Interview With Jeff Grant
Verity Radio Promotions —Airborn Gospel

This is another segment in GospelFlava.com's ongoing series profiling key Gospel industry figures.

As Gospel music listeners, we would like to think that the individuals who steer singles for airplay to the masses are in touch with the heart of the God.

Sound overblown? Well, consider that song that blessed you so on Sunday morning as you listened to the Jeff Grantradio while you got ready for church. You started to dance around in your kitchen. It made you smile. Suppose you never knew that song was out there? That time you were in your car and were brought to tears by that song that spoke directly to your situation; what if you never heard it?

In some ways, big and small, these incidences color our lives. Can actually change our lives. Well, somewhere after a song is written, played, recorded, put on a project, and marketed, it has to be selected and placed for airplay.

That is Benjamin Jeffrey Grant-Clark's job at Verity Records. As the National Director of Radio Promotions, Grant sums it up like this, "The long and short of it is my department is responsible for getting the music on the radio station."

But it's not strictly business here. Grant's call to do what he does is clear, "With gospel radio, ministry has to come into play - if just by virtue of its name. Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ conveyed through music. I believe there is a tremendous onus that is placed on anybody that programs gospel. You have a tremendous responsibility because if you're spreading it, you're serving."

Because of this, Gospel presents unique issues in selecting singles for airplay. The balance between placing a song that is marketable versus what registers high on someone's "anointing meter" is a delicate one. But credit Grant's respect for God's hand in his business for how he deals with this. "Since we are in a business, marketability is vitally important. But I believe that because this is Gospel music, it is going to take the anointing for a Gospel artist to get to that next level."

Jeff Grant has been many places in the industry. "I got my start as an announcer and program director in urban radio. [I did that] for about 16 years. During my tenure there at several stations across the northeast, I met promotions People and many radio personalities with which I developed a great working relationship. Though [a lot] of promotion people that I encountered were just trying to get their record played."

Gospel A&R

For a perspective on what goes on in Gospel A&R, check the interview with Verity's manager of A&R, Joseph Burney.
Though he worked in urban radio by trade, Grant was certainly no stranger to music or to Gospel. A keys man first, he has been playing as long as he can remember. "I play at my local church, Strait Gate. I'm a part of the music department there. I grew up in the day when what you did in music was TRULY a ministry and you didn't get paid for [anything]! And you [had to be] at every service! It was a labor of love, and I got a chance to see some of these artists like Edwin and Walter Hawkins, Donald Vails, Charles Nicks and Milton Brunson —those are the people I saw."

After such a long time, the grind of the urban side of radio started to wear on him. Grant heard that Verity was looking for someone to head up the Radio Promotions department and reached out. He met with Tara Griggs-Magee, and then Jazzy Jordan. God had put everything in order, and not long after, Grant was asked to join Verity.

"Jazzy called me back and said, 'Come in and let's talk, man. When do you want to start?' [I said] 'Today is Monday, I'll see you next Monday!' He [wanted to know if I needed to take more time off], but it was time. If the Lord says go, why do you ask him the second time?"

There was plenty of work to do as the label had just closed the Benson Records deal and acquired many new artists. Grant says of this time, "I was in heaven because I was going to be around [artists whose work] I admired, and who had sowed into my life through music. You couldn't tell me a thing!"

Verity Records "When I talked to Jazzy he was concerned about how I would deal with the Gospel side [coming from urban]. I was able to share with him that I always attended GMWA anyway and at every station I was ever at; I did the Gospel [programming]. I was the Program Director and I did mornings, but I always did the Gospel [show]. I called it Music for Life. [Apart from that] I had a little knowledge of what I was getting myself into. I was scared to death coming into a new industry and not knowing all the players but I did know it was all about relationships."

And Grant has been successful in establishing, maintaining, and parlaying those relationships into revenue. "Truth be told, the bottom line is about revenue. I don't care how you slice it. What we do and what the radio stations do is ministry, but if there is no revenue generated for the stations the ministry doesn't continue. They will be replaced by block programming and satellite programming. There has to be some programming and generating interest from listeners. You have to first understand what a station is trying to do. Then I have to understand how what they do and what we do can work together. I want to help them generate more listeners through promotions, artist interviews and things like that. I have to find out what makes them work. That's my focal point. I've got to understand who this announcer and how I can help them before I try and figure out how I get my record played."

Having served in and around the church circuit all his life afforded Grant a foretaste of what is now his livelihood. "I've always been involved in Gospel. It kept me in touch with what I'm doing now. By being at conventions and meeting a lot of these artists when they were younger [prepared me for my role at Verity]. Me and, one of my closest friends of all time, Jeffrey LaValley [along with] Donald Vails, Michael O'Bannon and Twinkie Clark, all of us played for Mattie Moss-Clark back in the day. At that time all of [the Clark Sisters] were in the choir - Jackie, Twinkie, Dorinda, Denise and Karen. The Lord was preparing me [for this job] even then."

Jeff Grant's Rotation

(in his personal stereo system):

Steely Dan —Two against Nature
Kim Burrell —Everlasting Life
Stanley Brown —Meditations
Yolanda —Mountain High...Valley Low
Eliane Elias —Everything I Love
Amel Larrieux —Infinite Possibilities
Mary Mary —Thankful
Hezekiah Walker —Family Affair
Joe Sample —Ashes to Ashes
Fred Hammond —Purpose by Design
D'Angelo —Voodoo

Exposure to all of this makes it a wonder that the performance bug didn't bite him, "But it did! I had my own groups and ensembles. I wrote 'The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow' for Hezekiah Walker back in the day. I co-produced an album on a group of girls called Charisma. This was my first taste of the industry."

Grant did not become restless, however, or deterred from HIS path. "I was comfortable where I was. I always understood the process that when it's your time, it's your time and you don't have to force the issue. The only reason I was able to understand that was because of my covering and pastoral leadership. They kept us in check by praying for us and asking the Lord to keep our minds. Nowadays, and even back then, if you were a musician and you could play the scale correctly you thought the Lord had called you to go on a world tour! But by being involved in seeing the inner workings you found out it wasn't that easy. It looked good but way down in there, there was a lot of work going on."

Working in this side of the music industry has its surprises. Everyone we encounter is not necessarily saved, and walking on the straight and narrow. Grant has a clear view on this reality, "I don't think you have to be saved to program Gospel radio, but you need to be! It's the anointing that gives you that edge. Here at Verity, where many of us come from different walks of life, we all believe in what we do. We all believe in this music. It's critical."

All in all Grant views his current place in life as a blessing, "I love the Lord. I believe that He has given me a unique opportunity to be involved with people that the average person is not. He's given me an opportunity in my day-to-day conversations, to share His love just by living a life. He's helped me understand now that it isn't about how you look or where you come from, but about your relationship with Him. And if you have a relationship with Him, all this other stuff doesn't matter. We're in this world, but ultimately we're just trying to see Jesus. There was a time when I was worried about what people thought, but I'm over that now. I just want people to know that my heart is pure. It doesn't always come out right, but my heart is pure and I just want to see Jesus."

Also in this Series...

Discussion with Verity executive Jazzy Jordan
And that mission is simple but not always easy. "There are days when I feel Like I just can't do it any more and I'm like 'God help'; and I put on a record from one of our artists and I'm recharged, renewed, re-energized." It's at times like these that you might find Grant dancing around his kitchen, or crying in his car. It's at times like these when Jeff Grant remembers the real reason his records get played, and why he works so hard to keep it that way.

interview by Melanie Clark

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