God & Music
This Is Adrianne Archie
A Few More Minutes With Adrianne Archie
Priest: I didn’t realize you were in seminary. I’m half-jealous. The
other half being cynical about seminary training not having a whole lot
of relevance in real, boots-on-the-ground ministry work. I believe
Christians have messed up ministry—a lot. We have to reinvent the wheel
to a large extent, de-mystifying the Gospel and presenting ourselves as
normal, flawed people rather than these mummified church folk.
AD: We are similar in our thinking. My seminary experience was probably different than the people I studied with. Many of them had no experience in ministry while I was working full-time in ministry when I began school. I am appreciative of the opportunity and the tools and principles that I have learned. Overall, it made me more passionate about the PEOPLE! I think that’s where many Christians and pastors have failed. Especially in the black church. I want to be a part of the solution—de-mystifying the Gospel and showing love to those who are not shown the real love we teach and preach about because that’s what matters most.
Priest: is pastoring a goal of yours?
AD: No. I have been called to minister through teaching and singing.
Priest: Can you paint a picture of Adrianne’s ministry—forward-looking, goals. What’s unique about it, why is it different, how does it stand out?
AD: If I had to paint a picture of the message I share (I don’t like calling it “my ministry”—but I’m a little nutty) I would say that, forward looking, my goals are to share the gospel with others outside of my race, outside of my city, outside of this nation in a way that has never been done before: by focusing on healthy/balanced living. I teach and share Luke 10:27 the greatest commandment now. I desire to encourage believers and non-believers alike to have more balance in their lives. We are so BUSY! We are too busy!! Musically I would like to have the opportunity to expand the genre and style of music that I sing and write to in order to reach an even more broad range of people in and outside of the country. I enjoy soul but was raised on Contemporary Christian Music. I love it and that is the direction I am headed.
I believe God’s message and my story stands out because of several reasons. I have a sound that no other gospel artist presents either live or recorded. I will address issues such health, weight, balance and their relation to Luke 10:27—I will address and challenge the gospel community and gospel singers head-on in love. The “examples” or “role models” are some of the most unhealthy unbalanced people on the planet and it shows (that may be a slight stretch but not that much in my opinion). We ate the pink elephant in the room. Something has to change. Finally, I believe this will stand out because it is authentic. People want authenticity and I can’t help but be any other way.
Priest: Ok, what’s this pop stuff?!? Black Eyed Peas Meet Dr. Dre. Joni Mitchell all over the place.
AD: Just a little experimenting is all. It’s a artist thing.
Priest: Nothing For Something, which more or less transitions the album from neosoul to pop, seems, to me, like the tip of a sword. It sounds transformational for you artistically, a stretch into CCM, but then the rap and techno stuff plus Roberta Flack backgrounds with a splash of Joni Mitchell creates a rich tapestry that is risky in the sense the song’s artistic risk requires an appreciation for a broad range of styles. You sound, ultimately, emancipated, the song a kind of declaration, AD Escapes The Box.
AD: You’ve got it!! Now all I have to do is make a video to portray everything you just said. But yes, you are correct. I am more than a genre of music and I wanted to be able to freely express the same message in any style possible. It’s a big world and there are billions of people that God created that listen to all types of music. I wanted to experience it as much as possible. If I could have screamed a little heavy metal, I would have but I have not learned to do that properly. LOL! You know, it takes skill!
Priest: The trend among urban Gospel artists seems to be to move to the center. J. Moss’ Just James, for instance, was pretty much a CCM album. Moss is a fantastic writer, but an audience is tough to hold. We go to Bruce Willis movies expecting things to blow up. Whenever Willis moves outside that box, his numbers drop.
My friends speculate the trend of black artists moving toward CCM is economic: Kurt Carr, Israel Haughton and others have found greater commercial success by broadening their sound. Is that what’s happening with HSMS?
AD: Now, I was raised on CCM and grew up singing songs from 88.5 WJIE Where Jesus Is Exalted, so when I began singing soul it was a transition for me. My friends would not ride in my car as a teen if I were listening to that station so I would change it to try to fit in. I have written CCM songs from over 15 years ago that I had to tuck away because, I was a “black girl” and that’s not was expected of me singing in Gospel stage plays and especially not on a Sunday morning in a black church. I have never been a huge fan of “choir” music and I don’t do enough runs, riffs and screams to sing in a traditional style of Gospel. I am making a move toward a more universal music. God’s world is so humongous and beautiful and I can’t stay in a lane because of the color of my skin. I am making a move to what God gave me originally and I am excited about how freeing it is. Much of gospel is not as universal as it could be and is somewhat unfocused.
I am thinking maybe I am not more known because I have still sort of remained in a lane that is me but is not all of who I am in God. I am more than a funky soul beat with deep thoughtful lyrics for people to bop their heads to. I can’t wait to share songs I wrote when I was 12 that are more universal than lets say, “What a Fellowship.” I can’t wait to share, man.
Priest: I really hate it when people don’t do what I want them to do… do HTHAELHH again, only different, but the same.
AD: Ha! Well. Don’t hate me long. In life we go through changes.
Priest: I miss the vignettes. I know, I’m whining now, and you’ve worked very hard on HSMS. I think the album is brilliant, but I miss the intimacy all that yakking and giggling gave HTHAE. HSMS sounds like an album. HTHAE sounded like an FBI surveillance tape.
AD: I see. Well I think you have something to look forward to in the next album. It’s going to one of the most exciting things God has ever allowed me to be a part of. Lots of people enjoyed that about HTHAELHH because Gospel artists don’t typically do that on their albums. Every run has to be perfect, background singer on point and choir well rehearsed. I just wanted to have fun while sharing what I believe and was thinking. Hope I don’t disappoint.
Priest: I don’t have the credits in front of me: is this all you and Joel, or are there other producers here?
AD: Joel and I again:-) I am blessed to work with him.
Priest: I love how the album flows. Most projects I hear these days really aren’t albums—they’re a bunch of songs hoping for a hit. All three of your releases have been albums—you just hit play and let it run. It has a nice flow, telling stories, weaving a tapestry. The switch from South Central (Strong) To Greenwich, Connecticut (Go Pop) is pretty seamless. Almost to the point where I don’t mind it.
AD: Thanks so much for that!
Priest: See, I’m a musician (sort of), so I like everything. I really do. Yes, even Country-Western. But most people I’ve ever met have a real narrow palette: they like vanilla or chocolate. You’ve got a real Ben & Jerry’s going on here. Isn’t that a risk?
AD: It’s a risk depending on who you are trying to please/impact. I just write and sing what I hear and don’t really think about what someone thinks about what I have put on record. What I am saying is, God is like a real Ben & Jerry. I mean, he made the WORLD! The UNIVERSE, the GALAXY!! He made all that! I am his creation so I can do it too! Country Western, here I come! LOL! Plus we are our own label so we don’t have anyone over our necks telling us what we can and can’t do unless we hold up a mirror and say, “Hey, you can’t do that!”
Priest: Stuff like Slow Down frightens me because I’m old. It’s taken me a long time to get old, and I’m really enjoying this stage of my life (way in my 40’s now). All that jumping around reminds me of my incessant roller skating back in the 80’s. It reminds me of business I left behind years ago. There’s an odd mix of nostalgia and regret that reminds me of how much time I wasted.
Your whole vibe, including stuff in your videos, marks a divide between the urban youth culture you’re plugged into and the rocking chair I’m building for myself. It has a kind of violence to it, it’s a bit threatening and intimidating to me, which puts me on the fringe of your audience.
Can you describe Adrianne Archie’s audience?
AD: First off, use that song for the gym!! That’s the purpose of it! Even in your 40’s you gotta work out. I believe my audiences are people who are tired of being lied too in every area of life. My audience always says “Finally!” when they hear the music we present and minister to them with. When I am just being myself on stage, off stage, on a record or after a concert, they are like you are so coo, you are so much fun, you are so inspiring. They are in their late teens on up and they want variety because they have been exposed to the world around them. They know more than “hand clappin’ foot stompin,’ tongue talking church’s of the living God.” They have traveled, they have white, brown and yellow friends, they have access to education and they can’t be lied to. They can see right through posers. They are hungry for truth!
Priest: Much like Warm Weather and HTHAE, a warm sensuality runs through HSMS. Is that deliberate, or am I just being inappropriate? You have this warm, sultry voice, but an almost childlike insouciance. No starch in the drawers—you seem real happy to be alive and make no apologies for being a woman. I’m probably not explaining this right: a lot of female Gospel singers tend to lean toward an odd masculinity or, worse, androgyny, in a perhaps misguided effort to keep their audience from vibing off them romantically.
Women are—and please write this down someplace—supposed to be beautiful. Are supposed to be desirable. Sensuality and spirituality need not necessarily be exclusive of each other. Is it okay for us to appreciate your musicality while celebrating your femininity at the same time? My-heart-is-on-fire-for-ya-fire-for-ya. Is any of that deliberate on your part—are you making any kind of feminist statement, here?
AD: I would say it’s somewhat deliberate because of the soul and R&B genres I experiment in and somewhat natural because I don’t have to retry it to “sound” one way or another. I am a woman and I think it just comes through. I am a passionate woman, so in songs that you hear that in I am moreso trying to get the message of that particular song across than making a feminist statement. I am just being me. I teach that way in Sunday School also, people- both male and female really enjoy my teaching style. I had never really thought about that until you mentioned it so, I guess, just praise God for the femininity and sensuality that comes across in the music. He created me that way! (shrugs shoulders, smiles, leans head to the right).
Priest: Do church folk give you grief about it—the sensual aspect of your work, or am I the only one even bringing it up?
AD: I never really cared what church folk think. You brought it up because you are musical and you noticed where as in general people just enjoy music because it’s music. We as musicians hear things that others don’t when we listen to a song. I am glad you brought it up! …Might explain a few things!
No Feminist Statements: Just praise God for the femininity and sensuality that comes across
in the music. He created me that way.
Sadness and Joy
Priest: With so long a wait between projects, do you worry about losing
AD: When management brings it to my attention I worry and I’ll work on something else to bring ease to their minds. Otherwise, my audience can talk to me on any and all of the social networks that exist. Technology is something awesome. Brandy sings in the bathroom on YouTube and Erykah Badu tweets all night. They are one message away from responding to their audience and fans. My audience and I are, like, friends. Just because they have to wait a few months doesn’t mean we are no longer friends.
Priest: There’s a remarkable lack of whining on the album. What I mean is, a lot of artists use their art to vent frustration. To whine and complain. I don’t hear a lot of “woe is me” or finger-pointing here. Which makes you a little scary.
AD: HSMS was written for the sole purpose of lifting up the hearts of its listeners and challenging them to live a more healthy holistic life. It wasn’t totally about what I went through or struggles but rather it was more about hope, the future, second chances, overcoming, living a full life, being your best and having joy!!
Priest: When I’m writing, I try and cut as close to the bone as I can, because that’s where the bundles of raw nerves are. Then I’m a little terrified of people reading it or, in the case of music, performing it. They likely won’t know the specifics of what the work is referring to, but it’s so close to something important in my life, I always feel like I’m risking exposure. Was anything here almost too painful to record?
AD: Sad was hard but I recorded it one time and just kept it the way it was. Even now I believe it’s best not to go into specific detail but what’s most important is that I am making it through!!
Priest: HSMS is a very forward-looking album. The whole image system with the Mustang, the genre transitions, the themes of academia (Extra Credit, Three Things), all seem to almost suggest a change of direction or even tying up loose ends. We won’t know what the next Adrianne Archie project will sound like or when it will be.
AD: Well, you sort of will but you won’t but people will probably say, “That’s who?” “She does that too.” The message will be what will cause them to not mind the transition. I don’t think it (the transition) has been too abrupt so, I look forward to it.
Priest: What motivates Adrianne Archie? When you wake up in the morning, what are you excited about? If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do all day?
AD: Doing what is right motivates me. I know that I have been gifted to write, sing and perform so if I didn’t do those things, it wouldn’t be right. I wouldn’t be responsible. I am excited about the gift God has given me to be able to express life in music in ways that listeners can relate to and, because of the music, can have their lives changed. I am always motivated and excited by a challenge. Challenges bring growth. If money were not an issue…I’d teach and write all day long, play guitar and take 15 minute naps!! (LOL!)
Priest: Sad seems to be talking about depression. Lots of people, myself included, struggle with it. Very few will admit to it. Depression has a stigma to it. I’m not sure why, it’s a human condition, like many other human conditions. Can you talk about the inspiration for that song?
AD: Huh….I can’t get away from this aye. In summary, I was doing what I knew was right which I thought was a good thing. Come to find out, everyone was not excited about that and I got hurt in the process. Deeply. I love God and his people and I thought others felt the same way. Not so much. (Lol!) My eyes were opened to many things I wish I had never heard or seen in a church and it changed me and my outlook. I have to intentionally remember the big picture in life, forgive and move forward trusting that God has known, knows, and will always know what’s going on. He’s never surprised. Sad was written in the midst of all of that. I choose to Rejoice in the Lord because if I don’t I’d go nuts or I’d be depressed. I choose to be glad! Phil 4:4-9. And that’s what’s real!
Priest: What’s next? What should we be looking for? (Please include tour dates, etc.)
AD: Tour dates are all posted on adriannearchie.com. We will be touring all summer through the fall. Mainly southern states and east coast but few west coast dates are on the list. I hope to write with many other artists from the U.S. and other nations. I’ve been doing a few collaborations and look forward to many more. I look to partner with companies interested in healthy holistic living and see how we can help support positive community efforts in that regard. Then, I’ll finish up the next album.
Priest: What didn’t I ask you that you wish I had?
AD: Maybe, a few family questions or about where I have come from (Louisville). But, I’m glad we end here.:-) You covered quite a bit! [Editor’s Note: we did ask her those questions in our previous interview. Check it out.]
Priest: Yes. I thought so.
Generations: Joel Goodwin and legendary CCM guitarist Phil Keaggy.
It's All About The Prince Claps
Priest: Three years ago, I thought you were a short, bald Jewish man. Do
you get that a lot, or is it just me being an idiot? It’s okay, you can
Joel Goodwin: I actually get more mis-pronunciations of my name than anything. People calling me Jowoll or Jewell or Goodman or things like that. Actually, when I saw your name being Christopher Priest, I thought about the famed comic book writer especially known for writing Black Panther stories. Do you get that question any?
Priest: More than you can imagine. I’m hearing everything and everybody in HSMS. I don’t know where to start. So, interview over. Good-bye.
Goodwin: That's HILARIOUS! Now how's THAT for keeping it short??!
Priest: I keep mentioning Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life. This is mainly because I’m old. And because that landmark recording came about because Wonder became strong enough as an artist to not only take complete control of his career but to break out of Berry Gordy’s disciplined corporate structure. The result was a pop album of classic stature, an album that likely would not have been made were Stevie not at superstar status and threatening to walk.
Adrianne Archie and Joel Goodwin have either opted to bypass the whole label thing or have yet to be discovered by one. I’m not sure, these days, what advantages being signed bring you—beyond marketing help (if they feel like it), and earning eight cents of every dollar your work generates.
Am I correct, therefore, in assuming, absent the big financial gain, which is by no means guaranteed, there’s not much more incentive to giving up your creative freedom, strapping on the straitjacket and being with a label?
Goodwin: You are correct. Creative freedom to me is everything! I think that the songs God gives me are not the standard pop songs or whatever, so labels would hate me for the most part. It would be extremely difficult for me to have a years-long exclusive contract with a label to do songs that I can't even relate to But, being a diverse person, as long as I could express myself with other artistic outlets (by not being exclusive to a specific label), then I would consider doing label for financial gain.
Priest: I’m going to skip the stupid questions, “Who are your influences?”
Goodwin: Hands down, Stevie Wonder, Take 6, Dilla, and Metallica) because anybody who can smell the cooking can guess the recipe. I’m going to guess you listen to either everybody or almost everybody.
Priest: The other stupid question is, “With all these strong influences, what does Joel Goodwin sound like?”
Goodwin: The music production process this time around was so different for HSMS and it happened in a span of 5 years so in that time, my writing really incorporated styles from a little bit of everywhere, often abandoning the standard and neo soul sound that was so evident on HTHAELHH.
Priest: Once upon a time I had a Prophet V, a Minimoog and a set of razor blades. Three grown men sitting in a studio cutting two-inch tape apart and hanging strips from a peg board to remind us where the bridge was. That was producing.
HTHAE sounded so live and so acoustic, you really kind of stunned me telling me most of that was programmed. You have an incredible ear for not only how real instruments sound but how real instruments sound when they are played by real people. People who sneeze mid-take, or whose legs cramp up after while.
HSMS sounds programmed. Therefore I am going to assume that’s what you wanted. Which suggests you’re in such a different place. A kind of Timbaland-Darkchild place. Realizing this project stretched out over four or more years, does that account for the varying sounds, or was this the plan all along?
Goodwin: Most of the poppier songs were programmed in a 2-3 weeks while I only listened to a lot of Industrial music. Industrial Music, in simple terms, is an amalgamation of house/techno music and hard rock/heavy metal. The leading bands/artists of the genre, who I was listening to, are Circle of Dust/Celldweller, Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson. I studied their music and basically made some of that kind of music without the guitars, the million-dollar 150 track productions, and the screaming. I did it that way so that the general audience that listened to HSMS wouldn't point out songs and say, "you stole that straight from The Perfect Drug by NIN" or something. And it worked because it's poppier, just not like the usual Urban Pop that's out right now!
Priest: I spent four years recording an album with my (now former) wife. I can’t begin to describe how much I loved her, yet how much I hated being in the same room with her while we were recording. It was just, for me, unpleasant almost all of the time. I hardly expect you to say something negative about Adrianne, and you two seem to still be speaking, but you must know passionate creative people can end up having a rough go of it. Were there times you wanted to choke her (or vice versa)? Can you talk a little about the process, what took so long, the collaborative process?
Goodwin: We actually did kill each other, God just resurrected us later! LOL! I think that the process was a little easier this time because I primarily focused on music production and she focused on vocals and vocal production. HSMS is definitely the most "individual" recording that we have done together.
Priest: Nothing For Something, like dark chocolate, is, for me, an acquired taste. It’s way over there in terms of what I’d been waiting for from you two. I assume you realize that, that moving toward pop and exploring those other genres would present some risk.
Goodwin: Paraphrasing Gene Simmons of KISS, we welcome the term "sell-out" because it indicates that we'll be selling out stadiums while everyone else performs in holes in the wall. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but as I indicated earlier, we are trying to do this for a living! Being diverse musically also affords way more ministry opportunities because different people relate to different types of music. How dope would it be to have songs on the Gospel, Urban, Country, Metal, and Jazz charts at the same time?
Priest: Nothing For Something sounds like a tour of a very large car dealership. Here, let me show you a Ford. Now, over on row 112, we have a fleet of Subarus. Here, have some Prince Claps. Where did this song come from?
Goodwin: It's all about the Prince claps! That's exactly the feel that we were shooting for. Of course, this was two separate songs at first, Adrianne had the melodies already in her head and I decided to musically write the music to the songs as pop songs, and do them in the same key and tempo so that they could flow right into each other. That's how they became one.
Priest: In four to five years, I’m going to assume you and Adrianne recorded a lot more than seventeen tracks. Did you consider going the Tonéx route and hitting us with a double disc set?
Goodwin: Interesting that you mention this, and Tonéx. HSMS was going to be a double disc, with categories for all the different genres sort of like Tonéx's “Pronounced Toe-Nay.” Due to time and budget restraints, it ended up only being one.
Priest: this is mostly an aside, but in so many ways you remind me of my little brother (well, not so little anymore) Bari, in Atlanta. Another wunderkind who can play his fingers off, and who has a chameleon-like production style. You can hear his remix of Christina Aguilera here.
Goodwin: I love that remix, it brings to mind the music in the clubs of England. Very jazzy, soul, and dance at the same time. He's cold on the Rhodes!
Priest: On HTHAE, the creative approach seemed more like The Captain And Tennille, where the production was almost the co-star. On HSMS, you seem to bracket Adrianne, punching holes through the production Adrianne fills in. On HTHAE, the project came across much more like a larger ensemble, while HSMS feels more like a solo project. “Produced by Joel Goodwin.” I think the major difference was all that so-and-so going on, the little outtakes stuff, Adrianne hollering at you and so forth. I’m sure you have hard drives full of that stuff, but it does not appear on HSMS. How much of that choice was simply organic and how much of it was a calculated creative decision?
Goodwin: The solo element that you hear on this album most definitely came from Adrianne recording a lot the vocals on HSMS by herself, no yelling at me or me yelling at her. I'll never forget the times where I would come in the studio trying to correct EVERYTHING and sometimes I did! That may happen again in the future, but this particular process helped her to have a voice of her own and also be self reliant, I mean God-reliant while recording.
Priest: Last time, you told me HTHAE was done mostly with a Motif and a ham sandwich. Has the budget increased on HSMS? Can you talk about the gear a little, and whether or not HSMS was as much a minor miracle—in terms of budget vs. how the thing ultimately sounded—as HTHAE?
Goodwin: No pork this time around! Actually, I actually used the exact same instruments on HSMS as I did on HTHAELHH. HTHAELHH utilized the Roland XP-80 more, plus the Motif. The new album was split almost evenly between the boards. The "soulful" tracks were done on the XP-80 (Also, HSMS, Strong, 3 Things, etc). The poppier/dance tracks were done on the Motif because I wanted a really modern sound for them (Nothing For Something, GOPOP, Slow Down, etc).
Priest: Adrianne obviously talks about her beliefs through her music, while not being constrained specifically by the bubble of religion. In the context of her daily challenges and issues facing young persons, she gives God weight and breadth and depth by not reducing Him to a simple slogan and by not cocooning herself inside simplistic praise songs that may edify her but do not serve God in any practical sense. I’m pretty sure I asked you before, but do you share her beliefs?
Goodwin: I really do. I am most definitely a Christian and I believe that Adrianne and I agree more on religion and ideas about it than most or even all artists that I have ever worked with.
Priest: If so, what are your challenges in terms of working in a creative field where guns and hoochies are the standard, and where many if not most potential urban acts will bring along a lot of negatives because that’s what they see and hear all day in popular music?
Goodwin: I think that the for me challenge lies more in presenting myself to the world in a way that is not offensive to Christians. I am especially speaking of people that I know in the black church. My music has always been in complete contradiction to anything going on in the Gospel music genre because it can be just that, a genre. I totally believe in presenting myself and my music to the world at large as what God made me, and that doesn't fit comfortably into a particular genre. It also means that I won't be talking about guns and drugs and hoochies except in cases where I reprove that whole mentality. I will, however, discuss things such as conformity, religious beliefs including atheism and satanism, sexual temptation, the truth about cursing vs "curse words", war, preachers that try to be God, and other subjects that can probably make Christians uncomfortable.
Goodwin: Of course, being a team for so long, I most likely have to make sure that our fan base isn't too offended by my other outlets, but I don't know if I will ever fully be able to help that. I will say that a lot of the music that I make will be so different that people into neo-soul and pop wouldn't "get it" anyway. I will probably address some of the more uncomfortable issues under an alias! Just kidding. Who knows, I just plan to keep praying, writing, and recording. I ultimately hope that people appreciate my honesty and individuality.
Priest: What else are you working on? Who else should we be listening to?
Goodwin: I am currently doing all kinds of stuff. First and foremost I am wrapping up my first solo jazz project called ITSPTO (Introducing to Some, Presenting to Others). It features several genres of jazz and gospel and also some other styles of music, like metal, with progressive, classical, and jazz influences. I am also working on a few jazz projects with friends in Nashville. A lot of people have been asking me to produce some music for them, so I am always open to that and willing to do it! Last but not least, I have an extreme metal project called Your gods Lie Destroyed. Because some members have been in and out, the group has been somewhat inactive. We'll resurrect in time for festival season. I want to record with them this year and if that doesn't work, I have another metal group that I have been practicing keyboards and vocals with. Stay tuned!
Priest: What didn’t I ask you that you wish I had?
Goodwin: Why Marilyn Manson, when the mere mention of his name offends Christians???! LOL. I'll have an answer for that one next time. :-) God bless you man!