Too often in R&B music, artists forget about the roots where they got their start from. I’m not talking about the first album or the first single, but more so for many R&B artists; their start came from the church. Beyonce, Usher, Monica, Whitney Houston… the list goes on. They all go their beginnings singing in the church whether it was a solo or in the choir.
Many often ponder why such talented artists never make full transitions back to the church music where they got their starts from. Half Mile Home is a new age Gospel group on Universal Records that has had the chance to see the music world from both the religious and secular stance. Having got their start by way of R&B act, Jodeci, Half Mile Home returned back to their Gospel roots and is on the verge of releasing their album, CHANGE MY LIFE, in February 2010. BE-NEW YORK had the chance to sit down with this group while they were here in NYC to discuss their calling home to God’s music.
BE-NY: What can listeners expect off of, CHANGE MY LIFE?
Half Mile Home: Listeners can expect a wide rage variety of music and expect their life will change.
BE-NY: Why as a group, did you decide to name the album, CHANGE MY LIFE?
Half Mile Home: God blessed us with a song. One of the reasons we named the album, CHANGE MY LIFE was because towards the end of the album, we had no direction. We just had a lot of anointed songs that God gave us. But then there was a song that was presented to us and God gave us the words, and the title of the song was CHANGE MY LIFE. Instantly when each individual member of this group heard that song, that’s the only moment out of our whole career that we were on one page. We said, “That’s the album, that’s the album!” It touched all of our lives and I’m sure it will touch everybody else’s.
BE-NY: Will there be a video for the title track?
Half Mile Home: You better believe it, you better believe it! CHANGE MY LIFE should be the second single off the album, CHANGE MY LIFE and we ask everybody to listen for it on the radio stations nearest you.
BE-NY: What made Half Mile Home as a group decided to leave Gospel/Inspirational music and do R&B and now come back full circle to the music you started with?
Half Mile Home: Weezy used to play base for Jodeci. We started up an R&B group and we chose my brother Young Bull AKA Buttonz, to be one of the lead singers for the group called One Nine Hundreds. Weezy formed his own group called One Nine Hundreds and they came up here and joined up with Jodeci. Jodeci produced their first single; they travelled around the world, whatever whatever. God had a plan for these young brothers. He didn’t really want us doing this R&B thing. While we were doing it we felt like, “man, there’s something different for us to do.” Certain things were going on in the R&B field that if you’re familiar with the behind the scenes of R&B, then you know what goes on. We never felt the need to take part in what was going on. We just felt after a while God just called us to come back home to Gospel. It just felt nice for us to come back to Christian music. It’s feel real comfortable to be back at home.
BE-NY: How do you feel when people place judgment on modern Gospel music that’s sound often gets hassled for being mainstream secular music?
Half Mile Home: Everybody has a job in this whole thing. Whatever God told you to do, if you’re doing what God told you to do – you’re doing a good thing. I know there’s somebody saying we’re taking it a bit too far and our music may sound a bit like what’s heard on the radio. But I believe we’re fishers of men and we have to be able to adapt and speak to this new generation, we have to speak their language to get them to understand what they have to do to get their lives right. I appreciate the fact that everyone has their own way about going about how to teach the Gospel. You have Kirk Franklin, you have Mary Mary, you have all these other groups and they have their own different styles and all their trying to do is reach this new generation. I think everyone’s doing a tremendous job at doing so, whether its Shirley Ceaser, Fred Adkins, I just think everybody need to keep doing what they’re doing.
BE-NY: What’s the hardest part as a group in narrowing down which tracks to put on the album for completion?
Half Mile Home: You said it, the hardest part after accumulating so much music over a period of time. The last album was THE MOVEMENT in 2005, so over the years you build up different music so you have to try and tap into what ministers to you, knowing that what ministers to you then there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to minister to someone else with that same message. Different things that we’ve all experienced, different things that we’ve all dealt with in our lives – we’ve chose things that we felt would minister to others, so that’s how those songs came about.
BE-NY: What’s the hardest part – business wise – to the album?
Half Mile Home: None of it was hard because it was all spirit lead. Coming up with the title track, the new music, and the direction was all spirit lead – we all knew it as one unit. It’s like God spoke to each and every one of us individually like, “this is what y’all gonna do.” We never had an argument, it was like “hey man, we doing this,” and everybody knew it. We were all in unison on that, everything we did.
BE-NY: Who are some of your Gospel music influences?
Deacon: I’m influenced much by Willie Neal Johnson, one of the Gospel kings. A lot of people might not remember him but I came up on his single quartet music. They way I just saw this guy operate and his passion for it, it made me want to follow it. That’s one of my biggest influences right there.
Tight Tracks: I think I’m influenced my Fred G. Samford. His music was unbelievable.
Buttonz: I’m influenced by several and just to name a few… Stevie Wonder. I wasn’t able to listen to much of the R&B music growing up; my brother Tight Tracks and I father was a pastor. I didn’t get to listen to the Marvin Gayes, Al Greens or none of that, we were very limited. But we had a lot of great people to listen to. So I would say Stevie Wonder and Fred Hammond which was from Commission, then I would say my mom and dad because they were great singers themselves and I was able to watch them every Sunday morning, so I would say those are some of my greatest influences.
Weezy: I’d say Mary Mary because that’s more of the type of music we need today. I’ve always like that hip and new things are going to be. And Mary Mary are bringing that new Gospel and I just love what they’re doing, so that’s my influence.
Q: On the female side, Kim Burrell, who has been a very big influence, just listening to her music and seems almost impossible to imitate. Just to enjoy the gift that God has given her. Fred Hammond, just to go back to all those old Commission Gospel songs that you can still listen to today on YouTube.
BE-NY: How did Half Mile Home get their start as a group?
Half Mile Home: Half Mile Home pretty much got their start in R&B. We started in R&B from After the Rain to Half Mile Home. That’s when God really spoke to us and told us, “I’ve given you this gift, you need to give it back.” We’ve been obedient and because of our obedience, we’ve been truly blessed to be able to do so much and meet so many people. Our first deal was with Malachi Records and now we’re with Universal so that’s the whole history about how we came about. During our transition from R&B to Gospel, we were going on a school tour to Nashville. Some lady called me and said, “Listen I know I book y’all to go on this school tour. I know it’s going to be a inspiration for all the children,” but she continued by saying, “God is telling me while I’m booking this school tour for y’all that I will make money from it and y’all will too – God don’t want you all to do this. It’s a reason why God don’t want y’all to do this.” She called me like two days later saying, “did you talk to the guys?” It was the Fourth of July and I was talking to my brothers and I said, “This lady thinks we should go back Gospel.” We had been thinking about it and to make a long story short she called me back two days later saying she cancelled the tour. We was like, why? Its decent money, we need that money to take care of our families. She said, “I cancelled that tour.” From that point we started recording Gospel songs.
BE-NY: Why do you think the messages in your music are so important?
Half Mile Home: You only get one shot. Sometimes you only get one time to say something that’s going to change somebody’s life. Whether it be on the radio or somebody watching us right now, somebody who reads this interview, YOU GET ONE TIME! You get one time to say something and sing something to change somebody’s life. Also, within Gospel music and Gospel being the Good News, when you look at today’s society and the things that’s taking place, and you turn on the news its sometimes depressing. I try to stay away from it as much as I can. But you have to realize that we’re living in the last days, so just to be able to sing about the Good News is the blessing within itself. Spreading that message is something we want to do at this point to make everyone understand that to everything negative there’s also good and there’s also God.
BE-NY: What advice do you have to newcomers trying to break into this beast called ‘the industry?’
Half Mile Home: Don’t sign no contracts without no lawyer. PLEEAASSEEE, DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT WITHOUT A LAWYER! I don’t care how much somebody tell you or how close you think you are with somebody, the Devil can seem like an angel sometimes. Beware – don’t sign no contract without a lawyer. Also, most of the things that people coming up wanting to be artists see on TV are make believe. It’s a lie, it’s a flat out lie. Everything that people see on TV is just glamorous, but the road to getting there is rough. It’s a rough road and you and your family may have to go through a lot. All they show you on TV is the pretty women, the fine diamonds, and fancy cars – but realistically it’s a lie. You got to work for everything that you get, you’re not just going to become a millionaire over night. The rags to riches story does take time. You’re going to have to work hard, that’s just the main thing. If you listen to the third verse of THIS FAR, that’s pretty much what we’re talking about.
BE-NY: When does the album, CHANGE MY LIFE come out? Are any of you on Twitter, and are you addicted to Twitter?
Half Mile Home: Facebook and Twitter… Half Mile Home. February 2nd, February 2nd! Please look us up on any Universal outlets, online, or in stores. Since November 22nd, the single has been on iTunes for purchase in single and ringtone format. The whole CD, CHANGE MY LIFE is available February 2nd. You can get to us on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.