Interview with Israel Houghton

Israel and New Breed are back with a phenomenal follow-up to their previous releases. This time they are coming Live from Another Level. Israel Houghton spoke with Gospelflava.com about the new album, their unique wardrobe and Bishop Joseph Garlington’s contribution to the new release.

Gospelflava.com: What was the purpose behind the this new album, Live from Another Level?

Israel Houghton Israel Houghton: The goal was to put a face with the sound. The packaging on the first album, New Season, was crazy, and no one knew who we were —but they knew the songs. People were singing, “You are Good”, “Trading My Sorrows”, “There’s a Lifting”, “New Season”, etc. They were singing all of these songs a lot. So people would ask other people, “Hey do you know Israel and New Breed?” They would say no.

They would then sing, “You are good, all the time...” Then people would know who we are! So we knew it was important (this time) to be very deliberate about who we are, defining the sound and uniting the sound and the faces behind it. That’s humanly speaking.

Spiritually speaking, it’s like what we talk about on the record, going to another level and encouraging the body of Christ to do the same.

Gospelflava.com: This new album comes packed with tons of songs. Why did you make this record a two-disc release?

Israel Houghton: We approached the recording night aiming to just do it as a single disc, but we just let it roll that night. What we ended up in was, in my opinion, a very powerful night.

Someone asked me if this was the best work that we have ever done. My answer was that I would like to believe that, and I do believe that, but it was the most powerful night in worship that I have ever been in. The fact that it was a recording and that we were leading the worship, was really the gravy of the whole thing.

Album Review: Real
CD On Live From Another Level, Israel Houghton and crew...yes, they do take it to that next level. Recorded at the Total Grace Christian Center in Decatur, Georgia, the project offers up a double-disc overflowing with an abundance of 30 songs. Infused with brass from Mo'Horns, guitar from Johnny "Natural" Najera, along with the usual excellence of the New Breed band and vocal ensemble, consider this album a catapult into worship....

See full album review.

Once we went into editing and saw what we were going to have to cut to keep it to one disc, we got scared to cut anything because of the many “God” moments on there. The more we talked, we started to wonder if it would be alright if we just left it alone. Part of 'another level' is getting in the presence of God and seeing what happens. The label agreed. We pushed pretty strongly for it. We felt it would be a positive.

Gospelflava.com: One thing that sets Israel and New Breed apart is your unique and snazzy way of dressing. What's the idea behind that?

Israel Houghton: It’s deliberate, and Mattie Calloway is the stylist of the group. There is an email that circulates or a phone call that circulates that will say, “Let’s wear this", or "Let’s wear that".

It’s not uniform like quartet where everyone wears the same exact coat and tie. There’s a Israel Houghton and New Breedcolor theme. Sometime we will do something denim and funky. It depends on the setting. It kinda depends on what we are doing. That’s the thing about this group.

New Breed is able to flip it, generationally, denominationally and culturally. There's a respect for the house that we’re in. If it’s a concert outside, we are not about to show up in suits and ties. If it’s a church thing, then we know how to be respectful of the protocol of the church.

The whole fusion of being able to be effective in different environments is one of the things that I love so much about this group. Their personalities are free to emerge even in a group setting. There’s individuality, but there is still uniformity at the same time.

Gospelflava.com: Bishop Joseph Garlington is a tremendous speaker,worship leader and pastor of a booming multi-cultural church in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Why was it important to have him on the album?

Israel HoughtonIsrael Houghton: It was important for a number of reasons. Bishop Garlington started his church in my in-laws home in 1971. I remember seeing him for the first time 13 years ago; a couple of years before I met my wife. I saw him speak at a church in Dallas and within a few seconds of him speaking, I said that this guy has more energy than anyone that I have ever seen. At the time he was about 55 years old. I remember being riveted. I remember telling several people that I want to be that effective at 55 years old. He became the blueprint and the benchmark for what I wanted to see happen in my own life.

Gospelflava.com: God seems to pour powerful songs into your heart all of the time. How do you go about writing a song?

Israel Houghton: It kinda depends on the moment. It kinda depends on what I’m flowing at that time; what I’ve been reading. Right now, I’m writing songs about purpose and favor because those words are very pointed in my spirit. We’ve also written songs about friendship. We’ve written several songs since “Friend of God” about the friendship of God. It always comes from what I am hearing the Lord say at the time or getting around people like my wife, [musical director] Aaron Lindsey and Martha Munizzi; to hear what the Lord is saying to them and get on board with that. My wife and I write a lot of songs in an airplane. I might hear a concept and melodies will start flowing, ideas will come and lyrics will start flowing. My wife is easily the greatest inspiration.

Gospelflava.com: Your songs are being recorded by many artists and worship teams. Tell us how you feel about that.

Israel Houghton: It’s humbling. It’s flattering. It’s exciting. It’s scary. All at the same time! Yes! The Lord said years ago, “This is what I’m going to do through you. People will sing your songs Israel Houghtonall over the world.” You hear that when you are not doing much writing. You hear that when you’ve only written one song and nobody likes it. That’s when God’s start saying, “Here is what I think about you. Here’s what I think about your writing and potential.” God speaks to that.

Ten years later, you look up and go, “Snap!” All of those seeds that we’ve been planting for the last ten years; we’re exactly standing in the field where harvest is springing up. It’s real important to reflect in those moments and be grateful in those moments. It’s very fulfilling.

Gospelflava.com: What is it going to take to have the New Breed sound break through?

Israel Houghton: It’s going to take us constantly getting in front of people. Our job is a little harder because we are not just going to one side of the industry. We are called multi-culturally. It’s one thing to go into one stream and start affecting change. It’s not easy —but it’s easier than trying to reach the Hispanic market along with the Gospel market and the CCM market. You got all of these people that hear certain songs certain say, ‘Hey we can get with that.” There’s something for everybody, but there is a much larger labor of love to reach all of those people.

You know, I may never see it fulfilled in my lifetime, but New Breed is more than a group and recording artists. New Breed is a movement and a way of life. It’s going to translate to our children. It’s going to translate into our spiritual sons and daughters that we’re Israel Houghtonmentoring and raising up. So the New Breed concept will go on and on. That’s what’s exciting to me. So it’s going to take consistency and tenacity.

Gospelflava.com: Together with Aaron Lindsey, you are a production duo that many are taking notice of. Can you talk a little about some of your recent ventures of the past year and some up and coming projects?

Israel Houghton: I think that the biggest has been Martha Munizzi's record, because we did it based on faith and no record label. That was very exciting. We are looking forward to the next record with her, which we'll be doing in London this coming fall (2004).

We’re doing some ventures with Bishop Jakes for a record that he has coming out in the summer. We're working Hezekiah Walker's new record for Verity, and we are working on Shea Norman’s (of FHammond Music) album.

It’s always great to talk with Israel Houghton —he always shares nuggets with the rest of the world. Israel and New Breed are at the cutting edge of the multi-cultural worship. They not only want to go to another level, but they also want all of God’s people to come with them. Kudos to Israel Houghton, Aaron Lindsey, Meleasa Houghton and the rest of the wonderful crew. With a release of this magnitude, it would be hard not to go to another level.

interview by Dwayne Lacy

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