Interview With Chris Simpson
Some would call it a 'bit part', but Chris Simpson's role as the preacher in David Talbert's popular
touring Gospel stage play (and video) Mr. Right Now has resulted in
more than few audience tears being shed . His preached monologue as "Pastor Benjamin"
was pure anointing, and sure doesn't sound like 'acting'. GospelFlava.com spoke with him about the experience.
interview by Stan North and Melanie Clark —
"Actually, I love preaching. It's my first love. That's how I'll spend my last days, I'm sure. And David Talbert is a genius in his genre."
"We just made it work. It was very real. I mean, stagehands were saying to
me, 'look, we'll give you $50 if you'd just cut it short at the end'.
And it was hard because it was so real."
"You know what you're
going to say a lot of times as a preacher you write out your notes
so you're not at a total loss all the time. So we knew where we were going at all times, but there were times when the Spirit would just tell me to say something else, and the people would just respond as in church. The Beacon Theatre would turn into the Full Gospel Holy Temple or something, you know? It was wonderful, I loved doing that."
We didn't get to hear Simpson sing in the part, but
Simpson has certainly sung with Gospel's big guns. As a member
of John P. Kee's New Life Community Choir, and
then as a member of Kirk Franklin and the Family, he
left his vocal mark on several songs, including "Jesus You're The Reason" from The Family's
Simpson then left The Family in the late 90's to pursue a solo career (as well as to tour with Mr. Right Now). But almost as soon as his debut project was released on
Higher Ground Records, the label went through severe financial challenges, and had to close its doors
for a period of years.
Now in Fall 2000, the album (Conversion) has been re-released with the label on the rebound. (See review)
"When I started working on my own project,
initially I was very excited. Because I knew what God had promised,
but I didn't know how it was going to come around. And then
Higher Ground came on the scene [with Garland 'Miche' Waller in place as an executive with the label, whom Simpson
had known as Kee's keyboardist during his New Life days]. The future just looked
real cool, everything looked final. And then we hit an air pocket."
"But everyone was honest with each other, and because of that we'll always have a
wonderful relationship. We have elasticity and we bounced back."
It sounds like a rare event. In this day of and age when contracts, companies and people are seemingly
disposable, it's a natural question to wonder what it was that held Simpson and people at Higher Ground together through that trial.
"I think it had a lot to do with both of us both sides
just being forgiving. We just
practiced some Christian standards. Yeah, business is business,
but business is honesty. You're not
going to have any kind of business if you don't have somewhat of a guarantee that
going to function properly and benefit both parties.
So, after being with two of Gospel's heavy hitters, and then 'disappearing' for a time, does Simpson have any insight as to why the Lord took him throught that route?
"Yeah, to give the ministry weight. While I was going through that period of time, the ministry grows, and that gives it weight. When I think about it now, it just gives
me focus. I think it's good to good through things like that, because it gives your ministry
a level of sincerity. People recognize that you know what they are going through, because you've been broken too. And now, [expectations for the project] have intensified. At the risk of sounding corny, we know that have a ministry that somebody will be helped by."
"Kirk and John, they gave me tutelage. They taught me how to teach, and how to
be taught. That's an experience that's priceless. You watch them, and how
they act on the stage, or when you're with them [shopping] in the store. How
they act. It helps you, it comes in handy when your up ministering,
you tap into that. I can't explain it, it's an inheritance, if you will. I learned a lot from
both of them. I thank God for every bus ride."
As for Simpson's Conversion project, he has some fascinating insights.
He starts off by addressing his vocal similarity to Kee on some of
it's nothing that we planned to do. Although, actually,
we had fun on one of the songs (!). But if you listen to
"World Changer", well that's what I call 'a ten-year song'. It took a long time to write."
"Another one, 'Holding On', that was written [when I was on] the
Tour of Life [as a member of The Family], with Fred Hammond, Kirk,
Yolanda Adams. Kirk, he had a keyboard, whoever
bugged him most would get to use it. And I just stayed on him. I used to
program this little song, and started writing some lyrics to it.
I would sing it to Dalon [Collins] I would run everything
by him, just to see what he would think. And he was like, 'Kirk, you gotta hear this!' So Kirk heard it, and then Fred Hammond walked in the room. And soon we were all singing it in three part harmony. That's how the song was written."
So what's up next for this seasoned new kid on the block?
"I have a choir, I want to do a quartet, I want to do a duet album. I want
to experiment. You know Cat Stevens? I love Cat Stevens' songs. I want to do some folk music. You know, there's a million ways to say 'I Love You Jesus'."
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