The Jambalaya Project is a Raleigh based youth enrichment program. This series of music journalism workshops introduces youth to cultural diversity through music and the arts while enhancing their reading, writing and social skills. This year marks its 10 year anniversary and was created by Judith Guest, a professional writer and owner of Perfecting The Persona. To date, it has enrolled over 300 y20150727_163021_resizedouth. This Summer’s participants are Ivori McNeil, Christina Alston, Zoe Brannon, Jaylen Peacox, Kira Matthews, Kourney Privette & Koury Privette. They conducted the following interview with the Grammy nominated and Stellar Award winning The Walls Group. The Texas based contemporary gospel group on Kirk Franklin’s Dallas based Fo Yo Soul record label. It’s a joint venture with RCA records. They consist of 4 siblings; Darrel, Rhea, Paco and Asia. They’re just a chip off the old block from a musically inclined family of 10. Their signature sound and heart for God lends credibility to the motto “Everything is bigger in Texas!” You’ll find that they can’t contain it. The revelation can come anytime and anywhere whether you find yourself on the subway or at a concert. Their music will command you to rise from your seat, dance and rejoice.


(Chorus: All)
“If you’re a miracle today and God has always made a way
If you have food to eat, a place to sleep and you really can’t complain
This song is for you
After everything you’ve been through
This song is for you.”


JP: What was it like growing up with a family of 8 siblings?
Rhea: “It was crazy. 8 different people with 8 different personalities growing up. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. It taught me a lot. Never a dull moment. There’s always something going on…It can get a little crazy.”
Darrel: “For me, it gave me tough skin because nobody can tear you apart or talk about you more than family can. If you can make it in this house, you can make it anywhere. We always stood up for each other.”
JP: How did the Walls Group come into existence?
Ahjah: “ We sang all or lives. We always sang together because we’re the oldest 4. Our mom and dad were musicians. We grew up in the church. We kind of just fell into it. My mom posted a video that went viral. People started requesting songs on Facebook.”
JP: How would you describe your music and what genre do you identify with?
Darrel: “ I would describe our music as really fun, upbeat, young and urban . I think it identifies with gospel music because of the message that it carries but also identifies with “turn up” gospel because it has that vibe and beat we feel we like to listen to as young people.”
JP: Do you write your own music? If so how do you come to decide the subject matter?
Darrel: “ Sometimes, but Kirk Franklin did a lot of the writing on this last album (FAST FORWARD). Paco is doing some writing now and Ahjah. The process is whatever comes to mind or a melody. Sometimes its whatever you’re humming and singing. Sometimes the words come first and then we put music to it.”

JP: Do you play any instruments and what are they?
Paco: “ Everyone plays an instrument except for Darrel. It used to be me and Rhea in a band. She played the clarinet and I played the trumpet. But as of now, Darrel plays the piano and he likes to think he can play the drums. But I don’t agree. “ (giggles)
JP: Who inspires you personally and professionally and why?
Rhea: “ Aaaw man! I like Le’Andrea Johnson. She can sing anything. Another person who inspires me is my mother because you know she like made me who I am today.”
Paco: “ I like artists who have a good rap and aren’t just talking about sex. I like Kedrick Lamar and J Cole. There’s a bunch of people that just don’t make sense. They aren’t just talking about the turn up or what they did this weekend. I like them. “

JP: What was it like working for Kirk Franklin as your producer?
Ahjah: “ Working with Kirk is like working with people who are bigger than you in the industry. He has the experience and knows what he’s doing. It’s like having a teacher all over again. You get to work alongside someone you look up to. It’s basically like a dream come true. There’s nothing that you can’t learn because there’s nothing that he won’t teach you.”

JP: Who else would you consider working with if it was outside of your genre?
Paco: “Ok, Darrel you can go first.”
Rhea: “No. Let me go first. I think India Arie. She is so amazing. I’m like “Oh my goodness. Her voice and then her songs. She would really be great.”
Paco: “ I would like to work very much with Kendrick Lamar .I would just like to see how his mind works. He’s really good. I like his creative process. His stuff is just out of this world. It’s just clickin’.”

It’s All About A Good Work Ethic:
JP: How often do you rehearse and what does it involve?
Darrel: “ Now since we’ve been working a lot, we haven’t really been rehearsing as much as we would. But if somethings coming up we would rehearse everyday from 5 to maybe 7 or 8 . It depends on what we’re doing. Some day we might do choreography and then a vocal rehearsal. Then other days we do everything at once. But it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work.”
JP: How do you balance school and work?
Darrel: “I’m out now.”
Paco: “ Ahjah just graduated high school. Rhea and I are about to go into our Fall semester at college. Most of us take online classes during the school year.”
Rhea: “ I graduated in 2013. During the summer I can go to school. But during the school year I can take my classes online.”

JP: How do you engage your audience?
Darrel: “ We move around a lot and have a lot of fun. We’re full of energy and we’re young , and can say a lot of things older people probably couldn’t say .We engage audiences that are older than us by singing songs they can relate to . I think it’s the fact that we are an all around type of group. That’s how we engage our audience.”
On A Personal Note:

JP: Being that you are siblings, do you ever come into any disagreements with your music?
Darrel: “Of course we do. We’re brothers and sisters. We argue but we have fun. We’re brothers and sisters and that’s what we do. But at the end of the day we all have the same goals and common interests. We all want to succeed. We have to come to an agreement.”
JP: What was one of your favorite performances and what made it memorable?
Ahjah:“ I think that one of my favorite performances was the House of Blues Tour. It was the last performance of the show. It was a lot of fun. Kirk gets so live and so hyped .The whole crowd was jumpin’.It was like a praise party. I enjoyed myself. It was the best performance of my life.”
JP: How did you feel once you won the Stellar Award and what was your first reaction?
Paco: “ It didn’t hit us until really late.. It’s a big deal, but due to our upbringing, we really don’t like to brag and all that. Because at the end of the day its not all about us. Its not about winning an award and personal accolades and all that stuff. It’s cool and it’s nice to be recognized. But it’s not about making yourself famous. It’s about making God famous.”
Ahjah: “ I guess it just kind of show that we’re doing our job. People like our music and people vote for us. So I guess”.
JP: Are there other types of music you enjoy in addition to gospel and who are some of the artists you like to listen to?
Darrel: “Of course. We love to listen to all types of genres because we love music.”
We listen to country singer, Hunter Hayes, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Brandi, Jasmine Sullivan
and Stevie Wonder. “
JP: How do you relax and what do you like to do on your spare time?
Rhea: “We’re like any normal teenaged kids. We go to the movies, we go shopping, we go skating and play basketball. We hang out with our other little brothers and sister. We do whatever teenagers do.”
Paco: “ Not everything that teenagers do… but you know. The simple stuff in life.”

The Deeper Questions:
JP: Once you achieved fame, has your relationship changed with your peers?
Paco: “ I guess. I really don’t like the term “fame” because I don’t think I’m really famous at all. When you grow up, you constantly lose people left and right. I definitely lost some along the way due to things they thought they were entitled to.”
Rhea: “They want you there all the time and don’t understand you have a different destiny. They need to understand that.”

JP: If you weren’t a performer what other career interest would pursue?
Paco: “ I would be a basketball player. I really would. That’s my first love.”
Rhea: “My first love is track. I would be running and probably be in the Olympics by now. Burning up that track.”

JP: What is your next project?
Darrel: “Working and promoting the new album “Fast Forward” available now. We’re actually working on a couple things with a few of people. I can’t really name anything. We’re basically working and traveling right now.”

The Deeper Questions:
JP: Yesterday we learned of the passing of Bobbi Christina, the daughter of singers Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston. What words do you have for those who are suffering from addiction, depression or simply “going through”?
Darrel: “ I know life can beat us down and life can make us feel some type of way. Things that have happened to us in our childhood whether it molestation, rape or abuse. Whatever it is can create a lot of friction for us. But we learn that we can be free from these things. God is the answer to all of these things. I feel that life can be a little bit better. I’m really praying for the Brown family and I’m praying for people everywhere.”
JP: Do you have a life experience that you care to share with us where you have learned a valuable lesson that can help us make a better decision in the future?
Darrel: ‘Friends do change over time like Paco said. Sometimes you grow apart from someone and you think you will be best friends forever ever and ever to the day that you die. It doesn’t really happen like that. You can’t afford to let things like that in life bother you. When life happens, its hard to deal with but you have to accept it because the Bible tells us that all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. So everything that happens to you is always for your good.”

On behalf of the Jambalaya Project, we’d like to thank The Walls Group and RCA Inspiration for their time and providing us an opportunity to conduct this interview. The Jambalaya Project also thanks their 2015 Summer series sponsors: The News & Observer Publishing Company, Prince Hall Masons and Audi of Raleigh. To learn more about the program and how to enroll or become a sponsor, call (919) 841-0953 or email judithlguest@gmail.com


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