Interview with Daniel Weatherspoon

Who likes to be spoonfed? Many in the Gospel industry, thatís who. But what kind of question is that?

Itís all about Daniel Weatherspoon. Hereís a rising industry maestro who, under the banner of his own Spoonfed Productions, has produced, written, and provided musical direction for such names as Darwin Hobbs, Donald Lawrence, Karen Clark Sheard Daniel Weatherspoon(remember the keyboard solo on ďJesus is a Love SongĒ), Bridgette Campbell, Lonnie Hunter, Shekinah Glory Ministry, Ricky Dilliard as well as for mainstream artists such as Chantay Savage and Carl Thomas.

These days Weatherspoon is the musical director for Fred Hammond while still finding time for Spoonfed Productions.

Gospelflava.com took some time to talk to the man behind the spoon.

Gospelflava.com: What is the distinguishing factor in being the Musical director for Fred Hammond?

Daniel Weatherspoon: Itís the atmosphere and the people. The Face to Face people are genuine and heartfelt. Musically, everyone (from Donald Lawrence to Carl Thomas) has always allowed me to stretch out, do my thing and not put me in a box and limit me from being creative. With Face to Face, I went to another phase and another level musically because Fred is one of the premier vocalist in the game right now. Itís exposing me to different things right now. Heís given me opportunities to write. We did a couple of co-writes on Joann Rosarioís new record and weíre going to be writing on his new record. So itís real cool.

Gospelflava.com: Has it helped you spiritually?

Daniel Weatherspoon: One thing that I caught on to with Fred is that his songs are very heartfelt. Anyone, be it be myself or the general public, can relate to his ballads. That allows you to grab onto his stuff real fast, and respect his lyrics and his lifestyle. I get a chance to hang with him on a daily basis at Face to Face and on the road.

Then you see that he is really experiencing what heís writing about. His songs and his pieces really hit home with me. Itís not just Fred and itís no dis to anyone else. Itís just about me being in a new house right now. Itís just a fresh experience.

Gospelflava.com: You occasionally do some work with secular artists. How do you ďkeep it realĒ with doing both types of music?

Daniel Weatherspoon: There are a lot of Christian musicians that flip and work in both markets. For me, the biggest thing is that I know that itís [just] work. I know
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Click for review The Fred Hammond Live in Chicago DVD includes a team of new band members, including Chicago veterans Daniel Weatherspoon (keyboards, musical director) and Richard Gibbs (organ).

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Iím paying bills and getting exposed to other avenues. The second thing is you have to know how NOT to get too comfortable when youíre in a place that is not a Christian-based organization.

So if Iím out with Carl or hanging with that whole crew, or other crews (I was with Chantay Savage for a minute), you do the shows, do the dates and then you go to your room. You can easily get in trouble out there.

A lot of the artists out there (believe it or not) are actually believers, but for some itís a money thing or they feel like their career would move faster [if they do the mainstream thing]. There is always prayer before every show, then we go on stage and do our thing.

For me, thereís a limit. I grew up with Carl. The songs that he sings about are not offensive to me. If I was doing a Snoop Dogg thing or some way out thing then that would be too deep for me. Yaíll on some stuff that I canít even deal with. Yaíll habits are too deep for me to where I donít even want to be affiliated with it. There are certain people in the R&B game where their stuff is not so way out that it would bother me. Itís work for me.

Gospelflava.com: Tell us about the chemistry between you and your brother Michael.

Daniel Weatherspoon: Well, itís a lot of things that Mike is doing around here. The biggest load of the company is on my shoulders, but Mike is hands on. He engineers, he does tech, he programs, heís running vocal sessions, heís writing, and off course he does all the drum stuff.

Weíve grown together. Over the years, weíve learned how to teach and learn from each other. Iím into the keyboard, and heís into the drums. I do the vocal sessions and he runs the board and he mixes. I think that people are more familiar with me because Iím more visual than he is. People can see me more. People probably hear my name a little more than his. I probably get to do more stuff than he does.

But Mike was in the game before I started. Mike started off playing with Ben Tankard. He was with Yolanda. He was with Jessy Dixon. He was almost running Chicago when it came to drums in his younger days. Mike is extremely book smart. He went to college and got his degree and now he has his own office at DePaul University. When he leaves his day job, he comes to the studio and put all of his time in his drums and programming. Itís real cool.

Gospelflava.com: What distinguishes the Spoonfed Productions sound?

Daniel Weatherspoon: We donít play by the rules. Whatever we hear in our head, we print it. Not only that, but we listen to a lot of folks. My favorite all-time musician is this guy named Russell Ferrante, the keyboard player for this jazz group
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called The Yellowjackets. I try to incorporate a lot of his style and the way he thinks into the way I play.

We hear the music and we donít play by the rules. Sometimes we let the bassline sing the music. Sometimes we let the keyboard sing the part. Sometimes we let the guitar sing the part. Sometimes we make the drums heavy. We try not to be regular.

Another reason why a lot of people try to holler at us about doing records is because we try to make it our business not to make two records sound alike. We can work with ten choirs across the board.

Right now, weíre doing Lamar Campbellís record. We just dropped Lonnie Hunterís record and Iíve done Donald Lawrence and a ton of records. We try not to make each record sound like us. I think thatís a mistake that a lot of producers in the R&B and the Gospel game do. You never distinct the artist from the producer anymore. Nowadays, it sounds like the artist is singing on the producerís record or vice versa. Thatís a turn off for me. The people that are getting the most work are the ones who everyone is trying to sound like the producer versus the producer genuinely making the artist sound like themselves.

We try to distinguish between every artist and bring a new color and a freshness to every record. We donít want to sound old. You know Iím young, I just made 30 and my brother is 31. Heís married and Iím close to it. We're still young and we're still early in this game.

Right now, weíre right in the middle of the folks that set the game up for us. People like Percy Bady, Jeral Gray and Percy Gray. They have some years on us. Then, thereíre some younger cats coming up. So we are right in the middle of both colors.

We got the smartness of what we learned of how to make songs that people could sing and feel. Then we got the youngness of keeping the beats and the creativity going. I think we are in a good place right now.

Gospelflava.com: How do you switch from the hot tracks to the foot stomping church numbers?

Daniel Weatherspoon: I got a lot of music in me man. Me and Mike were born in church, weíre still there. We were literally playing in church for ten to twelve years before we did a record. We were seven or eight years old running around playing for the ďJesus Little FriendsĒ choir or being in somebodyís musical. We did that forever so all of that is still in us.

Over the years, we just kind of gotten into our thing. Once youíve been in something for so long, those things will stick with you. So when we are coming with the funk, we are coming with the beats and all of this stuff. If somebody wants to flip it and take it to church then we know how to flip it. Itís in our nature. We donít have to think about it.

Unfortunately these days, we donít get a chance to flip back into that. 90% of the stuff we are doing now is that newer sound or more worship and pop pieces. We really donít get a chance to get into the straight church stuff

I want to put a plug in. We just signed a group called Joey Woolfolk and the Woolfolk Singers. They are a quartet group from Chicago. Weíre doing a record in July 2003 and thatís going to be straight Ďall the way backí quartet.

Gospelflava.com: What artists should we be on the lookout for?

Daniel Weatherspoon: One girl is Bridgette Campbell. She has the total package of artistry and ministry. Thereís another group from Chicago called Nuwave. Then thereís a group called Travis Edwards and Products of Praise. They did background for me on a song called ďWe Worship You TodayĒ on Darwin Hobbs' new record.

Outside of Chicago, thereís a group called The Murrills that are under Donald Lawrenceís wings that are going to be sweet when they finally drop. I heard that Warryn and Teddy Campbell are coming out with a quartet over on the West Coast. In another few years, I got a feeling that Kierra Sheard is going to drop a record. If she does, itís going to be off the chain.

Iíve been waiting for J. Moss to drop a record for years. I love his creativity. I also love Warryn Campbellís production. There are about five producers whose stuff I absolutely love: Warryn Campbell, Teddy Riley, David Foster, Mervin Warryn and Sanchez Harley. Sanchez is so technical. Itís a lot cats that I respect.

Gospelflava.com: What future activities do you have lined up?

Daniel Weatherspoon: We just got off the Fred tour and thereís a few artists that we [Spoonfed Productions] have. I would love to have my own imprint. There are people that are curious to hear us. We got a vision of some things that we want to make happen. and we just want the opportunity for someone to allow us to put our artists. Weíre going try to bring a new spice to the game. Weíre just waiting for someone to see it the way we see.

In the future, me and my brother are going to put out an instrumental Gospel record. Keep your ears open because we are going to try to make it happen.

interview by Dwayne Lacy

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