Interview: Byron Cage (2009)

Byron Cage - 2009

Byron Cage – 2009

The Prince of Praise – 
Minister Byron Cage – is back and ready to usher in the omnipresence of God for his much anticipated Live recording at the Second Ebenezer Church in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan on Friday, March 13, 2009.

Byron Cage has earned his well deserved nickname, by giving God the praise alongside Gospel legends like the late Thomas Whitfield,Commissioned and the Clark Sisters.  Minister Cage has also worked in concert with spiritual titans such as Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr., Bishop Eddie Long and Dr. Grainger Browning, Jr.

His contribution to the field of ministry can be recounted by tens of thousands who’ve witnessed his anointed authority and spirit-led praise on any given Sunday. It’s the commitment of a single servant who seeks the encounter of Christ on his life and the favor of divinity on his ministry.

Our recent exchange with Minister Cage, on the eve of his recording, touched on his journey that’s come full circle back to Detroit, his special plans for his latest recording and even his thoughts on the inauguration and presidency of Barack Obama. It’s an engaging interview with one of today’s shining symbols of Gospel appointed men.

Christopher Heron:  You’ve worked real closely with many of the legends in Detroit.  I’m speaking about The WinansCommissionedand the late Minister Thomas Whitfield? How did those nurturing experiences among them plant a seed for your music ministry and affect your professional course?

Byron Cage:  It actually started in Grand Rapids, Michigan for me.  I went to the same church as the DeBarge Family.  We all grew up in a church called Bethel Pentecostal Church and we were all singing in the choir with El and Bobby and Tommy and Randy DeBarge; everybody was involved.  Then I got to Detroit. Donald Vails was my minister of music.  Fred Hammond was on the base guitar at that time, Mitchell Jones.  It was tremendous.  I was there during the golden era of Gospel music. Thomas Whitfield was still alive, Donald Vails was packing auditoriums and I just had a great example for Gospel music.  I learned how to conduct myself in music and how to not just provide songs but provide ministry that would touch people.

CH:  Your national reputation as an artist started ministering on the GMWA and Full Gospel Baptist releases, but it also took flight with your two Air Gospel Records releases.  It expanded when you signed and recorded with Gospo Centric Records.  What did each of these stages in your career teach you about artistic growth, handling national fame and just the business of being an artist?

BC:  I think that’s a great question because a lot of times artists, when they first start out, they’re just excited to hear their music on the radio and maybe see their CD on sale in the store but the business of being an artist is so much more than that.  I really learned the business about publishing a few years ago because I’m a writer and learning about royalties helped me later on in life. I learned so much from my time with Bishop Eddie Long and now where I serve as Minister of Music at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Maryland. When I look at those training grounds directing choirs and in front of Bishop Paul Morton’s Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship the very first year or twelve years leading Praise and Worship where Praise and Worship wasn’t consistently done in the Baptist church. That was essential.

CH: Rumor has it that your upcoming recording in Detroit will feature a lineup that includes Marvin Winans and the electrifying Tye Tribbett.

BC: We’ve also got another surprise artist.  It’s definitely somebody who knows how to give God glory, give God praise and they’re legends as well.  I’m just looking forward to going home and being with my people.  You know Christopher, I did not get an opportunity to record as early as many of my friends like Kirk Franklin or Commission or The Clark Sisters.  I was doing background for a lot of these artists.  I was directing choirs.  I didn’t record my first album until I was 33 years old; so I look at where I am now and I’m just so thankful that if you wait on the Lord and be of good courage, He’s going to give you the desires of your heart.  I’m just thankful that His word is always true.

CH:  You’ve always invited great talent to assist in the production of each of your solo recordings like Kurt CarrPAJAM and now most currently, Aaron Lindsey.  What do you believe each producer is able to bring to your recordings, based on their gifts and experiences as producers?

BC:  Kurt Carr of course is synonymous with wonderful writing.  He can put background singers together like you cannot believe.  I’m so thankful to him for writing The Presence of the Lord is Here.  It was a tremendous blessing. Of course PAJAM, those are my home boys from Detroit.  They did the next two albums and of course, they brought not just the urban flare but they showed that they’ve got some church in them as well.  And now here we are with Aaron Lindsey, the 2009 Stellar Award winner for Producer of the Year.  Our chemistry has been unbelievable. 

I’ve written the majority of the songs but Aaron wrote a couple of songs and we co-wrote a song together.  I’m doing a couple of classics.  Pastor Marvin Winans and I are doing a classic that he wrote and recorded back with the Winans.  And of course, Tye Tribbett and I are doing a song I wrote called In the Midst.  It is electrifying.  He might jump off the ceiling, I don’t know.  We’re going to have to see if the church can allow him to jump off, especially with all these church policies.(laughs) 

We’re looking forward to this recording.  It’s scheduled to be released around September. We’re going to have a great time of Praise and Worship right to the next level.

CH:  You’ve spent time in very special regions of the country like Detroit, Atlanta, and now most currently in Washington-Baltimore. How has each area developed and prepared for that next stage in ministry?

BC:  I started in the Pentecostal church first in Grand Rapids and Detroit.  I got with the teachings of the Holy Ghost and the baptism in Jesus’ name, living right, holiness and all that.  Then I came to Atlanta, Georgia.  And, you know, they said I backslid because I joined the New Birth Baptist Church which only had 300 members when I first joined.  I started as a choir director and then Worship leader.

I’m now at the AME Church.  It lets me know that God’s spirit is pouring upon all flesh.  My pastor is Reverend Dr. Grainger Browning, Jr. and Reverend Dr. Jo Ann Browning and they’re Holy Ghost filled AME preachers.  They lay hands on you and speak in tongues and we praise God.  We don’t let the spirit get hindered in here on Sunday mornings.  This all helps you. 

Every time I stand before God’s people to minister, it’s an opportunity to fine tune the gifting of the anointing that God’s given me.  So I’m not nervous when I stand in front of crowds whether it’s for president or for TV or for whatever it is because I‘ve put the time in and I have enough of the Word in me and enough covering from my pastors that God has equipped me with everything I need to go forth and be a blessing with the ministry of gospel music.

CH:  Your church – Ebenezer AME Church – hosted a very special inauguration celebration on the day before President Obama was sworn in.  What was the mood and sentiment at that concert celebration and how has the inauguration of President Obama affected you personally as a minister, as an artist and as an African American male?

BC:  It has given us all a sense of thankfulness.  As atrocious and hard and barbaric as slavery was, with slaves and the ancestors coming over on ships and dying in the passage, not even making it to the country and others sold into slavery and racism and segregation and the Ku Klux Klan and all of the things that we experienced, it didn’t feel good, it didn’t look good; but when Barack Obama became president, God just confirmed that everything works together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. 

We are so proud that as the nation is changing, it has given us a renewed strength of hope.  We really can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength to do it.  I just look at that and I apply that to what it is that I do in my life. He’s going to give us fresh insight, new wisdom, new songs, and we’re going to be able to continue to go forward and sing and do what we’ve been called to do, as Christians.

CH: It would be easy to overlook the fact that you married a beautiful professional Christian woman in Dr. Sonya Windham Cage who’s been an anchor and a rock to your life and ministry over the past four and a half years.  How has marriage affected your ministry and added to the completion of your life both as a minister and man?

BC: Marriage is something not to be taken lightly.  God really honors the union.  I met her here at the church.  The Lord began to do great things for her by opening up her practice in 2008.   The Lord has just done some great and mighty things.  I think it’s just a testament that when your ways please the Lord and when you’re faithful to Him and you do what God has called you to do, He will elevate you and He will exalt you and He will bless you.

I think for both Sonya and I, the Lord has been exalting our ministry and I’m just looking forward to seeing the next level of what God is going to do, through her life, through my ministry and through whatever we’ve been called to do and whoever we’ve been called to touch, knowing that everything again works together for the good to those who love the Lord and for those who are called according to His purpose.

CH:  Finally Minister Cage, it must be an honor to be dubbed the Prince of Praise.  Could you give us some insight on what you do to prepare yourself for the responsibility and authority to lead the assembly of worshippers into seasons of Worship and Praise?

BC:  Worship has to be something that is such an intricate fellowship with God that’s done every day, as soon as when we get up in the morning. I don’t know about you but I get up at 4:30am and I pray in the morning.  That’s my time to talk to the Lord.  I have to do that like I brush my teeth or comb my hair or getting dressed or taking a shower; it’s something that’s so much a part of me that I don’t feel a connection to the Lord unless I have the opportunity to get into His presence.  I must worship before I come to church or before I stand in the concert hall. I’ve already been giving the Lord the glory of standing before Him in prayer, believing that what He desires that I do in each place can be something completely and entirely different. 

If you’re not sensitive to the fact, you’ll just go on your own strength and on your own ability and on your own runs and on your own special song but you’ll miss key opportunities to really minister with the presence of the Lord and not minister to His people because of your disobedience.  The word declares that where His spirit is, where His presences is, there is freedom, there is liberty to walk in your calling and to accept your healing.  That’s what I love about Donald Lawrence’s latest CD, The Laws of Confession, because it really does allow you to stick to the word and believe that God is going to be a promise.   

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