It was purposed to be our time and our
turn now. That was a blessing.
Brandon: We've been doing this for
10 years so it's like, "Wow!" It's truly an honor to win,
however winning the award is not really the reward, being recognized
by the gospel music industry and your peers is. Although that's
not our main focus, it is an honor just to get that recognition.
It's just a way of saying, "we recognize what you're doing
and we appreciate your ministry and what you're doing for God."
DG.com: Who have been
some of your biggest musical influences in Chicago?
Paul: Chicago has so much musical
talent it's ridiculous. The Thompson Community Singers [were a big
influence]. My mother-in-law actually used to be in the Tommys.
Marlene Jenkins--her real name is Denise. She sang lead on "The
Crown of Life."
Brandon : Percy has been songwriting
and producing for a long time. One group that comes to mind is Chicago
Mass and they have a new CD out now. Chicago Mass has definitely
played a role in Chicago's gospel music and they might not get their
just desserts I guess, but they definitely play a big role.
DG.com: What were
some of the keys to the success of your CD "Rain?"
Paul: With the album, it took a
lot of hard work for us. We would start in the studio at 3 or 4
o'clock in the morning. Jeral would call and we have rehearsal one
day, and then he'd say we have to be in the studio tomorrow. It
took a lot of hard work, and we see that our hard work paid off
on this album. It was just a good success. The arrangements, the
writing, the producing, it was just magnificent. We have great writers
even in the choir. But this album took a lot of work and dedication
and it all paid off.
Brandon : I think one key factor
that contributed to the success was the amount of time we had to
work on the project. The project previous to this one came out in
2000 so we had roughly 3 or 4 years to get it together and get it
to be the best project we could possibly do. And plus Gospo Centric
plays [a big part of that]. They have the music that they like and
they wanted us to venture out and try to do new things and it all
worked out for the best.
DG.com: What can
we expect from New Direction next?
Paul: This next album, the material
I believe is ridiculous, awesome. Just like I said Brandon has got
some songs on there that are awesome, man.
Brandon: I think we have to continue
to raise the bar. Our name, New Direction, it personifies what it
is that we do and that our goal is to always take music in that
new direction. So look for something different. Don't really expect
the same thing. It's going to be great.
Paul: I think it's a new level
for us. Once we won our Stellar, it sort of raised the bar pretty
high and we pretty much got to keep that standard now. It's going
to be a little unorthodox, but that's New Direction, that's who
we are. We're going to do something a little different every time.
It's going to be hot, man. To God be the glory for all the things
that He has done for us. Got to give Him the honor and the praise
because, if it had not been for Him we wouldn't be here. If it had
not been for Him blessing us with the voices, and the anointing
we understand that makes the difference in our songs. It wouldn't
touch people's lives. It would be a "tinkling brass."
We really want to touch the heart of God with our songs, our worship,
even our dance. We want God to get the glory out of everything we
DG.com: What's the
timing for the release of the next project?
Brandon: We'll be recording in Atlanta
on April 23, 2005, and I think it's scheduled for a Fall release.
Go to Amazon.com to listen to samples from "Rain":
Here for music samples
1. New Direction
2. I'm Gonna Wave My Hands
3. This Is the Day
4. Heal the Land
5. Heal the Land (Reprise)
6. I'm in Love With Jesus
9. Hands Up
11. I Give You Praise
12. I Can Make It
13. Thank You
14. I'm Ready
15. Have Your Way
©2004 Gospo Centric Records