Some of the best gospel pickings of the last three decades have come from the hands of none other than Hezekiah Walker.
With his world renowned Love Fellowship Choir (LFC) in tow, Walker has lent hits like “I’ll Make It”, ‘I Need You To Survive’, and ‘Jesus Is My Help’ during a three decade long praise promenade that has seen him not only land a host of industry recognition, but also a number of his hits have trotted to the top of gospel charts.
As the aforementioned is a feat he is undoubtedly hoping to revisit by his latest album ‘Azusa: The Next Generation’ (in stores now), the Grammy winner speaks exclusively with That Grape Juice to dish on the new album, its dynamic lead single ‘Every Praise’, and so much more. Tuck in below to get the full view:
That Grape Juice (TGJ): Mr. Hezekiah Walker! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today!
Hezekiah Walker: Man, it is no problem at all! Thanks for having me!
TGJ: No problem. Let’s get right to it! Your newest album ‘Azusa: The Next Generation’ hit shelves on Tuesday, June 11th. With so much of your work celebrated in the past, how does it feel to continuously have your projects greeted with such high anticipation?
Hezekiah: It feels so good, let me tell you. I have such a good feeling about this album. I’ve had good feelings about my albums before, but there’s something about this CD that I think is going to do extremely well. I’m excited because of the collaborations.
This time around I have John P. Kee, Deitrick Haddon, Donnie McClurkin, and Brian Courtney Wilson. I appreciate making music that touches people’s hearts.
TGJ: Considering it’s been so long since your last album ‘Souled Out’, why did you feel now was the time to get back in the studio?
Hezekiah: I haven’t recorded in about 4 or 5 years. “Souled Out” had me on the road so much and people were gravitating to it so much that I’d forgotten that I hadn’t recorded a CD in so long (laughs). So, I figured it was about time.
TGJ: Awesome. So, when creating an album, do you go into it with a concept? Or, does a concept evolve throughout the creation process?
It evolves every time I do a CD, especially with this one. It was good because during [the time I was travelling] I was able to “keep my ear to the street” and see what the church was in need of musically.
You know, sometimes we [as artists] are guilty of just putting music out to fulfill a contract. I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted to put music out that would help people in the season they’re in and going to.
TGJ: And, that is something I’ve always admired about you. No matter what phases gospel music was going through, you stayed true to your “choir” sound. With that, though, have you ever experienced pressure from the label to change your sound?
Hezekiah: Yes and no. Yes – meaning I do hear what’s on the radio to see “what’s hot.” But, no, I still do “Hezekiah Walker.” I don’t lose who I am. I do listen to what’s on the radio, but I am a strong believer that we have the power to change radio.
I think that that’s really the mistake many of us in the industry have made. We follow the trend of what’s on the radio. But, what we have to do is be unique in our own way yet still be relevant.
TGJ: An example of that can be found in your newest single ‘Every Praise’! Tearing up gospel radio as we speak, why did you feel that was the best single to kick off the album?
Hezekiah: “Every Praise” is a sing-a-long that everybody can sing. Soloist and choirs can sing it. I did that just to let people know that choirs are still relevant. There is no way you will forever close the door on choirs. Choirs are here to stay until Jesus comes (laughs).
With the industry saying that “we don’t need choirs anymore”, I want to let them know that we can stay relevant and do something new and still keep the choir sound.
TGJ: What other standout tracks should we be on the lookout for?
Hezekiah: One of my favorite songs is “Grace” led by Brian Courtney Wilson. I went back and did a remix on Tasha Cobb‘s ‘Break Every Chain’. Deitrick Haddon is doing the lead on that and when you hear it, it is crazy.
Pastor Donnie McClurkin’s doing the song “Breakthrough” – it’s amazing too. Every church in America can sing that.
TGJ: Well, we do look forward to hearing those. Now, switching gears a bit, we see top gospel acts like Karen Clark Sheard, Kim Burrell, Mary Mary, Marvin Sapp, and so many others pursuing the reality show route. Would you ever consider doing the same?
TGJ: Thanks so much for that! Now, bringing it all home, we know about ‘How Sweet the Sound’ and the Verizon-sponsored ‘How Sweet the Sound’ tour, but what else is next for you Hezekiah?
Interview by: Rashad Taylor (That Grape Juice US)