Routinely Effective Gospel Singer Fred Hammond Talks 30 Years of Praise
Fred Hammond Shares How His Love For Music Took Him From The Bottom Up
Gifted Gospel powerhouse, Fred Hammond continues to bless the world with his outstanding vocal ability and innovative lyrics. The Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter is known as one of Gospel music’s greatest pioneers in the business, and has sustained a successful career for over thirty years now.
Hailing from ‘The D’, Detroit, Michigan, Fred Hammond instantly put the city on the map. He gained his musical start in the early eighties, when he played the bass guitar for hit Gospel group, The Winans. By 1985, he became an active member of urban contemporary group, Commissioned, participating in ten of the group’s twelve albums.
A powerful voice and a songwriter who has developed quite a way with his words, Hammond caught the ears of many within the Gospel community. After his stint as a member of Commissioned, Hammond was determined to keep his name alive. He went on to sell millions of albums with his chart-topping group, Radical For Christ.
Winning a variety of awards—everything from an NAACP Image, Stellar, and Dove Award, Hammond eventually became a household name. However, although the singer may be known for dropping amazing vocals on the mic, he’s written and produced work for some of our most favorable entertainers, such as: Chanté Moore, Kenny Latimore and even Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. His love for the art took him to unexpected heights, and his career is unabating—even to this day.
The 55-year-old is the founder of the world-renowned tour, Festival of Praise. The tour has had two consecutive tour runs—which ended victoriously. Now, Hammond is hitting the road for a third year, bringing on some fellow Gospel friends. But, aside from touring, he also just released his first live album in almost twenty years, Worship Journal Live—which features his newest radio single “Father Jesus Spirit”. The album released back on September 30th is doing big things.
We recently had the honor of catching up with Mr. Hammond a couple weeks ago, as he shared exclusive tour details, thoughts on the Gospel industry, his love for music, and much more…
Parlé Mag: How’s tour been going so far?
Fred Hammond: Tour is coming really good. You know, the actual event itself has now kind of taken shape. We got it down. We’ll need to do about five more and then it will be on autopilot. People are starting to love it. People that will come out will love it. It’s a very different concept.
Parlé Mag: What are you most excited for your audience to see on this tour run?
Fred Hammond: Man, I create very differently. My brother and I—he’s the aesthetics of the tour. The lighting, the staging. I am the creator of the tour; the content. He’s the peel; I’m the banana.
Fred Hammond Headlines Festival of Praise Tour 2016 – More Info
Parlé Mag: Right. [laughs]
Fred Hammond: So, you need both of them together! You know what I’m saying? Or, it doesn’t work right. But, I love the fact that we can do our best to display God a little bigger than normal, at Gospel concerts. You know? But, the theme of this is the game of life. So, I like to see how people appeal to it at the end. It takes some twists and turns throughout the whole event.
Parlé Mag: There are a lot of great acts on this tour. How did the lineup come together?
Fred Hammond: Well, my brother and I, we always kind of go in and think of people we’d like to work with—who may be open to the concept. We’re always trying to push bounds a little bit. That’s why we have an R&B presence, with Regina Belle—who’s also a pastor. And, Earthquake the comedian, who is just a straight comedian. So, it opens up the concert to more than just churchgoers. A lot of people in that audience, they come and it’s even said—sometimes people come and they don’t even want to come. Guys will come in, ‘I just came because my wife made me come.’, and then when they’re through, they’re like, ‘Yo’! Man, this was crazy.’. I love it because you have comedy, you have worship, you have praise. You have just fun. We actually play games on stage with audience members. Bring them up and allow them to interact with us and play games with us. It’s all good.
Parlé Mag: Nice, nice! So, any plans on taking it international?
Fred Hammond: We’re always trying to push it further and further. I believe once we’re blessed to get a national sponsor—like, a Verizon or McDonald’s, or a United American, American Airlines, Levi’s, Nike. If we were able to get that, AT&T—anybody! I want you to put all of these so they can look and say, ‘Oh!’ [laughs]. But, if we can get that, I think we could take it further. Everywhere, and just really enjoy it. All over the world. We’re just coming to the west coast. We’ve already had two tours, and this is the third; we’re just now getting to the west coast.
Parlé Mag: Wow, that’s amazing. So, besides touring, there’s a lot of other things happening in your career. Let’s talk about your new album, Worship Journal Live. This is your first live album in a while. What’s the story behind making the album and why you chose to do it live this time around?
Fred Hammond: It was just time to do it live. The record company and I got together; it was really their suggestion. I hadn’t thought about it. They were ready. I said, ‘That sounds great; let’s do one.’ It was cool. I love the energy of live. I’m not very good on liking the new presentation of music live.
Parlé Mag: Right.
Fred Hammond: Because, I think you just have to be—in this day and age, you know, Gospel music is so saturated with live music, live concerts and live albums, that you have to really be a great, great, great, great, great singer now. With me, I just kind of—I’m older. I’m not this generation of singers—which is great generation singers. Just that live presentation, boy! Especially new music. Now, if I get to know the music before I hear it, then we’re good. I know it. You know, that get together in a month, write all of the songs in a month, then have a recording at the end of the month…[sighs]. But, it turned out great, though! I loved it.
Listen to Fred Hammond “Father Jesus Spirit” below:
Parlé Mag: You recently released a single, “Father Jesus Spirit”. What really stuck out about that song that led you to making it a single?
Fred Hammond: You know, I just like the difference of it. When we sing that live, it’s like, everybody gets it right off the back. It’s hooky; it’s catchy. A lot of times, people have to listen to a song, and they listen to it, and they listen, and then they listen…
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Fred Hammond: And, then they’re like, ‘Oh, I like that. That’s pretty nice.’ But, then they have to hear it again. With “Father Jesus Spirit”, from the first time we did it, they were up; they know it after the first time you sing it. So, that’s what we’re trying to push.
Parlé Mag: Do you have any plans to release any other singles?
Fred Hammond: Oh, well, as much as the record company wants to do. To be honest with you, this is my last contract with RCA; I’m under my last obligation with them as far as this record. We don’t know what the future is going to bring, but, right now, it’s up to them. If they decide to or no, it’s totally up to them, at this point.
Parlé Mag: You’ve been nominated for so many big awards; you’ve won a lot of great awards and you’ve had a lot of great successes in your career. How does it make you feel to know where you started out and to see where you are now?
Fred Hammond: Man, the way I look at success is, you know, as all adults —yourself, everybody else included, we all look to be successful. I don’t think really anybody has a dream of being average. We do the things that makes us successful, average, or unsuccessful. But, I don’t think anybody who walks in this earth says, ‘What you want to do?’ ‘Eh, I just want to have a mediocre lifestyle. Maybe have enough to pay my bills. I want my kids—if I have kids, to be sick all the time. If they can just not be sick.’ You know, nobody really thinks that. Everybody comes in thinking, ‘Man, I want a big shiny car. I want to do this; I want to do that. One day, I’ma travel the world.’ Everybody has what they say in their mind as successful. Some people say, ‘If I have a really good family; my wife loves me. My kids can go to a good school, and we can have a good family. That’s success.’ So, everybody has it in their mind. And, I judge it just as differently. I didn’t get in it to be a star; I got in it to just tell the people about the Lord. I can sing and I like to write music. And, because I like doing what I do, I try to do it better, and better, and better because I want to be effective. Effective is successful to me. To hear people years later, they’re not saying, ‘Man, that record you did and that last record you did fifteen years ago, man, I really appreciate you for it.’ No, they’re saying, ‘today.’, ‘what you did yesterday’, ‘this new thing you did’’, ‘what you’re doing now, we just appreciate it.’ And, that’s success to me. I’m effective; that’s what I want to be, effective.
Parlé Mag: I’d imagine that, in this industry, there are a lot of obstacles that you have faced in the past or even now. Many wouldn’t be able to survive two years, let alone twenty or more years. What would you say has helped you maintain longevity through it all?
Fred Hammond: Well, I think, being nice and being humble. That helps because people think that humility—if you’re humble, that God just zaps you in favor. So, when you sit there, and people say, ‘I really enjoy your singing!’ and you say, ‘Oh, well, it’s just a favor of the Lord.’ No. I think that’s what people think humility is. You say nice stuff to people, and then God zaps you, and now, you’re good. As oppose to being humble, and then when you’re presented with a situation, choose the humble road. Like, I’ve been around people who said, ‘Man, I’m not going to let no record company pimp me; I’m not going to let no record company pimp me. They got to do business. They got to do the right thing.’ And I ask them, ‘So, what you gon’ do?’ ‘I ain’t doing nothing.’
Parlé Mag: [laughs] Wow.
Fred Hammond: ‘God wants us to be men. He wants us to be in business to be men.’ I said, ‘But, people don’t really know who you are right now.’ ‘Well, that doesn’t mean I gotta’ let them take advantage of me.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ Then, you had the way I did it. When I was broke, I had nothing, the record company came to me about my publishing, I was so hungry that I just gave them all of my publishing. I said, ‘here’, because I didn’t know about the game. But, everybody else was looking at me like, ‘He’s a fool!’. But, I wanted to secure the record contract for my group, and I thought that that might help. I wasn’t writing a lot of songs anyway. And, I said, ‘You can have all of my publishing.’ Everybody else was looking at me like, ‘Man, you’re a fool. I wouldn’t have never let them do that.’ I gave it to them, and, for five years, they owned everything that I wrote. I only wrote about seven or eight songs out of five years. And, they got all of the publishing from it. Everybody else—I had people who were working with us at that time, other outside writers, other outside people, musicians, who weren’t a part—who weren’t the members, they would haggle over it, ten percent here, and five percent here. And they said, ‘You know, we’ll do business.’ But, people looked at my humility as ignorance and stupid. But, then, after that deal was over, I learned how to write better; I learned how to do this better. We were able to continue to make records. When I became better, and my next contract came up, I did a different deal; I did a little bit more. For me, and still some for them. Then, after awhile, from 1985 to 1991, then it changed. So, from ‘91 til’ now, I’ve made a nice fortune in publishing—by giving up the first five years of my publishing. I’m not telling people to do that, but what happened is, I was able to continue doing what I do at songwriting, that’s getting records played. Whether it’s on mine or not. But, you see the correlation of the attitude that I had, and the attitude that I’ve watched others have.
Parlé Mag: So, eventually, something good came out of it!
Fred Hammond: I don’t want to say I made millions, but I made millions, with songwriting and publishing. I’ve by far made back what I gave away. So, what is the biblical principle that happened here? It says, ‘When you give, give not grudgingly or of necessity, but give cheerfully because God loves a cheerful giver.’ And, then, it all says—there’s a song that says, ‘If you give to the Lord, he will give you more to give. That’s the principle of humility! ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.’. But, it’s a humble process. So, that’s a large part of whats kept me here, and then, the desire to want to be effective. Like, a lot of people, we keep our heads in the church and there’s certain things we won’t touch or look at, or be around, or places we won’t go. So that we can feel safe and not guilty; so that we can feel right with the Lord. But, we have a small view of what the world is like, and then we don’t understand it. So, therefore, when we do our ministry—we do our businesses, we wonder, ‘Why can’t I get ahead?’ Because, we’re not thinking broad enough. We need to be broadcasted. Sometimes, if you stay in your little box, you’ll be the only one to know what you see.
Parlé Mag: Exactly.
Fred Hammond: In other words, I pay attention to everything. I pay attention to the news; I pay attention to trends. Always have. Doing that doesn’t mean that I had to do everything that they did. But, I could at least understand the mindset of people who liked what was going on.
Parlé Mag: So, the music industry is steadily changing. How has the process been for you, creating music that could evolve with time?
Fred Hammond: I love it, man. I just love music and creating. I love listening to great music. My goal is to do things that empower people and affect people. At first, it was just to witness about the Lord, then the Lord is saying, ‘Open that up.’. Open it up. What can help inspire people?
Parlé Mag: So, going back to your album a minute. With everything going on in the world today, how do you feel or hope the new Fred Hammond music will deliver your message and touch the people?
Fred Hammond: I just like to do things that are a little bit edgy. Like, this tour is a little edgy. It’s going to make some real Christians uncomfortable for a second. It’s going to make them wonder, ‘What is this?’ I just like to deliver messages—things that are creative that bless God and show God enough.
Parlé Mag: What do you hope listeners will get as a whole from listening to the album?
Fred Hammond: That they feel the sense that they can sing with the album. They can sing it while they’re driving. I want them to get it and feel it, and feel like, ‘Man, I have something to pray through; I have something that I can worship with. I have something that will lift me up—get me going.’
Parlé Mag: Any advice you would give to singers looking to go into the Gospel industry?
Fred Hammond: Eh, singers? I don’t know. God is looking for soldiers; he’s looking for people who will go places, and start off at the bottom. You know, like, singing anywhere. Sunday school, nursing homes, youth centers—he’s looking for that. That kind of heart with a tremendous gift. That’s the advice I would tell you to have.
Parlé Mag: Yes, indeed. What are your thoughts on the state of Gospel music right now?
Fred Hammond: My thoughts on Gospel music are we’re bad in a bad situation. We’re kind of sick as an industry. We’re really bad; we’re really on, like, life support. We just don’t know it. We’re really kind of sick. We’re losing radio stations; it’s a lot of artists who are still ready to come in, but not enough time on radio to play them. People are not coming to the concerts in droves anymore because I don’t think we offer them enough. We stand up and we sing, but they can get that at church. What can you offer? That’s kind of the key.
Stay Connected with Fred Hammond on social media:
[PURCHASE] Worship Journal Live: http://apple.co/2eG6jGa
FESTIVAL OF PRAISE tickets: www.festivalofpraisetour.com
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