REVIEW: Bryan Andrew Wilson In The Spotlight
GOSPELflava got an opportunity to talk to Bryan Andrew Wilson about the release of his latest CD, The One Percent. Released in June, the disc made its debut at #18 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart fueled by the success of the lead single Turning Away. Wilson opened up about his beginnings, the people who have influenced his life and ministry and much more.
GOSPELflava: Take us back to the beginning and how this all started.
BAW: Growing up everything I knew was church. I grew up as a kid in the Church of God In Christ in Chicago, Illinois in the 5th Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (for authenticity). You know typical church kids, we would go to church and then come home and have more church. I would be outside singing to the grass every day before I went to school and when I got home from school with the paper towel roll serving as my microphone and I would be singing and shouting on the side of my house. One day my neighbor said, you know somebody needs to put that boy on tv or do something with him, so a video tape was made of me at church. The neighbor’s daughter was attending Jackson State University and had become affiliated with the Mississippi Mass Choir. She presented the tape to Jerry Mannery, he heard the tape and loved it immediately, they invited me to come down and sing. I sang His Eye Is On the Sparrow, they tweaked it a little bit and we recorded it for the debut project of the Mississippi Children’s Choir and it took off from there and as they say the rest is history. I got into the Malaco family, continued travelling in the COGIC conventions and Holy Convocations. I got to know James Moore and he took me under his wing and mentored me and that’s how it all began.
GOSPELflava: You count Twinkie Clark as one of your major musical influences.
BAW: (laughs) HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT? I LOVE TWINKIE CLARK, I love her because she is the epitome of musicality, she can sing, she writes, she plays the piano and wears out the organ. She is able to draw and infuse from other genres, jazz and classical and reggae. Her music from thirty years ago is still relevant today. People are still singing You Brought the Sunshine and I’m Looking For a Miracle. Her vocal riffs and licks are attempted by everybody. Now a lot of people look to and admire Karen for her vocal technique, but people fail to realize that Twinkie provided Karen’s first inspiration and instruction. So yeah, I’m a fan.
GOSPELflava: How did you come up with the title of your new CD, The One percent?
BAW: Our concentration seems to be on the 99 and fine percent, those who fill the pews every Sunday and run up and down the aisles, but God has given us a commission to leave the ninety nine and search for the lost one (Luke 15:1-7). Many people are not aware that I have been pastoring for about 2 years now and the Lord has given me a heart for the hurting, we have got to reach out to the prostitutes and the drug dealers and those bound by drugs and alcohol; you turn on the news today and hear so much about the unnecessary killing of young people in the inner city. Its time for the church to do something and that’s where my heart is.
GOSPELflava:Turning Away is not a song that we would normally expect from Bryan Wilson, so how did you come to record it?
BAW: A lot of people know me and remember me as a little boy singing, but when you grow up, you find out the real truth about the work of grace. As a child I sang He’s my friend when I’m lonely and never really experienced loneliness because my mom was always around. Now that I am older and have experienced a lot of things, I can be a more effective. Today, I know what it means to have to pay a car note and a house note and a cell phone bill. Turning Away takes on real life situations, living life, making mistakes, being distracted and losing focus , then coming to God , accepting His grace and letting go of the stuff that gets in the way.
GOSPELflava: There’s a variety of music on the disc including a duet with you and Duranice Pace of the Pace Sisters.
BAW: YES! Duranice Pace is my spiritual mother, she is one of the people who taught me different things as I grew up on the road; things such as “Bryan, after you sing, you go back to your room” and “you don’t give out your number, you give out the manager’s number”. I honor her because she is sanctified for real; she just didn’t say it, she lives the life she sings about. I love the Pace Sisters, all of them. Duranice and I have a special bond as we spent time on the road and travelled together. So the opportunity presented itself for her to sing on the album and I really didn’t care, she could have sung Mary had a little lamb and I would have been happy. She did an amazing job on I’m Standing and I came to the conclusion early on that I couldn’t come anywhere close to Duranice Pace so I went in and did my part and let her have it.
GOSPELFLAVA: Would you say you had any personal favorites on the CD?
BAW: I love Turning Away, I like (I Got the) Victory and I have an affinity for the ol school Motown sound so I like I’m Yours, those three I listen to a lot. Show Me Your Glory brings us to worship and I am a worshipper. I am a student and historian of sorts when it comes to Gospel music, so I took inspiration from Dorothy Love Coates’ I’m Just Holding On. Now there have been a lot of covers of the song and they change the tempo, but Dorothy recorded the song and performed it with a kinda 50s beach music beat. I used the same vibe for Pick Me and it works. I got a chance to work with Ted Winn on Conqueror and that was amazing. Ted Winn is really a perfectionist and a hard task master in the producer’s chair. I flew into Atlanta to do the track, thinking Im going in and getting out. I consider myself to be a humble person and can take critique from anyone. I did a run and Ted stopped the track and said “that was sloppy and you need to do it again”. I was thinking at the time, why is he going in on me, but then I came to realize that no one had really challenged my ability in a long time. When you spend time preaching you don’t tend to worry about technique. Ted came and changed my paradigm when it comes to singing, so much so that I thought to myself, I need to go back and redo the whole album. I have the utmost respect for his talent and for his craft and his spirit excellence.
GOSPELflava: You also do a nice cover of Stand By Me
BAW: You know I really didn’t want to do Stand By Me. Growing up in the holiness church, I could hear my grandmother saying, you’re going to hell for singing that song. So I resisted initially but my manager persisted and I finally relented (with my grandmother’s voice still looming in the back of my mind). We ended up doing a couple of versions and injecting some calypso and reggae into the mix and the Lord has really used the song to open doors for me to minister and touch people from other walks of life. I don’t want to get kicked out of the church, so I am sure to make the distinction when I sing the song that I want Jesus to stand by me, so there is no area for ambiguity. At the end of the day, its all about how can we reach people and show them the love of Jesus, the way that Jesus would want it. That’s all there is.