Interview with Tye Tribbett
A Look at Life
Every so often, the music industry is introduced to a talent that just makes you take notice. Such is true of Tye Tribbett.
He, along with his vocal aggregation, Greater Anointing, is poised to make a major impact on the music world with their debut release titled Life. For most artists, the debut release comes with trepidation and anticipation, as the artist is formally being introduced to the music world. However, Tribbett and GA aren't exactly novices.
We were formally introduced to Tribbett and Greater Anointing back in 1998, as they were featured on the Prince of Egypt: Inspirational Soundtrack which featured Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans and Boyz II Men, among others. Tribbett and GA, ironically shared a song with Dave Hollister and, at that time, newcomers Mary Mary. Well, we all know how Hollister and Mary Mary have seen their careers develop.
But where has Tribbett and GA been since The Prince of Egypt? Gospelflava.com decided to ask.
"After about four deals that didn't happen, we've just been continuing to learn to appreciate our rehearsals. We've been learning to love singing and ministering to ourselves," says Tribbett. "We got so hyped so many times about getting a deal and they all fell through. So God just allowed us to understand the ministry part of this. Our rehearsals are our greatest engagements now. The Lord just really grounded us before we ever got lifted. He let us know that our foundation was going to be praying, fasting, Bible study, and ministering to each other."
Amid the initial disappointments of record deals that didn't happen, doors continued to open for Tribbett & Greater Anointing. "At the same time, there was a lot of opportunity to travel," admits Tribbett. "We went on tour with Faith Hill and Don Henley.
We got on Justin Timberlake's 'Cry Me A River'. We sung background for, it feels like, everybody and their grandmother. We sang background for Luther Vandross, LeAnn Rimes, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan and even Sting. We've had a lot of opportunities like Saturday Night Live and Jay Leno. All of these things were happening during that time where we were sitting but in the background. God had us in the background. We were just learning how to be content where we were."
The youthful group can take it to church the project begins with "My Soul Loves Jesus", a brief intro that shows Greater Anointing in hymn mode. It's an awesome start to a simply unpredictable project.....|
See full album review.
In a twist of irony that is simply awesome, you could say that the group was learning to 'let go and let God' in the whole matter.
The exposure that Tribbett and G.A. has had within the industry is literally mindblowing. Having collaborated with everyone from Timbaland to Bubba Sparxx, Tribbett is appreciative of his opportunities. In an industry that can be judgmental and image conscious, Tribbett understands that some may disapprove of his collaborations with secular artists. While these dream collaborations have been his launching pad, he doesn't recommend the idea as a wholesale practice.
"Everybody can't do it. [And yet] God had literally called us to do that," says the Camden, New Jersey native. "First of all, I'm not a solo artist. I'm not Deitrick Haddon [hypothetically] collaborating with Puffy. It's a choir. My point is there's a lot of accountability when there's a whole lotta y'all. What am I going to do in a studio when there's twenty people in there that are like-minded like myself? There's no compromising that can be done. There's too many of us. Even Jesus travelled with twelve. When we did these, there was joy in the collaboration and meeting these people. Also, just seeing that they're human. When you're human, that means you can hurt. So we got a chance to minister to those hurting spots."
"We had Faith Hill backstage crying at her show talking about how hard it is on the road sometimes for her," continues Tribbett. "She loves God and her personal convictions sometimes get compromised. I'm sitting on the piano and the choir's standing around the piano. She's crying. Her musical director is crying. So, the behind-the-scenes effects on many of these things were amazing. We didn't get a chance to talk to Bubba Sparxx or Justin (Timberlake) but just the connection alone and us letting our lights shine, we know was at least a seed sowed."
"You've got to make sure that God said it. We can go do Bubba Sparxx, Justin Timberlake, and Tye Tribbett and G.A.. That doesn't mean that every Gospel person can do it. God told Noah 'Yo, it's going to be a storm. Build the ark.' But when it came time for Moses, He said, 'Don't build an ark. Just lift up your rod.' What if he would've tried to do what Noah did, just because it worked before? You have to do what God is saying now. A lot of people are getting trampled by the enemy because they're trying to build an ark when God is saying to just stretch out your rod."
Tribbett grew up in Camden, New Jersey in a strict apostolic setting. It was an environment that, at times, didn't foster full support his creative endeavors. Yet, he is appreciative of his background and the road that led him to his place of creative freedom.
"I love the foundation from which I grew up in," says Tribbett. "But I learned that some things were foundational and some things were traditional. I don't need the traditional. I need the foundational. So I'm very appreciative in the way that I came up. I'm glad that I came up in the bondage of traditionalism. If you're born in bondage, the only way for you to go is into freedom and liberty. So, I'm glad I came up in some type of structure so I could learn to appreciate the liberty that the Spirit of the Lord brings."
This child prodigy grew up in a musical family where his father played organ and his mother was an outstanding choir director. Both of his parents were preachers, so the marriage of music and the Word was natural for him. In realizing the gifting that he had, Tribbett formed G.A. in 1996 and began ministering throughout the East Coast and the nation. Prior to his national debut with Sony in 2004, Tribbett produced an independent release titled Ideas & Concepts.
"We were about to do this big showcase or recording type of thing. Everywhere we go, people were asking if we had CDs available. The demand started getting really big. So, we were about to do this showcase in 2000 and I was like 'we should get a CD together and just sell it at the showcase and that's it. And I came up with this bright idea two weeks before the showcase!! We did the CD in a week. Thank God we had a hookup in New York. They manufactured it, duplicated it, and gave us two thousand copies in a week."
Naturally, there is quite the transition going from an independent release to working with a major label such as Sony.
"The difference is the time and the love that we put into this project," says Tribbett. "You'll hear the maturity in the songwriting and everything. This is a whole new 'Life'. This is a Sony project. There's some structure to this. There's some curving to it. People who know me will know that it's Tye."
Signing with Sony was an adventure, to say the least, for Tribbett and G.A. After years of deals gone sour, God's plan was about to be revealed to Tribbett in a way that was unexpected.
"I was music director for Vivian Green. She had a showcase before she really got signed to Columbia. The head honchos and big musicians couldn't make it, so she asked me if I would play for the showcase. So, I rounded up my band," says Tribbett. "Even the background singers were G.A. members. We did the showcase and [head executive] Tommy Mottola was there. So they were clapping and we did our half-hour set. They said, 'We love Vivian and we're going to sign her. But who's the guy on the piano? No lie."
"Then my manager said, 'Well, that's another story because he's Gospel.' They said to my manager, 'Well, we need to do that too. We need to sign him too. Send me his stuff next week.' We went into the studio, put some stuff down, and sent it to them. They signed us in 90 days. That was the favor of God. They didn't hear us. They didn't see us. Just by the Spirit and the anointing that was all in the room even from a secular presentation was overwhelming. That favor kept going.! That's why they trusted us with the production because they loved the music. So, there weren't a whole lot of chains on me like I thought there would be."
"It was actually a continuation of the humbling process that I said we were in," continues Tribbett. "I was just there as the background. Even though I could have brought my demo and brought my bio, I was just chillin' just taking my back seat and the Lord exalted me right there."
Having gone through the peaks and valleys of the signing process, Tribbett has a word of advice for up and coming artists.
"My best advice is to do what I had to learn. I had to learn to just be satisfied doing what God said. If God says 'Go sing at a banquet', you'll be fulfilled if there's fifty or five thousand people there because you're doing what God said. You'll feel as good as if you got signed because you're doing what God said. The satisfaction doesn't come with signing. It comes with doing and knowing that you're pleasing God. If you're motive is getting signed, you'll get signed and you'll be so miserable. But if you're doing what God said, you'll be fulfilled at a traditional church. You'll be fulfilled at a contemporary church. You'll be fulfilled at a Christian prom. Whatever He says do, do it, and that's where the fulfillment comes."
And with that comes the excitement about the national debut project, titled Life.
"It talks about everyday life," says Tribbett. "There's a song on there called 'Struggle'. And it says, 'It's a struggle cause I want to please you. God I bow my head. God I bend my knees too. Lord help me cause I don't know what else to do.' It's a struggle because of the good in me, not because of the bad in me. It's a really introspective look at my life. Then I realized that it was synonymous with a lot of other people's lives. That's where we came up with the decision to call the album Life. It deals with everyday life. But the end of that song is 'Glad that I have help. I'm not in this life by myself.' No song goes out without victory. The song must end in victory because that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that there is hope."
The bulk of the songs on Life are written by Tribbett. He's written songs over the years for numerous national artists. The prolific pianist recognizes his call to musicianship first.
"The writing is always music first. People need to understand that I'm a musician. I don't just sit down and write poems and they become music. I play the piano. It feels good and the Lord is leading and we put words on top of the music. And we call the music M.U.D., which is music un-defined. That came from travelling with Faith Hill, Don Henley, Timbaland, Justin (Timberlake). You get all of these influences and you start playing and people ask, 'Is that Gospel? Is that hip-hop?' I don't know what that is!! It's just M.U.D."
"Also, we're made of the dirt of the earth and God's Spirit is synonymous with water. So, you got water and dirt together makes mud. That's what we are. If His Spirit is in you, just like clay, He can make you to be country music for Faith Hill. He can make you to be pop for Justin Timberlake. He can make you to be hip-hop for Common. We never went to school for any of that. His Spirit made us like that. But if His Spirit leaves us and He tries to manoeuver us, we break. So, we gotta have His Spirit. I don't know about any other artist, but I've got to have His Spirit."
As Tribbett introduces the world to what he dubs, "The M.U.D. Movement", he has made some great friends within the industry. Joining the Life project is labelmate and vocal extraordinaire Kim Burrell as well as the legendary John P. Kee.
"We were in Baltimore opening for John P. Kee. He was just standing on the side of the stage watching us. After we were done singing, his secretary said that Pastor Kee wanted to talk to me. I was like, 'What?! He wants to talk to me'", says Tribbett excitedly. "He wanted me to come down to his club at his church. We exchanged numbers. He was one of the first ones to really pour into me as an artist. I reached out to a couple of cats and kind of got the fade out. He was one of the ones who answered my calls, called me back, gave me advice when I asked. To this day, only him and Kirk Franklin are the ones that poured into me. So, when I called him, he was like 'It ain't nothin'. Just give me twenty dollars. Five dollars! for each of my kids,'" he recalls jokingly.
Having travelled within the circles that Tribbett has travelled, he's had the pleasure of seeing the best and worst of both the secular and Gospel sides of the industry. He definitely notes a marked difference between the two environments.
"It seems like the secular arenas come to give and the Gospel arena comes to receive," reveals Tribbett. "It's very clear that the Bible says to enter into His gates with thanksgiving. The CCM market has got it. They're all coming to give. They're coming to magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. But the Gospel churches are at times like the Apollo. They're sitting down waiting for an exciting part. The secular comes to give. Faith Hill can crack three times and end flat and they will clap. I don't know if it's because they're drunk or what. But they give her so much love. They give her so much energy. They give her so much applause. On the Gospel side, they say, 'give me'. That's the difference, and I believe that will change as people mature in God."
With the launch of the M.U.D. Movement and the debut national project, Tye Tribbett and Greater Anointing are ready to take Gospel to the next dimension. With an energetic performance, anointed music, and transparent lyrics, Tribbett and GA are bringing the serious pain in a way that is fresh, new, and exciting.
"Just open up your heart and be prepared to receive what eyes have not seen," says Tribbett.
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— interview by Gerard Bonner —
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