Enjoying A Breakout Year, Gospel Singer Anthony Brown Interviews with Parlé Mag
I’ve been familiar with Anthony Brown and group therAPy for some time now. But I can admit that even I felt like there was plenty I didn’t know about the Gospel artist with the strong and powerful voice. When I found out that Brown dominated this year’s Stellar Awards, the annual award show celebrating Gospel music, with a phenomenal 10 Awards, I knew it was time to find out all I could about the inspirational singer/songwriter. When the opportunity arose, during a trip to NYC, I got a chance to meet up with Anthony Brown for a light lunch in the heart of the Big Apple and I was determined to deliver the most thorough interview yet on the Baltimore native.
Singing and songwriting since his years in elementary school, and showing signs of his musical gifts from God since as early as age 3, Anthony Brown has one of the incredible stories of development and success in music. Truly passionate about the art and the word of God, Brown, the son of a pastor is remarkably humble and unfazed by a musical journey that he’s been on for over a decade. And it’s not because he doesn’t appreciate where he is, but because he’s feels and exudes that he’s truly been blessed to be put in this position. Having battled through self-doubt, personal and professional setbacks, and even early branding woes, Brown now finds himself mentioned along with some the biggest Gospel artists of our time.
“I’m your living proof that God will really take you from where you were to where he wants you to be.”
Along with his backing ensemble, group therAPy, Anthony Brown released his sophomore album last year, titled Everyday Jesus. The album’s lead single, “Worth” has spent 23 combined weeks at number one on the Billboard Gospel Airplay chart. The new single, “Bless The Lord” looks to have a similar impact and is already dominating airwaves. The talent and music speaks for itself. It was a pleasure to talk to Anthony Brown and share in his story and his journey. And it’s a pleasure to share that story with you, the reader. Read my full interview with Anthony Brown below…
Parlé Mag: Born and raised in Baltimore, let’s start by talking about your childhood. You were born and raised in the church, involved in music at a young age, what were those early years like?
Anthony Brown: I grew up in the inner city of Baltimore, my dad is a pastor and musician and my mom sings as well. So music has always been a part of who I am and what I do. My parents knew at a young age that I had a gift. When I was three years old, we were walking by a piano store and they were playing, “Pachelbel’s Canon” over the radio in the mall and as a kid I picked out the melody on the piano. So that’s how they knew, music might be a thing for this one. Ever since that day to this one music has been part of the fabric of who I am.
Special Exclusive: Audio from the Anthony Brown interview here:
Parlé Mag: Was there a time where you thought about doing anything but Gospel music?
Anthony Brown: You know, that’s funny, I did. I spent a stint of time in California and while I was there I met the incredible Rickey Minor, who of course most people know him for the incredible attributes to music period, but lately he’s been the musical director of American Idol. He told me, ‘Ant, you ever want to come through and be on the show or do background on the show, you can do that’. While I was out there, there was this very popular singer and piano player named John Legend who surfaced on the scene. He plays the piano and sings, and we have the same kind of voice so I started doing covers of John Legend songs. I was getting really, really dope responses so I did think about going that route, singing about love and life and what not. But at the end of the day, the root of who I am is Gospel music so that’s what I wanted to do.
Parlé Mag: Did you study music in school at all?
Anthony Brown: I did. In high school I went to Baltimore School for the Arts. That’s where I was formally introduced to classical music and various art forms. It was intriguing and fascinating to me, so I studied there and I went to Morgan State and studied piano and core composition. My roots are really from Gospel, but my studies are really of classical music and even musical theater. So I knew if I didn’t do this, what I’m doing now, I really wanted to do music and writing for Broadway and/or Disney movies, because that’s the type of music that I love.
Parlé Mag: Did you end up getting your degree from Morgan State?
Anthony Brown: You know what, interesting story. I left school to go on the road and do music full time, 20 credits from graduation. So I spent 4 years in college on scholarship, and then 20 credits from graduation I told my mom and dad that I’m out! They were like, ‘WHAT?!’ But they supported my dream and let me do what I had to do. Now I think I probably should have stayed and finished the last 20 [credits], but at the same time I got the experience to do music in a full time career way, so I’m grateful.
Parlé Mag: Who did you go on the road with?
Anthony Brown: I met this incredible guy who worked with the late Tramaine Hawkins and he always worked with the late Andraé Crouch, so I had the opportunity to work with them and tour with them and that was really like my start.
Parlé Mag: I’m a pastor’s son, I’m a PK, but I say with my music I’m trying to reach people in that way, but I’m not a pastor.
Parlé Mag: You and Warryn Campbell come to mind as successful Pastor’s sons, but there are a lot of people who grow up in church, sing on the choir and want to take it to the next level, but it doesn’t always happen. What was it about you, do you think that made it all come together?
Anthony Brown: Truthfully I don’t know if I ever felt like I had what it took to go to the next level. I really just loved it. I loved it and I was passionate about it so whether I made it to the next level or not I just wanted to do it. It’s funny you mention Warryn Campbell, cause he is another PK (pastor’s kid) and an incredible producer. I had a chance meeting with him a few years ago. He actually flew to Baltimore to come see me perform, he heard about me. And we’ve become friends since then, he’s like a big brother in the industry. He was the one, ironically who came up with the name group therAPy for the backing ensemble that supports me. So we have a really, really interesting connection there. Cause I wrote a song called “Group Therapy” and he was like, you know, you should call your group, group therAPy. I was like, maybe you right. And I changed it after talking to him.
Parlé Mag: Okay, that leads to my next question. So it’s the same group, just a different name?
Anthony Brown: Yeah, same group, just a different name and a few new people. What happened was one of the members of the group at a young age got cancer. And we had prayed for her and asked God to heal her, but she passed. It was a real eye opening experience for all of us. I think in that moment for all of us, in our 20s we realized, you know what, we not going to be hear forever so we better go ahead and do what we were put here to do. And that’s where the name change came from. It was ‘Answered Prayers,’ but we changed it to group therAPy because in that moment we all felt like we needed each other and God to be that group therapy because we were hurting. So that’s what I believe our music to be, it’s supposed to be therapeutic for those who hear it.
Parlé Mag: You been making music for a long time…
Anthony Brown: A little bit. I been writing songs since elementary school. My first songs didn’t go no where but you know, we did ’em.
Parlé Mag: What was the first song for you that really hit?
Anthony Brown: The first song that really went somewhere, it wasn’t even one of my songs it was a song that I wrote for Maurette Brown Clark, a song called “It Ain’t Over.” I was just like twenty years old when I wrote that for her. And it was the first song that put me on the map as a songwriter. It spent, I think 5 weeks at number one on Billboard, [Hot Gospel Songs] which is pretty big for a twenty-year old kid. So that’s the song that kind of got it going for me.
Parlé Mag: So that was twenty years old, now you’re thirty four… did you honestly think the journey would take so long?
Anthony Brown: Well you know what, I think long is relative. Some people would say it happened overnight.
Parlé Mag: Right, right.
Anthony Brown: Considering that I wasn’t ever looking to do this as a career—I thought what I was doing 14 years ago was what I was going to do, which was writing songs for artists and working on background vocals and stuff. That’s really what I love. I found my niche there. So I don’t think it took a long time.
Parlé Mag: So I have to ask, that said, at that point when you had the song on top of the Billboard charts, did you see yourself where you are here?
Anthony Brown: Nooo. In fact, when it happened, to be honest, it took me by surprise. And I’ve had to grow into it. I’ve had to grow into being the front guy instead of behind the scenes working on the background stuff. I never felt like I was good enough for it. A lot of the guys that I would hear, especially the other Gospel singers that I would hear, they were tenors and they were higher voices tenors. Here I come this raspy voice, baritone bass voice, I’m like there’s no way, there’s no space for me! But I feel like that uniqueness is what made me stand out. I have a belief system that God uses those things about us that are different from one another to shine and highlight. Now I believe you shouldn’t shy away from the things that make you different.
Parlé Mag: 2012 is when you released the debut album, Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy via Tyscot Records. Is that officially when you think people truly began to take notice of your many talents?
Anthony Brown: Probably. Problem was a lot of other people took notice but thought I was another artist. There’s another Gospel artist named Donnie McClurkin and people say that we sound alike. So I would hear all the time ‘here’s that brand new single, “Testimony” by Donnie McClurkin’. And I’m like, NOOO, that’s mine! I think it took a minute to brand myself as an artist, but about 2012 is when they started taking notice.
Watch: Anthony Brown “Worth” official video
Parlé Mag: Fast forward to now. “Worth” is the latest single. Talk to me about the creative process behind that song and why you wanted to put that out now.
Anthony Brown: I told you a minute ago that I’ve always struggled to find my own self-worth and value. I wrote that song literally sitting in communion service at my church. From that, I still didn’t see it becoming what it became until the first time I sung it out and I heard the response from the audience, I knew I wasn’t the only one that struggled with that—knowing that you have value and purpose, in fact a lot of people needed to know that they were worth something. I don’t think I intended to make a movement behind it, I think I just really wanted to sing what I heard in my heart. Now, 10 Stellars [Awards] and a Grammy nomination later I realize that it really wasn’t about me. It was for a lot of other people that needed to know that they were worth it too.
Parlé Mag: Everyday Jesus is the name of the album. Talk to me about that album title.
Anthony Brown: So, I’m a Christian, I grew up in a Christian home. The title is really special to me because as an adult now, I don’t feel like I made Jesus a part of my everyday experience even though I’m a Christian. And a lot of people go to church on Sunday, maybe go to Bible study on Tuesday night, but there are other days in the week and other nights where I’m not feeling all that Christian-like. You know what I mean? So acknowledging that it made me want to reevaluate my relationship with God and make him part of my everyday experience. Hence the name Everyday Jesus. It’s like the commercial for the cell phone. They say it’s an app for that, they say there’s an app for everything, well there’s a Jesus for that. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever kind of mood you’re in, he don’t want you to put him on the shelf and pick him back up on Sunday. He wants to be there for all of it and help to guide you through it. So that’s where the title came from.
Parlé Mag: “Bless The Lord” is the single, that helped get the buzz moving. Talk to me about that track. Were you surprised by the response you received from it?
Anthony Brown: So far we’ve celebrated great success with “Bless The Lord.” It was the most added song at radio this week, we been getting a lot of airplay and interviews and what not. I think the song is infectious, people will feel it. It’s a Summertime, Springtime song. You can roll down your windows and turn up and bump when the weather is nice. Ironically as a kid. I used to love watching Michael Jackson perform, so as a kid I used to put a white sock on my hand, I ain’t have no glove. People would ask, ‘Ant why you got that sock on your hand?’ I’d be like, because I’ma be Michael Jackson when I grow up. There’s a sound that I used to hear back in the day when I listened to his music that I used for “Bless The Lord.” It just has that Michael Jackson-esque feel and sound to it. You can feel it and just dance.
(Be sure to click page 2 below for the rest of this interview)