African U.S based International Gospel Recording artist Steve Kelly met his hero Grammy Award winner and the world’s best gospel selling artist Kirk Franklin and other superstars including; Tye Trribbete, R&B female Recording artist Mary J Bilge, R&B Group - New Edition and Major Record label chief Executives such as Zomba Record, Jive Record, Sony and def Jam during the music & Entertainment conference. The African U.S based Gospel Recording artist Steve Kelly was caught by the upcoming global magazine; 3G-Magazine with an exclusive interview.
Gospel Recording artist Steve Kelly& Grammy Award artist Kirk Franklin
As published in previous articles, and heard on radio stations, Steve Kelly’s music has always been gospel that makes ‘the gospel’ more appealing to those that may not have a religious affiliation. By keeping it current and fresh it appeals to many age groups and reaches ears that may not otherwise hear the positive message of the lyrics.
3G: I’ve always seen you as one of the major artists that is bringing African gospel into the mainstream listening audience. How would you qualify your contribution?
STEVE: I see myself as a church dude. Just a regular young guy thatloves God. God on his own for whatever reason chose to take music and put it in different environments. That was not my attempt. My attempt was not to try to do that. I’m just trying to be consistent with the path.
I struggle with it, you know. There are times that I forget that it wasn’t my plan and it wasn’t my agenda – sometimes you move in your own flesh to try to get over.
3G: That’s just in life I guess. Society expects a lot from christians. People forget that believers are human too. Do you feel challenged in trying to portray R&B, Hip/Hop and dance hall reggae vibe in music especially in Africa? I feel like on this CD you were trying to address that.
STEVE: Not really - it is all about what God has put in my heart. My approach is very honest. Even as an album gets out and you kind of forget to listen – some people find me a little wishy washy. The confession album was a very straightforward album and with this one, it’s an album that God led me to do but for some people, it can be kind of wishy washy. Is it traditional, is it hip hop? Is he going to be “worshippy”? I’m just trying to be me. I’m just trying to be obedient to what God has for me to do and not trying to do anything more than that.
3G: Well, that’s the music industry as well – more so than the consumer - that wants to put you into a category. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, you’ve just got to let the music ‘be’. The music industry is very driven by commercial gain – have you felt those pressures and has it ever affected the music?
STEVE: I can feel the pressure when I take my eyes off Christ and when I put my eyes on to the world’s agenda. You can feel that pressure but that’s a pressure that you put on yourself.
3G: Do you find anything exciting about the industry - both in the USA and in Africa?
STEVE: Not the industry stuff, no. The music that’s from God is wonderful but when you take something from the *Creator *and you put it in front of the *creation*, which is Man, the creation tries to validate it to see whether it’s good or bad – that’s when everything gets contaminated and real foggy. A lot of times we can be guilty of leaning to what the creation is saying instead of resting on what the Creator gave. I find myself so guilty of that. Even with this record, there were times I was guilty of that. Many days that I was looking for Man to validate something that God gave. It’s an unfair thing to ask God to give you something that’s never been created and then we look for the applause of Man to validate it. That’s not good.
3G: Maybe that’s just part of it and I think that’s just how we’re made. I think that there are tests along the way. Even within believers, you get different approaches to presenting the work – no matter how you look at it, you’ve got to stay true to what He told you to do.
STEVE: Amen! Speak Brother!
3G: How do you feel robbing shoulder with Grammy artist and Record label Excutives like Def Jam, Zomba , Sony/BMG and Jive Records and “whats” up going on between you and Kirk Franklin?
STEVE: The Music and Entertainment Conference was a very big move of glory to my career as God’s chosen one to the Gospel Music ministration. I did enjoy hanging out with Zomba and Sony/BMG Record label CEO James Jazzy Jordan, at first I was worried about the possibilities of how good I will be compared to the other indie artist with better vocal than myself, but you see what God has for you is always for you no matter the circumstances. With Kirk Franklin there, I learnt better things from him the very moment we met and the rest is in the hands of God. There’s a dude in the Bible named Paul and it’s all about how we’ve been transformed from glory to glory – we’re going from one season of growth to the other season of growth. In every season there’s so many tremendous lessons.
3G: Did you have a defining moment on your not yet to be release project?
STEVE: The defining moment for *Zero2Hero* talks about where God himself took us from to the present,. You know everyone has a past from whom you use d to be and what you are now, I mean I came to earth with nothing and went through some storms and trails and finally by his glory I am still alive, I mean That’s “hero” like Kirk Franklin says that’s the fight of my life and if I am still alive then I am a Hero. Remember that everyone of us is vulnerable to God and we came from Zero2Hero.
You are very vulnerable to God to depend on Him to say something. You’re asking Him to say something significant. When I was working on this song ‘Zero2Hero’, I called my Pastor and my Producer to listen to the skeleton of it. I was just singing out that line and they listened and my pastor told me you are preaching to me son while my producer get interested to make the music a single to suite the mainstream radio That was a very defining moment for me for this project.
3G: Would you say that the difference between this project and other projects would be that you left yourself more vulnerable to the message or to God?
STEVE: Just more vulnerable. Here I am. For me, it’s always like a naked place but I can admit that this time around, it was a little “more”naked for me. There’s this needy place.
The biggest concern is that you sit and ask God for something that you look to Man to validate and that’s wrong. So, because of that, if you go before God again, will God still allow me to hear Him when He knows that I’m going to be tempted? You know when your kid asks you for the keys but every time they get the car, there’s a dent somewhere. Do you keep giving them the keys? It’s always that vulnerable place. ‘Is God going to give me the keys?’
3G: When will ‘Zero2Hero’ be in Stores?
STEVE: Well my producer Simon ILLa insist s that we make use of the album as a breakthrough into the industry, due to that reason I will be releasing a junior album full of tribal languages from Africa such as Akan from Ghana, Swahili from South Africa and French with two or three English track by August .
3G: What pieces of advice do you give someone who wants to become a Gospel artist?
STEVE: When you have the microphone, the microphone is a very powerful thing and it’s very important you realize that there’s a responsibility with the microphone – a responsibility to say something very significant. Nobody can make that decision. I would say to those that are Christian artists - that is even more magnified because you have to be willing to die – that you cannot allow the vehicle to take the place of the vision.
3G: Who are some of your influences?
STEVE: Of course my influences coming up were; Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and R Kelly
3G: How does the Africa gospel/Christian community embrace your success?
STEVE: I don’t know. I try very hard to be a servant to my community, to be a light to my community, to win my community with the vision of Christ, to be able to be someone who can help and just pour love into them. That’s how I try to be to my community.
3G: Well, that about wraps it up. I want to wish you success and victory in everything you do.
STEVE: Thank you so much.