In Studio - Male Artist
06.11.12 - FRED HAMMOND talks with TJMS about the McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel tour.
As a pioneer and one of the foremost exponents of urban praise and worship, Fred Hammond has time and again pushed the bounds. In his nearly three decades in music and ministry, however, the GRAMMY®, Stellar, and Dove award-winner had not recorded a project like Life in the Word, a concept recording unlike any other in recent gospel music history.
Life in the Word is the first fruit of a new partnership between Universal Music Christian Group and the fHammond Family Entertainment imprint, a joint venture with Hammond and his business partner, philanthropist Roy Campbell. This project finds the Commissioned alum channeling his worshipper’s instincts into a multi-artist collection that seeks to draw others into a place of aloneness with God.“ Life in the Word is different,” says Hammond, whose songs have, over the years, become a vital component of Sunday morning praise services. “It’s easy for my audience to know where I’m coming from as an artist. They don’t want a lot of tricks, they don’t want to just listen—they want to participate. This is the other side of my style.”
Indeed, in Life in the Word Hammond steps away from the microphone and into the role of mentor, visionary and producer, guiding a fresh ensemble of young singers, worship leaders, and vocalists as they sing songs of devotion, commitment and worship lifted directly from Scriptures.
From a stylistic standpoint, Hammond knows he’s taking chances, but he doesn’t get caught up in the guesswork of how the public will respond. “My core will like it,” he says. “I’ve known my audience for a long time, so I understand what they want; I’ve learned what I can do with my people. I believe that there are a million people who will buy good gospel music, and millions who love the Word of God. And they’ll go right where it is and they’ll get it.”
The album opener, “You Do Great Things” is a great primer for those longtime Hammond aficionados, the same ones who took his hits “Glory to Glory to Glory” and “Spirit of the Lord” straight to the top. The track is a rhythmic praise jam featuring Faith Anderson on lead and an impassioned vocal coda from Men of Standard founder Lowell Pye, who later gets a second chance to shine in the celebratory “Walkin’ in Victory.”
From there, Life in the Word settles into a more soulful, organic vibe, allowing for God’s Word to take center stage. In fact, the disc is rife with scriptural interludes—spoken-word segments read by Hammond and others that further inculcate the audience with the importance of intimacy with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. One such interlude, a solemn reading of Psalm 18:3-6, segues seamlessly into “Trust in the Lord,” a triple-timed slow burner, led by Ericka Warren, that serves as a reminder that faith in God can move mountains and make a way where once there was none.
Through the vocals of newcomer Michael Bethany, the laid-back yet groove-ladened “Need My Time With You” exhorts listeners to spend quality time under the shadow of the Almighty—the refuge and fortress from whence the Christian’s strength comes.
Written almost 10 years ago, “Life in the Word,” a midtempo number featuring up-and-comer Candace Laster, is headed straight for the charts as it echoes the blessings of living in God’s Word. The same is true of “Home Inside My Praise,” a lovely ballad that bids the Lord to inhabit the praises of His people.
The common thread of every song is the centrality of Scriptures in every phase of a believer’s life—not a performance, a knockout vocal part, or the marquee value of the featured singers.
“The Word will never return void,” says Hammond, referencing Isaiah 55:17 as he talks about the essence of Life in the Word, an album he describes as urban organic praise. “We’re trying to get people to understand that no matter what we do, the songs we hear breathe life into us. I hope they are strengthened by what they hear.”
Not coincidentally, the centerpiece of Life in the Word is a track that Hammond makes his own; “Dwelling Place” has all the elements of a classic-in-the-making, a devotional piece that cleverly incorporates portions from the worship chestnut “Hiding Place,” a song close to Hammond’s heart.
The new venture allows the gospel veteran to think outside the box and work on recorded projects, audiovisual products, and other kinds of media aimed at bringing gospel music and the Gospel to the masses. “After so many years in this business and so many years making music, this partnership gives me another outlet to be more avant-garde, more radical, more edgy if I need to be,” Hammond says.
At this point in the game and with absolutely nothing else to prove in his career, Hammond just wants to give back and focus on what matters most. “At the end of the day, we search for life in many different avenues—money, material possessions, family,” says Hammond. “But the Word of God says, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word from the mouth of God.’ We ultimately must find our lives in the Word.”