INTERVIEW: Donnie McClurkin (2008)

Donnie McClurkin (2008)Christopher Heron:  It’s been a minute since your last recording – Psalms, Hyms and Spiritual Songs – perhaps 3-4 years since the last live recording.  Initially, I heard rumors of a recording in Japan maybe a year ago but then that fell through.  In a nutshell, what has kept Pastor McClurkin so busy these past few years?  And why so much time between recordings?

Donnie McClurkin:  Well, I usually take about 4 years between recordings…but truth be told, I’m just lazy:-)  I don’t particularly enjoy the recording process. 

CH:  What type of songs can we expect to hear on your upcoming recording? A healthy mix of Praise & Worship and Contemporary Christian music or are you taking us in entirely different direction? And who are some of the songwriters and musical directors you’re employing for this special project?

DM:  We’re preparing an eclectic mix of music for this recording.  We are definitely going to be in a Praise & Worship mode.  That’s definitely my thing. I’ve always veered towards Praise & Worship. We’ll also have some high intensity songs, a few ballads…an eclectic array of musicality.  I’m writing all the songs for this recording, which is kind of strange, since I usually incorporate songwriters into my releases.  There will be a special guest appearance on this album by Karen Clark Sheard. There will be another song featuring CeCe Winans,Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary.  It’s a night for intimate songs. It’s not high intensity. There will be 3 studio songs but the recording will definitely be off the hook. We’re also featuring Duwayne Starling, who we haven’t heard from in years. I’m going to utilize his gift.

CH:  You’re bringing it back home to where so much of your ministerial development took place – Detroit, Michigan.  Why did this location, versus, New York, Japan or any of your other popular stomping grounds make more sense for this recording?

DM:  We decided on Detroit because it’s home.  It’s the capital for Gospel music. I spent half of my years in Detroit. I have so many strong and special relationships in Detroit.  We had the plan of recording my album in Japan but we’re going to postpone that until March 2009.  I’ve always wanted my ministry to be more global.  So, we’ll record another album with a Japanese choir in March. This recording had to be Detroit because this city was part of my vision and passion.  To be truthful, Marvin Winans, the late Ron Winans and I all shared such a friendly, competitive spirit. To bring it back home, into Marvin Winans backyard (laughs) is so good. If we won a Grammy in Marvin Winans’ backyard (laughs) would be great.

CH:  You’ve been the set gift at Perfecting Faith for over 7 years, you host a weekly radio show that puts demands on your schedule, you’re now in preparation for the upcoming Holy Convocation Service in mid-October.  How do you fairly balance that very demanding administrative schedule, with the demands of being a very popular artist, in high demand, with a record label who would love to see their artist record and perform more often?

DM:  It’s gruelling when I have to spend 14-15 hours each session in the studio, then break to oversee Bible Study at church or leave Sunday service to go back into studio. It’s just gruelling.  The priority, Christopher, is always Perfecting Faith Church.  I’m not focused into awards or those kinds of objectives.  My foremost goal is to pastor over 2,700 people.  Those souls mean so much more to me.  Perfecting Faith Church will always be my primary focus. Music and songs will be a secondary and effective tool God has given but my attention will always surround Perfecting Faith Church.

CH:  It’s been 12 years since your first solo album – Donnie McClurkin – was released on Warner. What are the biggest changes to Donnie McClurkin, the recording artist, over all these years?

DM:  Wow…it’s really been that long, eh?  Well, the biggest changes to Donnie McClurkin over all these years are my weight and the loss of hair.  Those are the biggest changes (laughs).  But when you think about it, in the big picture, I’m still one of the younger artists.  Kirk Franklin has been recording for almost 20 years, Fred Hammond has been recording for so long, Yolanda Adams and CeCe Winans have been recording what seems like forever.  I’m really the baby among these folks.  But seriously, these many years, I’ve learned how ministry is intended to have a global perspective.  You learn that ministry is more than a song that you like. It’s taught me to use this talent God has given me.  12 years has given me a maturity about how to approach this thing called music. 

CH:  And finally, what is your ultimate objective or goal, as you prepare to record your next project?

DM:  Let me say something about these past 12 years.  A lot has transpired. There’s been a lot of commercial success, a lot of secular attention and even crossover appeal.  When you experience that kind of crossover appeal that artists like Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and CeCe Winans have all experienced, it gets hard to keep your balance. 

You start to compete with yourself, you try reproduce the kind of success you experienced before, you try to find that winning formula and, and in the process, you can lose your focus and lose the essence of who God’s called you to be and what he’s called you to do, just trying to keep up with the commercial success of being an artist. 

Fortunately, God gave me great friends.  Kirk (Franklin) and I have sat down together for hours while on tour.  Every night, until 3-4am, we would sit down together and just talk.  For instance, we were in Washington, DC a while ago for a week together and every night we would meet at a cafe across the street and talk until 3 o’clock in the morning about scriptures and the demons that tempt us in the music industry and the vulnerabilities that would push us to produce. 

We would check ourselves and sharpen ourselves.  We took the scriptures literally and confessed our faults, one to another and prayed for one another that we might be healed.  It was like taking the top off of a pressure cooker and letting out all that steam.  You let all that stuff out, so that you don’t have to fight with it anymore and you have a friend who understands your battle. 

Consequently, we’re able to gain our focus.  You say to yourself, “Wait a minute. This is who I am.  This is who God has called me to be.” You start to reflect on your whole ministry. You start to look at the concerts you hold and the tickets prices you charge and you say to yourself, “Wait a minute. This can’t be what God intended. 

There’s a level of ministry missing here because it’s become too commercial.  If people can’t afford to buy the ticket, then they can’t be ministered to.  If people can’t afford the price, then they’ll have to hear about the concert second-hand and miss the anointing.  So Kirk and I sat down and re-evaluated the way of doing this. We concluded that maybe the wealth of the wicked needs to sponsor some of these concerts, so that the righteous don’t have to pay.

Donnie McClurkin records live at the Straight Gate International Church in Detroit, Michigan on Friday, Sept.23rd.  Admission is free. For more information, call 313.491.8430 or log on to the official site for Donnie McClurkin at www.donniemcclurkin.com   

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