Monday, September 10, 2012

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Donnie McClurkin

Ever hear one of those songs that’s so good that whenever you hear it, it kind of paralyzes you, grabs you by the shoulders and grips your spirit?

That’s precisely how I felt when I initially heard gospel singer Donnie McClurkin’s “We Fall Down” single, when it debuted in 2000.

I – along with hundreds of thousands of other fans – have continued to appreciate his contributions to gospel and Christian music, as his nine albums, his popular radio broadcast and his scores of television appearances have created a long, prosperous career spanning sixteen years.

And now, he’s adding The King’s Men Concert Tour presented by Live Nation to his list of accomplishments, which is actually the first major U.S. Gospel Tour. McClurkin along with Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp and Israel Houghton are performing in sixteen cities, starting in Phoenix on Sunday, September 16th, and passing through LA on Thursday, September 20th. 

I had a chance to talk with McClurkin last month during a phone interview* and of course, there were sooooo many questions I wanted to ask him: How did he get into the music industry? How is he preparing for the upcoming tour? What’s his take on some of the current events affecting our country? And of course, where does he “where to” in Los Angeles?

Needless to say, his answers were insightful and quite revealing. 

Check out what Mr. McClurkin had to say below!

Miss Wilson: Hello, good morning! How are you today?
Mr. McClurkin: Amber! How are you?

Miss Wilson: I’m blessed! I’m doing very well, thank you.
Mr. McClurkin: You better be.

Miss Wilson: [Laughs] I’ll go ahead and dive into it. Let’s first start with how you would personally describe your music?
Mr.  McClurkin: My music is therapeutic for me. It’s an outlet, and it’s always been, ever since I was a kid. Once it was given to me and it was developed, it became like – it was never something that was a part of me. It was always appreciated as something that was handed on to me. It was like something I used in order to help escape…A whole lot of background came from that. Once I learned how to express musically, whenever those things hit that were byproducts of that, I would go to my music. Bullied in school and physical deformities and people laughing at you, making fun. I would go to my music, because nobody could bother me then. Nobody could insult me. They couldn’t. My deformities, hands and feet – didn’t matter. That’s how it was therapeutic for me.

Spiritually, it expressed what I believed. And it gave me the strength through faith and through God to really go deeper when I would be depressed, or things go crazy at the home, and family fighting and blah blah blah. Going through your music, can you remember what God promised through the music? So that’s what my music personally means to me.

Miss Wilson: How did you start a career in music?
Mr. McClurkin: You know, I didn’t start a career. It just happened. My goal was never to be an artist. I wasn’t trying to contrive something. It just started happening and holistically, stumbling into events. Stumbling into ordeals that were musical. Being introduced to people by mistake, you know [laughing] and singing and just people hearing it and taking it from there. So I never planned on it; it happened. That’s the reason why I’ve always been really, really cautious with how I handle it. Because it wasn’t something that I ever asked for or really believed. Other people believed more than I did.

Miss Wilson: Aside from the music, you’ve done a lot of other projects, from your own radio show to your own t.v. show, and now you’re even doing voice-overs. Was it all a natural progression in the sense of – again, you never really asked for it – or was this something that you were always interested in, it just was finding the right time to pursue these endeavors?
Mr. McClurkin: Well it was something I was interested in innately. I didn’t understand what the interest was, but it was consuming, but never for a profession…All the rest of the stuff happened and it always caught me off guard – you know the voice-overs and the movies and the television and the radio. All of that stuff happened ancillary, secondary. And when it happened, it always caught me off guard, because I’m saying “but that’s not, you know – that’s not the gospel music.” And I saw it in a one-dimension, not three-dimensions that could branch off into other things. And it’s always caught me off guard, whenever things happen outside of my small expectations. It leaves me in awe that that’s the way God does.

Miss Wilson: Another big upcoming project is the King’s Men Tour and I actually heard you say in a recent video interview with Essence that this tour is going to be historic and groundbreaking. Why is that? What’s going to make this tour stand out from other tours and other gospel tours?
Mr. McClurkin: Well, see, when you put the mind of the mad genius Kirk Franklin with the talents of Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton, Marvin Sapp and myself, you don’t get a regular concert. Because everything that we do is a little overboard, especially myself and Kirk and Israel.

Kirk Franklin is into production. He is into production – production of music, production of the singers, production of concert tours. That’s Kirk’s expertise.

And my thing is unity. I told Kirk when they brought this to me, that the only way that I’m going to do it is if we do it like we did the Hopeville Tour and we do it co-joined. I don’t want to be on the stage by myself, doing my set. I want to be involved in other people’s sets. And now we’re doing videography. It’s a multi-media event. And there’s going to be videos, interaction with the songs and the whole entire presentation. It’s going to be really state-of-the-art.

Miss Wilson: So I have to ask – who’s going to put on the best performance, out of you four?
Mr. McClurkin: Well, out of all of us, God is going to put on the best performance. I want us to set the stage for God to show off. God to show off in the music that He gave us, God to show off in the vocalities [sic] that He’s given us, God to show off in the creativities that He’s given us, God to show off in the message of the songs that He’s given us. And for us to stand on this stage, utilize the whole of the stage – side to side, front to back – give the best concert, because you have to give a great concert. He’s a great God.

And each of us, we’re not really competitive with one another. We like to complement one another. And really, to hear us all four together? It is ridiculous! Because I’m a fan of everybody, and we’re all fans of each other’s music. And Kirk sits down and really cries when he realizes that I know the words to his songs. Out of all these years, if I jump up onstage with him, he is sitting there crying, “I didn’t know you knew the song!” Are you kidding me? That’s a Kirk Franklin song. Same thing with Israel Houghton, Marvin Sapp. You know I know a Marvin Sapp song! [Donnie McClurkin begins to sing Marvin Sapp’s “The Best in Me”]. Those are easy words.

Miss Wilson: [Laughing] Great. Well I’d actually like to ask your opinion on some serious matters that are currently happening within our country right now, starting with the Colorado movie theater shootings and the Wisconsin Sikh temple shootings. What words of encouragement would you give to the victims and to their families who are struggling with dealing with unforeseen and untimely deaths?
Mr. McClurkin: I could never give any words that would bring any real solace. I could never bring any words that would make sense of this whole debacle. Wicked men with wicked hearts. Demonic agendas that find maniacs to bring them about. They happen. They’ve happened since Cain slew Abel.

But all I can say is that where evil abounds, grace much more – love much more – abounds.

And we’ll never understand the workings of a maniac’s mind. What we can understand in limitation, which is enough to fill our lives, is the love of God. And that’s got to be enough. We’ve got to believe that God’s got nothing to do with this, but this is because men make crazy choices. But then God is always there to heal our hearts in ways that words can never do. So we’ve got to trust the love of God to compensate for the pain of life. We’ve got to trust the love of God to really play a part in the healing of our souls and join together as one human family. We always have to remember that the cure for all of these social and mental ills is the peace of God, and the love of Jesus Christ.

Miss Wilson: Lastly, is there anywhere you go in Los Angeles to find inspiration?
Mr. McClurkin: Oh yes, there is some place that I do go. I go – there are two places that I go to find peace, to find fellowship and camaraderie. I go to West Angeles Church of God in Christ and I go to City of Refuge in Gardena! Those are the two places that I go, when I am here to find escape, relaxation.

Because if I go to West Angeles, ain’t nobody going to bother me there! I’m not Donnie McClurkin there. I’m just Donnie. If I even go to Gardena and I go to Noel Jones’ The City of Refuge, ain’t nobody going to mess and ask to sign no autographs. Because we’re all in there worshiping together. Those are my getaways. It’s not a beach. It’s not a restaurant. It’s not a museum. It’s West Angeles Church of God in Christ and the City of Refuge in Gardena.

Miss Wilson: I actually go to Faithful Central –
Mr. McClurkin: Pastor Ulmer!

Miss Wilson: Exactly! You’ll have to come there one day.
Mr. McClurkin: Come there one day? Girl, I’ve started coming there way before you got there! Those are my folks there. Give him my love when you talk to him.

Miss Wilson: I definitely will. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the tour. I’m definitely going to check it out when it’s here in LA.
Mr. McClurkin: You better!

For More Information

* Editor’s note: The interview has also been edited and condensed for reading ease.

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