With a coveted Dove Award win, Grammy and Stellar Award nominations, critical acclaim, and nearly 20 years of memorable music to their credit, to say that Contemporary gospel trio Virtue have made their mark on the gospel music scene at large would be an understatement.
Introducing a fresh take on the fusion of Urban and gospel music with their 1997 self-titled debut, the group – comprised of sisters Ebony Holland, Karima Kibble, and Heather Martin – embarked on a journey of sonic excellence that would lead them from humble Southern beginnings to the top of gospel charts with signature hits like “Get Ready,” “Put Your War Clothes On,” “Til’ You Believe,” “Lord, I Lift My Hands,” and more.
Now, with a trail of gospel gems in their rearview, the sensational sister act is looking to forge a new path with their long-awaited comeback project. Led by “You Are,” their new Billboard top 30 single, the stunning ladies of Virtue sit down with That Grape Juice to discuss their re-release ‘Testimony: Reloaded,’ the new album that’s still in the works, and more.
Catch it all below:
That Grape Juice (TGJ): Hello ladies! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions! We’re longtime fans and appreciate what you do.
Virtue: Thank you Rashad!
TGJ: First, let’s talk about your absence from the industry. What have you been up to since your last release in 2006?
Virtue: Our absence from the music industry resulted from us wanting to devote time to our families. Every one us can add several different titles under our belts, but “mother” is one that we all have in common.
Ebony is a first grade teacher who recently celebrated 13 years of marriage. Heather is music teacher and a mother of 4, all under the age of 8, who has been married for 10 years!
The teaching bug didn’t bite Karima, however she is in the classroom, but on the opposite side of teaching. Karima is nearing completion of her undergraduate degree in Business Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and plans to continue her education with a masters in Psychology. She’s also a mom.
Busy lives, nonetheless, but we still make time for each other as sisters first and then our career.
TGJ: Why did you feel now was the time to come back with the Testimony: Reloaded release?
Virtue: Coming back to the industry was never a question for us; it was more like how to make it happen. Over the time of our absence, we were offered a couple of different opportunities, but it never took off the way we intended which should have been a sign to stand still for a little while longer.
August 2013 we received a call from a long time acquaintance of ours from New Orleans, Gary Crocket. He presented us with an opportunity that we prayed about for a few weeks. We thought about what it what mean to come back, the sacrifice on our part especially being mothers, and we live in three different states. We knew ultimately that whatever we asked God for that he would not allow us to start something He approved and not be able to finish strong.
TGJ: “You Are” is such an awesome song. Tell us the inspiration behind it.
Virtue: “You Are” is definitely a favorite of ours. It was one of the first songs we received in the many submissions for the new album. Written by Taylor Hill, a young man who has a heart that is totally sold out for God.
We listen intently to the lyrics and immediately connected with the message. The song simply states what our lives would be like with out Him. We cannot do ANYTHING without Him. There is no one greater! We recognize this over and over and He will forever be the why, how, when, what, and who in our daily lives.
TGJ: This song kicks off your new album coming out this year. Tell us about the direction you are headed as far as sound. Will it be different from your previous work?
Virtue: I think when we started recording this record we decided we just wanted something that felt good to us and that was filled with real messages that someone could put on and dance, worship, sing, and actually feel better once the music ends. So with that in mind, we ended up with an album that we’d like to describe as a “feel good eclectic mix!” It’s a little bit of the old Virtue flavor with some new vibes.
TGJ: The music industry as a whole has changed quite a bit since 2006. Tell us some things you like and some things you don’t about the direction the industry is headed (i.e. “online streaming,” etc).
Virtue: Things have definitely changed for the music industry and some things we now love about it is that as artists, we get to be more hands-on with our fans. The Internet and social media has given everyone a stage. You can be as visible as you’d like to be. So we are enjoying the opportunity to have a free platform to reach the world through YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and our website.
On the downside, the whole world has not caught on to this movement and some people miss out and struggle with keeping up with technology. So when we tell people to look for our music in stores, it’s hard to find. You can’t just walk in and buy a physical copy as easy anymore. The other thing that’s good and bad us how quickly ANYTHING you do goes viral! So if you had a bad performance or a great one or whatever, you can rest assure that you will hear or see it again! A love-hate situation! LOL!
TGJ: We are such fans of Fred Jerkins and his work with some of pop, R&B, and gospel’s top names. How did you ladies link up with him?
Virtue: Fred Jerkins!! We were fortunate to meet this talented man in the industry at least 10 years ago. We first received the opportunity to talk to him right after our contract ended with then, Verity Records. We kept bumping into him and decided to keep in touch with him. One year we were in Houston and while performing at the BMI Luncheon in a tribute to the amazing Clark Sisters, we saw our friend again. A couple of conversations later, we were working out a deal to sign with Darkchild Gospel. We released Testimony in 2006 and recently rereleased Testimony Reloaded on February 23rd with two new tracks! Our friendship remains the same. We love him and his family.
TGJ: Last, but not least, who else would you like to collaborate with? Producers or singers, who is on your “collaboration wishlist”?
Virtue: Aww man!! The list is sort of long but we’ll take a stab at it. We have so many artist that have been an inspiration and that has paved the way for artist over the years. Some of wish list includes; Yolanda Adams, India Arie, Kirk Franklin, The Winans, Jonanthan McReynolds, Mali Music, Ledsi, Luke James, Israel, John Legend, Maxwell, Mary J. Blige, Mary Mary, Jason Nelson, P.J. Morton, The Braxton Sisters, Pharrell Williams, Deon Kipping, Brandy, Ben Taylor, Eric Clapton, Joe, Pentatonix, and more.
We would LOVE to sing on Sesame Street! Yep pretty much the entire industry. LOL! We love music and we appreciate the each and every gifted artist.
Keep up with Grammy-nominated gospel girl group via their official website www.virtuegirls3.com, on Twitter: @virtuegirls, Instagram: @virtuegirls, and Facebook: @virtuegirls..