Root: How do you think your style has evolved since you first burst on to the scene.
Vashawn Mitchell: I believe it has evolved a lot. I still stick to the tradition of a contemporary sound. But being called into more of a lead role of praise and worship and more of a multi-cultural experience for the place I am at now. My style reflects the body that God wants me to minister to. You can tell from this CD that there are hints of where I have been but there is a noticeable stretch to where I am going.
Root: There is so much diversity in this CD. How would you classify the music you sing? What kind of artist do you see yourself as?
Vashawn Mitchell: Wow, that’s hard! I am a minister of music first. I purposely try to find music that will reach everyone in the entire congregation. So to classify myself, I am more of a sound carrier. Someone asked me “What was my purpose?” And I know for a fact that God did not call me to be a singer. That is why I can not do all the runs and riffs like everyone else. God called me to bring a sound from heaven into the earth that will birth praise and worshippers all over the world, even if they are not in church. So I carry a sound versus a genre.
Root: When you go out to minister, what crowd mostly comes out to support. Who does your ministry most appeal to?
Vashawn Mitchell: I think my ministry mostly appeals to young adult 20’s to 40’s. The reason I say this is because most of the music God gives me is to encourage and inspire so it meets people where they are. Most of your 25, 26 year olds are going through that transition of “I am about to be thirty and I need a word“. God has given me a gift to minister to the total body. It’s weird because I don’t really play well, I was one of the first in the Chicago church scene to become a minister of music and not actually sit on the organ or keyboard, at the age of 21.
God has given me a unique gift of catching on to the vision of the Pastor and putting the legs to it in a musical perspective, hence meeting the needs of the entire congregation. From the traditional all the way to CCM, wherever the church is going, we are able to meet the needs of the body. So in that, I try to transition that into my personal ministry as well. If I am called to do a Youth Conference, I purposely don’t do the most popular songs just because they are the most popular, I do important music that will fit where I am going.
Root Magazine: Where do you draw your inspiration when you are preparing to write or minister? What is that process like for you. Is it based on personal things that you are going through or is it with others in mind?
Vashawn Mitchell: As I prepare for a record, its a process for me. There is a lot involved. It’s where God has spoken to me over the years or the time frame I am getting ready to prepare. What I see around me, the atmosphere in the world and my family circumstance play a major role as well. Once you get into the project a little more, you will see that most of the preachers are preaching about being Triumphant! A lot of writers can just write automatically and I applaud them but God actually sends me through a process to write. I also have a couple of songs that people know like “My Worship Is For Real”, “Cry Your Last Tear” and “Only A Test”. I am always trying to find that next one and that next one comes in a particular time but I can sing it today and it’s timeless. So I guess it’s a collaboration between life, what’s going on in the economy, what’s going on in the atmosphere, the spoken word right now and the Word of God. There are 10 -11 songs that didn’t make it on this project but they may come out at a later time. The songs that made it are for this season, this time and this project.
Root: How do you feel about the direction that Christian / Gospel music is going, with the urban influences?
Vashawn Mitchell: I am on the fence. Part of it is the sales and part of it is the sound. I think it is very good that we have opened our ears up and come out of this box of how we think Gospel music is supposed to sound. It is really good that there aren’t any rules anymore. There was a time where if it didn’t sound a certain way then it wasn’t considered Gospel music and radio stations wouldn‘t even play it. As long as it speaks of God it can be Hip Hop, Rap, Beautiful Jesus music, whatever it is as long as it speaks of God. The people have opened up to it. I think the scary part is our society can make one part so huge that we can forget there is a whole cake. Every time you look up you see it in radio and on television. By not allowing people in the world to see the entire spectrum that gospel music has to offer, they only know what they hear on the radio or the top ten. When in actuality, gospel is bigger than what we present to everyone. That’s why I am torn. I thank God that we are coming out of the box and all music can be accepted, however, I want us to be very precise with how we appreciate our music. We need to keep the traditional alive but show where we are going at the same time. On the flip side of it I am a little nervous about the sales in music as a whole but I don’t blame anyone but us (the artist). I don’t want to get in trouble but the reason I say “Us” is because when I was growing up, people made great records. Last night the Brat Pack sang and they did some of the songs I grew up on. I remember standing on the side as a little boy trying to figure out how Hezekiah and Kirk and Ricky and all of them did it. I was in awe because as a kid they had great records, every song on the album was great. Over the years, I started hearing great songs but not great records. In the age that we live in now, if someone does not like an entire album, they can get a song off of iTunes. So when the record sales went down, it went down because we stopped doing great records and only did great songs. I am very open to where music is going. I just want us to be careful as a genre of music that we keep it alive just like the other genres. Keep traditional gospel alive, keep contemporary gospel alive, keep everything we are doing alive so that nothing takes a back seat.
Root: What direction do you think Gospel is headed?
Vashawn Mitchell: To be honest, I am a firm believer that everything happens in a circle. Although we are in a Praise and Worship lane, I believe it is going right back to good choir music and songs about Jesus. I believe one of my favorite songs I wrote on this new project is “His Blood Still Works”. Because it’s going back to where we started. It’s going back to Thomas Whitfield.
Root: Where do you see yourself in that circle, where will you land?
I don’t want to be in a box. I do know that within the next five to ten years, I should be a vehicle for others to come through. Whatever platform God gives me I don’t want to stay on it too long. I want to allow that to be a door for someone else. People are used to me writing the whole project, but on this project I purposely have three new writers who wrote some great songs. It is their first placement on a major label. So I am not sure if my next step would be as a label head or a publishing collaboration. Right now God hasn’t given me the whole vision but I know I’m supposed to be a vehicle for other artists.
This concludes Part 2 of our Vashawn Mitchell interview. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 3: The Final Chapter