In times of turmoil, sadness, grief and forever changes brought on by an unexpected pandemic, music is one form that can help keep faith and bring about a passion unseen. PJ keeps his hopes and prayers soaring through the soulful gatekeep of gospel music.
From a very young age, the calling of gospel was within PJ, even as he had other inspirations from music growing up, he knew that in his heart gospel music was meant for him.
"The genre that always stood out to me was gospel. There's absolutely nothing like it. The singing, the arrangements, the musicality and versatility the musicians had, the feeling it gave but most importantly the message behind it all," PJ said. "My main influence in gospel music is the one and only Mahalia Jackson. To this very day she remains to be a great influence and inspiration to me and how I approach my music."
Most people who surround themselves in the faith are sometimes pushed through it, maybe by a parent or grandparent. Going to church to hear gospels is another way people are enraptured in it, but for PJ it was simply a choice, a path that he knew as soon he became a singer, he wanted to take. It was his calling and his alone and no one could sway him another way.
"I knew at an early age that singing is what I wanted to do with my life, and gospel music in particular was the route for me. I felt the calling on my life to go into music ministry officially in my teenage years," PJ explained. "Usually in gospel, folks will tell you their parents and grandparents pushed them in the direction of gospel music, but for me it was a conscience decision that this is not only what I wanted for my life but this is my purpose."
Gospel music can take you to a place of comfort especially in dark times, and if you're one to get in touch with spiritual nature, it can be a blessing in disguise.
"Gospel music provides that feeling for me that folks get when they that hug from grandma or that hot bowl of soup in the middle of December, " PJ said. "Gospel music is very much the same you see . . . it warms the heart, soothes the spirit and nourishes the soul, it makes you forget (even if just for a moment) about all your troubles and problems, it provides you with a sense of security, it reminds you that you're not alone and traps you in a moment that you wish that you could stay in forever."
Music has an impact on life that none can truly transcribe into words. The moving of the lyrics and sound can be healing and needed.
For PJ, gospel music is a form of being on the right path and being able to help someone in need especially in church settings where one goes for guidance and reassurance from the lord. "That being said . . . the moment I felt these things from just listening to gospel or singing it, I knew it was my calling."
A hand in the form of music is always needed no matter the circumstance.
"When I realized how people seemed to be affected when I would sing. Whether it was in churches or elsewhere, that let me know that I was on the right path."
PJ, whose music sores out of the church doors had to adjust to not being able to sing along with choirs and music directors. Though social media was everyone's outlet to staying in connection with the public, but it was still hard, daily routine wise.
"Not going to lie, the pandemic definitely threw a wrench in the plans I had for 2020. See for me I was traveling and touring to different churches ALL the time. So, it was a sudden halt to everything once the pandemic started. For me I just keep connected to the public mainly via Instagram."
Not all churches are equipped with technology so for them to make that immediate switch wasn't easy and it put a damper on church goers physical enjoyment and frequent attendance.
"Honestly it's been kind of hard networking in the midst of the pandemic, most churches have closed down until the pandemic is over and most are doing online services," PJ explains how the pandemic affected churches. "It's kind of hard to communicate with the music directors of different churches via email and telephone."
PJ, through his networking abilities was able to keep in contact with those for business. Given the pandemic was unexpected, any way to stay connected is helpful for artistic creativeness and professionalism.
"In churches and concerts when you sing you're used to that interaction with the congregation/audience right in front of you, however for me whether I'm singing in front of a congregation or just in a room by myself," PJ said. "I can feel the spirit of the Lord dwelling within and around me just by the words and the feeling of the song itself, see that's what I love about gospel."
The word of God through the message of others is what gospel artists hope to convey as they sing. PJ, when asked how he conveys the word of God through his music, he emphasized that when singing in the lord's name, it is for others, not just for himself.
"Gospel means good news, so I'm just spreading the good news of God's love and His grace and about His son Jesus who came just for us. The word of God itself has been a great foundation for me when I get weary in my musical journey," PJ said. "It provides me strength, courage, endurance and encouragement that I can't find elsewhere."
Not only is it singing that can spread the love and encouragement of the lord, but gaining inspiration from daily scriptures can also be insightful when belting out music in artistic and religious/spiritual spaces.
"I try my best to read my scripture 5 days out of the week and with each page I understand more and more who God is and who I'm singing about and His word makes the messages behind the songs I sing more clear," PJ said of his singing process. "Overall music is to me, what water is to a fish or air is to a bird. Without it I simply couldn't function, I couldn't live without it. Music is my everything."
There is more to just lyrics and the beat of sounds. In the words of the gospel, audiences are captured and bestowed with God's word through the singers that choose to follow that path. When PJ sings, he hopes to not only sing a message of love and faith, but also give someone a purpose, perhaps a purpose that they themselves didn't know they had.
"I surely hope so, my hope and prayer is that I have helped someone through a song in some way, shape or form. That's one of the main reasons I do what I do," PJ continued. "My prayer before I sing is that God comes up through me to the listeners and that they receive the message of the song. I want folks to FEEL when I'm singing, whatever feeling that may be.
This is a delicate time in the world where healing, love, passion, and sensitivity is most needed. In the words of PJ as a gospel singer, he wishes to spread the prayer of unity, and to let other's know that the word of God can help and nurture all those that need it in the way of song and lyric.
"My prayer before I sing is that God comes up through me to the listeners and that they receive the message of the song," PJ said. "I wants folks to FEEL when I'm singing, whatever feeling that may be. Whether it's joy, hope, inspiration, humility, gratefulness, thankfulness and even sorrow."
When asked how God keeps his motivation and prayer alive, PJ shared a hope that through whoever listens to him, that they continue to believe just as he does, especially in these difficult times.
"My prayer is also that whoever is listening to me whether they are wavering in their faith, or unsure about their belief in God or perhaps someone who has just gone astray and wants to get reacquainted with Him," PJ continued. "Or maybe even someone who wants to get to know Him who never knew Him before. My prayer is to be that bridge that brings them closer to God and get them to want to know more about the Lord."
PJ is ready to take on 2021 with more projects, more music, and more life-fulfillment.
"I am currently working on my demo in NYC at an amazing studio and I'm blessed to be able to say I've been working with a producer/engineer who has worked with Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and MANY MORE. So I'm super excited to continue to work with him and other engineers/producers as well on my demo," PJ said, sharing his 2021 plans with readers. "I also will be doing a couple of photoshoots this year and I’m in the midst of planning a virtual concert as well that will hopefully take place at a church in NYC! I'm definitely praying on that one to go through without a hitch, I'm just so excited with the things God has going on in my life and I know even more blessings are going to follow so I'm just forever grateful."
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