Catching Up With Bryan Wilson
I’m very happy to share my recent interview with gospel artist Bryan Wilson. If any of you are wondering who Bryan Wilson is, I could tell you that he’s a Dove award and Stellar award nominee. I could add that he majored in religion and philosophy at Claflin University and graduated with honors. I could even add that he pursued a Master’s degree at Princeton University Theological Seminary after that. But, to adequately tell you what I know about Bryan Wilson, I’d have to say that perhaps the best detail about this young man is that he truly loves God. He is a licensed and ordained minister and is currently a praise and worship leader at Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Some of you may remember Bryan as the youngster who sang His Eye Is on the Sparrow with the Mississippi Children’s Choir in 1994. His musical roots stem from his childhood experiences, which involve many church services from denominations that include Baptist, Apostolic and Church of God in Christ to name a few. This diverse background led to his creation of the term Bapolstogic, which is a combination of these three influences that he plans to infuse into his music.
After a break from music, Bryan has returned to the studio. He invited me to attend a church service earlier this month and after hearing only a few words from him, I knew that I would have to take special care with the introduction of this interview. Bryan is one of the sincerest people I have ever met. As I watched strangers and friends greet him after the service, I noticed that he spoke to each person as though he had known them for years. His messages offer a relatable perspective and that is definitely what drew me to his music, especially his most recent album A Second Coming, which he released in 2008.
Bryan and I chatted about his album, his experiences as an independent artist and his upcoming plans. Here’s our conversation.
Mimi Soul: What are some of your musical influences?
Bryan: First, I would have to say my family. My grandfather Tommy Davis actually helped the great B.B. King. They would sing together and he had an awesome range. My mother Sheila Wilson picked up that legacy. So, my family was the influence that first told me about singing flats and sharps. They used to say “Get on key! Open your mouth.” and that sort of thing. The Clark Sisters, Pace Sisters and James Moore also influenced me.
Mimi Soul: What are some of the ways that your music reflects your ministry?
Bryan: There are definitely different styles within my music. Some tracks have a jazzy feel, some have a churchy feel and some are praise and worship. I think that’s a reflection of who I am and how the Lord uses me. I grew up in church. Sunday morning we were at a Baptist church, Tuesday we were at Church of God in Christ, Saturday the Seventh Day Holiness Church and Apostolic on Sunday night. So, from those denominations, I’ve developed an understanding of different styles of worship. It reflects in my ministry because I think I’m able to relate to different demographics within the church body.
Mimi Soul: What are some of the ways you’ve grown as an artist?
Bryan: I get to take a little more charge of what I sing, which is very important. And I get to put myself in it. I think a lot of times we can get to the point where if there’s a particular sound out, then that’s the sound that everyone wants to go for. You lose yourself and your identity in that. As I grew up and matured, I developed a greater love for it, including the behind the scenes stuff and the musicality of it. I believe the way that I’ve grown is visible.
Mimi Soul: Do you think the period when you took a break from music helped you write songs for A Second Coming?
Bryan: Actually, from the last album to this one, I was going to school. I said I’m through with the recording thing. I was kinda thrown by the whole business aspect of it. While I was at Princeton, Bill Carpenter called me and was like “I want you to do a song on this cd I’m working on” and I was like “that’s alright. I’m gonna just sing in church and do praise and worship”. But he was like “no, no no, I want you to try it” and that was my first time writing a song and getting credit for it on a cd.
That kinda sparked my interest again. The Lord really spoke to me and told me that He put this gift in me and that it’s not just for me and my local assembly but He wants to use it abroad. So, I thank God for that period of not recording because it allowed me to learn God in a different way; not just as God, but as my best friend, my father and the lover of my soul. I’m intimate with Him and now when I sing, it’s from a place where I sincerely know that He is a deliverer. One of my favorite songs that I wrote for A Second Coming is titled Change in Me and it was written out of an experience that I had with God. You know, a lot of times as a child being on tour, you sing with emotion because you heard about it or you read about it. But, when you grow up a little bit and that voice deepens and experiences come along that you can interpret and translate, it becomes more impactful to you as well as to others with your experience.
Mimi Soul: I enjoy listening to A Second Coming because it has a nice mixture of both traditional and contemporary songs, which isn’t always easily achieved. Was it intentional to have that mix?
Bryan: Yes, it was intentional. Actually, even the way the songs are ordered on the cd was intentional. It starts off with an urban track then it goes to a little of a neo feel. It actually speaks of my musical journey. I wanted the album to really relate and I wanted it to have a balance of songs to show the two different spectrums that we have in gospel music. So, the album was done that way intentionally and I’m glad you picked up on that.
Mimi Soul: How would you describe the album? It sounds like ___?
Bryan: Whoa. That’s a good question! I would say the album is a musical gumbo. You have little bit of this and a little bit of that. I would say that the flavor could be…you really got me on this question! (laughing) I heard somebody say it’s kinda like Smokie Norful meets John Legend. You have a Smokie Norful sound of the voice with a John Legend kinda edge. Ride Out, Who? You! and Sun Is Shining are examples with the beats and the way the backgrounds are developed with some of that eccentric r&b kinda sound. So, I could say that they’re pretty fair in that assessment; Smokie Norful meets John Legend with a churchy twist. Can I say that? (laughing)
Mimi Soul: (laughing) Yes, you can say that.
Mimi Soul: One reason I started this website is to show support for independent artists. What are some of the things you learned from releasing A Second Coming independently?
Bryan: Oh wow. I learned that it’s a lot of work. Sometimes when you’re with a major label, you fail to realize how much work it takes to put yourself out there. Doing it independently opened my mind to all that really goes into it. A lot of times from the musical aspect, you just get on the mic and sing and you’re finished. But, this time I was a part of the writing, production, mixing and choosing the pictures for the cover and the photographer. So, it makes you respect your own project more.
Mimi Soul: What advice would give someone who’s just starting out as an artist?
Bryan: The first thing I would tell them is to perfect their craft. They need to know what it is they want to do and what message they want to relay through their music and their image. I would also advise them to go to other people’s events because not only will it help them sharpen their craft, but it will help them develop relationships. They shouldn’t burn themselves out by attending everything but they should get around other people who are musical. It’s all about relationships and networking. They should also make sure they have people around them that are going to give constructive criticism.
I would also tell any artist that wants to release music independently to really budget their money and their lifestyle because the music will be their business and it will represent them. They have to be comparable to those who have the million dollar backing. As an independent artist, they may not have the public relations, promotions or media outlets of major label artists but when their music is played along with Kirk Franklin’s, their music needs to be of the same quality.
Mimi Soul: Can you give us a sneak peek about what you have coming up this year?
Bryan: Yes! I have a project coming up that I’m very excited about called Bapolstogic Begins. I have a fondness for that old Pentecostal sound with washboards, trombones, guitar and bass drum; that earthy, sultry sound. So, this album is actually going to reflect that. It will have a heavy Pentecostal sound mixed with a Latin flavor so it’s going to have almost a Caribbean, Southern, Pentecostal feel to it. I’m super excited about it.
Thanks Bryan for a great chat! I’ve posted two songs (A Secret Place and Change in Me) from A Second Coming below. Be sure to visit Bryan’s website to read more about him and purchase the album. I’m certain that not only will you find his lyrics uplifting, but like me, you’ll be glad that he decided to come back to gospel music and share his gift with us.
A Secret Place
Change In Me
Follow Bryan Wilson: