Interview With Richard Smallwood
On the State of Gospel Music Today....
We all know the story of Richard Smallwood the child prodigy who made his name as Gospel royalty.
— interview by Melanie Clark —
Admired by fans young and old, he is respected for doing what he does best and not simply the hottest trend of the moment. However that hasn’t kept his music out of the mainstream. Having had his music in major studio movies (The Preacher’s Wife) and having been covered by Destiny’s Child, Smallwood shares his view on the broad reach of his favorite music.
“I’ve been in this business for over twenty years and I am excited about what’s going on in the industry. I’ve seen where it’s come from and it has grown to a viable legitimate genre."
"It is a music that was born here in America because of our culture. Of course there are always things that can be fixed, but I’m glad to see it talking its place beside everything else that’s out there. It’s a viable musical art form and not only that, it’s the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
"I’m glad it’s getting to places that’s it’s never gotten before. It’s playing on stations that it’s never been played. It’s seen on movies, and television shows and award shows."
"I praise God for where it is, and the insights of record companies that see that this music is something that people love and embrace and support.”
With the advent of mainstream media’s acknowledgement of gospel, sometimes we will be represented in places we are skeptical about. But Smallwood shares why he is encouraged."
“There are always conflicts coming from the Christian community when the secular arena does sacred. When Whitney did ‘I Love the Lord’ I wrote that song in 1975 I had already recorded it several times. Isaac Douglas, Albertina Walker and Donald Vails had all done it. It had been heard, but God can take a song and give it to somebody else and it can reach people that it never would have reached had they not recorded it."
"I believe that He has certain songs that He wants everyone to experience."
With Destiny’s Child, many have told me that they have been blessed, who would have never heard the song before [they did it]. God has a way of getting the message out in ways that are different than we thought it should be or the way we would have done it. I am honored. If somebody buys the CD for ‘Survivor’ and they hear ‘Total Praise’ and they are blessed by it, then praise God!”
Of Smallwood’s premium project offerings, there is always that one cut that goes beyond superb. It seems as if almost on purpose, Smallwood puts a little extra on a song, and it instantly becomes a classic. But that’s not something that is always immediately evident to the writer.
“‘Center Of My Joy’, I knew [was special], ‘Total Praise’ and ‘I Love the Lord’, I knew [would be hits] mostly from when I taught it to the group. From the reaction of the singers, I knew it was going to be something special. You just never know, though. You can’t predict, but I know they were special to me; especially ‘Total Praise’ which is my favorite. I was like ‘If nobody else likes this, it’s ministering to me. Thank you God for it!’"
"But I generally just try and do the best that I can. I am sort of a perfectionist, and I probably throw away more stuff that I write than I keep. I’ll go through three or four versions of a song before I get to the final version and then if I don’t like it I dump the song."
But with hit after hit he remains among the most respected in the industry, both for his musical ability and his humbleness. The consummate gentleman, Smallwood keeps the magnitude of his gift in perspective.
“You have to realize that your gift does not make you special no better than anyone else. Because if justice were really dished out the way it should have been, we would find we’re not worthy of the gift."
"We all have gifts, but the problem comes when we start to believe that we are something wonderful or better than everyone else because of the gift that God chose to give us. That attitude gets in the way of being effective in reaching people."
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