Changing It Up
Back on the scene with a new album, a new record label home, and a new addition to the family, Angelo and Veronica Petrucci remain a duo that cannot be ignored. As a husband and wife singing team, they are something of a rarity in Gospel. And anyone who’s ever seen them live Bible always in hand and scriptural depth to their song material will immediately see Angelo’s perspective on who they are:
“We consider ourselves ministers, not artists even though we are artists. The thing that comes first is our marriage. That comes before anything. My first ministry is my family, it’s got to be in order before anything else can be in order. As head of my household, that’s a responsibility I as a man have to take up. It can be challenging to travel with your wife, to be an artist, to sing together, to have a child, to have struggles just like everyone else. We’re not struggle-free because we’re saved, you know. We’ll have more struggles, that’s what it really means. My goal in life is to known by the devil. I want him to know my name.”
That fiery passion and power that also comes out in their music. Angelo, with roots in Boston and of Italian descent, and Veronica with her Puerto Rican heritage, have sometimes received a quizzical reception over the course of their 7 years in musical ministry. Of course, the often unexpressed thought goes something like “this isn’t a couple that you would expect to be singing this style of music”. That’s an issue that has become a little more of a rarity lately, however. With six albums to their credit, and with very strong, soulful, musical credentials on each of them, these two are very much for real. Indeed, on hearing Veronica’s soaring soul-quivering vocals combined with Angelo’s raw, grit-charged sound, it’s hard to imagine them singing anything else.
With their new album Change, their first with Harmony Records, Angelo and Veronica joined forces with Gospel’s wonder-producer Donald Lawrence, with stupendous results. “Donald Lawrence, he’s a class act...so musical. I haven’t met too many people who understand us musically. It was real chemistry, a relationship”, says Angelo.
Veronica continues to outline the project. “The album is called ‘Change’ because it’s all about the changes that God accomplishes within us to do his work. God has such a special plan for each one of us. We’re just believing for lives to be changed by this record. It’s completely and totally based on the Word of God, and we totally believe with all our hearts that that’s what’s going to change lives, because that’s what has changed our lives. Getting his Word totally infiltrated into our lives and our daily lifestyles.”
Change features a remake of the Commissioned classic, “Running Back To You”. If you dig a little bit into your A&V history, you won’t be too surprised at that choice. Fred Hammond played a signficant production role in their Give Your Life album from 1995 when they were both with Benson Records, and he has had a significant impact on Angelo in particular. Growing up in Boston, Angelo was heavily involved in the local music scene as a guitarist and front vocalist for a popular Top 40 band. “My mom bought this Commissioned album, and started playing it on our stereo. When I heard ‘Running Back To You’, I was floored. “I didn’t know Fred Hammond from the barber down the street. But, when I heard that Commissioned song, I had to find out who was singing it. I had never heard anything like that before, and I thought I knew music.” Angelo considers the song to be one of the stepping stones for his venture into Gospel music, and also a milestone in his stengthening Christian faith. “That song has been a real blessing to me…I love this song and I hope that it’s a blessing to you too, my brother”, he says.
Another striking cut on the album is the thoroughly sizzling Latin number, “Praise The Lord”. Veronica was the inspiration behind this one. “Latin music, it’s my background. I grew up with Latin music all my life. For this record, we actually had a [Latin] producer in mind, but he couldn’t do it, and Angelo ended up doing the track. And it just came out so incredibly. We were to the point of, either we not do the song, or we do the song whatever way we can and hope it turns out right. And it turned out just so wonderfully, we give thanks to the Lord. The Latin people have been such a support to us, and they have embraced our music so much. You want to give back, especially in the language. For me, I needed the music to be authentic, to be for real. So that’s what our concern was. Whether you speak English or Spanish, we wanted everybody to understand, that’s why it’s bilingual.”
Obviously, the music just flows from the award-winning duo. But after they were released from Verity Records in 1998, there was a time when the music kept on coming, even though they didn’t know what was in store for them. Veronica explains, "The Lord kept on giving us songs, and we just kept on writing songs. We said, ‘Lord, what do we do now?’. But lo and behold, we got hooked up with Raina Bundy [head of Harmony Records], and she offered us a deal immediately. She just shared our vision.
”It was by divine appointment that we met her. We prayed about it for a while. ‘Lord what is it that you would want us to do? To continue in the music ministry, or what do you want us to do?’ We were willing to give up everything. If you can’t do something by God’s anointing, or God’s appointment, you don’t want to do it all. You’re not called to do it. You don’t want to be a part of it, because you want God’s blessing on it.”
Angelo quickly picks up on that thought. “We’re passionate about people, and we’re passionate about the people we surround ourselves with. I believe that it’s very important that we surround ourselves with people who share the same vision, and the same light. [Raina Bundy] is an ordained minister, not just someone in an industry position, and she’s a person I respect and look up to. And she surrounds herself with quality people. And that results in a happy family. The one thing we take out of life is relationships, that we establish here. Whatever you do in life, whatever endeavour it is, you want to walk with people that God would approve of.”
Another person that they have an obvious passion for, is their two-year-old son, Antonio. Veronica can hardly keep it all in. “You know what a child does? He enhances our relationship with God. When I look at my son, even when he’s doing something crazy, I’m in love with this child. He’s the apple of my eye. If we think about it, God is our Father and we are His children, then this must be the way He thinks of us. If we could just grab ahold of that. It’s helped me with my relationship with the Lord. It’s wonderful. It’s even more wonderful than I thought it would be. And that makes me want to write, want to serve Him all the more.”
New label, new family, new record, the adventure continues for Angelo and Veronica. And they certainly show no signs of slowing down. As for future musical ventures, the duo was asked to contribute a song for Iyanla Vanzant’s album, In The Meantime Music That Tells The Story. Since its release in September 1999, it's been a project that has raised eyebrows in Gospel circles, especially since Vanzant, an outspoken 'new age' advice guru who has gained notoriety on Oprah, includes music from a number of popular secular and Gospel artists on the otherwise spoken word album. Angelo and Veronica were also asked to be a part of the promotional concert tour which followed the album’s release in September 1999. Angelo shows no hesitation in addressing the issue head on.
“This is very different for us, very much on the edge. We spent a lot of time in prayer over it. We’ve ministered to a lot of full vessels over the years, and this was our opportunity to bring the Word of God to a lot of empty vessels. We don’t do anything different than what we do at any of our other concerts, and that is to minister the Word of God. We’re really trying to step out with this one. God’s Word tells us that we can’t be both friends of the world and love God. But we are told to minister to the world. And the church today really doesn’t go much to the world, staying behind its four walls.”
He continues on that theme, “Whenever you step out and minister to the lost, you’re going to get persecuted. Look at my brother Kirk Franklin. That brother’s taking the Word of God to the world like it’s rarely been done before. And he takes a battering for it every day. I’ve seen the beating that some in the church give him. You may not like his voice , you may like his preaching style or you may not, but he’s preaching the Gospel. And Paul exhorts us to rejoice in that the Gospel is being preached. So rejoice!”
Fitting into an expected societal mold (church society included), is something that the soulful duo have never been known for. On speaking with them, it quickly becomes clear that the only mold they’re interested in, is this one presented in God’s Word, and in the pattern of Jesus Christ. That’s a refreshing and a defining characteristic of Angelo and Veronica, and one shows no sign of letting up.
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