Anthony Brown has quickly emerged as a principal player in Gospel music. Possessing a superior stroke for songwriting and a premium skillset in music production, Anthony Brown is the complete praise package. Brown‘s new album, Everyday Jesus, solidifies the new kid on the block as a bona fide worshiper with the chops to change the atmospheres in any church service.
With Anthony Brown‘s profile picking up steam this summer, BlackGospel.com sat down with the Assistant Minister of Music at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden and Tyscot Records reigning poster boy to discuss his new chart-topping album, his path to triumph and his everyday walk with Jesus.
Christopher Heron: Alright. I would like to begin with a little insight into the artist—the man on the stage. So let me ask you, as a Baltimore native: What are three things every visitor to Baltimore should discover and appreciate and fall in love with in your city?
Anthony Brown: Okay, there are a couple of things about Baltimore you have to know. Baltimore is a great city, number one. If you are coming to Baltimore, you have to head to Inner Harbor. Inner Harbor is a great place to hang out with family, to eat, to entertain. It’s a lot of fun, so first of all, go there. Second, I am going to say seafood. Maryland is the state for seafood, and Baltimore is no exception.
You can get the best crab cakes in the world. Lexington Market is where you can really go shop by shop and have some of the best food in the world. So seafood is number two. And number three, I am going to say…Baltimore really takes great pride in the Great Blacks in Wax Museum. It’s there to learn more about African American culture. Some of the most incredible wax figures in the world are right there in the heart of the city—the Great Blacks In Wax Museum. Those are the three things I think are really great. Come to Baltimore. You’ve got to try of all three of those.
Christopher Heron: Nice. Now when you have to time to pamper yourself or just relax, what are one or two hobbies, pastimes or activities that you enjoy doing?
Anthony Brown: Treat myself? Everybody who knows me knows I am a big kid at heart. A big part of me…of course I have to grow up and be an adult, but I am a big kid at heart. I love to go to amusement parks. When I am down…I mean, you find me a great roller coaster and I am the happiest guy in the world. That’s what I love.
Christopher Heron: Finally, what city do you consider to be your home away from home? A place where you love to vacation or just kick it for a few days?
Anthony Brown: You know what? I am from Baltimore. I am from the city, but when I can get away, I really love the vibe in Charlotte. For me, Charlotte is just the mixture of the slow country life. You want a big city, Charlotte is of course a big city. But I like the slow pace down there, and the fact that, when I go to the South, people are just so nice and genuine. And the way they treat you! It is nice for me to get away. So sometimes when I get away from the hustle and bustle, I will go down to North Carolina.
Christopher Heron: That make sense. Now, I am going to mention three or four names, and I want you to tell me what they mean to your music, your ministry and maybe to your relationship. First, Pastor John K. Jenkins.
Anthony Brown: Wow, Pastor John K. Jenkins is a father for me. Well, I still have my dad with me. I am so grateful for my dad. Pastor Jenkins is like a second dad for me. He has literally challenged me to be who I am still becoming today. He loves my gifts, but he is more interested in my person and my character. I trust him with everything and I love him. I am blessed to serve there at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. I don’t think I would be where I am today were it not for Jenkins.
Christopher Heron: I see. Interesting. How about Maurette Brown Clark?
Anthony Brown: Oh my goodness, everybody knows she is my mama. I am infatuated with everything Maurette Brown Clark. She is the epitome of a cheerleader and encourager. She literally let me stand tall on her shoulders. And she is an artist herself. It’s very rare to find an artist who is still relevant, and who would let somebody stand on their shoulders, on their platform, and push them farther than they can go. And that’s literally what she does for me. I love her. She is my mom.
Christopher Heron: So true. I can bear witness to that. I have known her for over 15 years, and coincidentally she sang at my wedding. I will always hold her dear in my heart. I am going to give you just a couple more names. As part of your crew—Vashawn Mitchell and Tasha Cobbs.
Anthony Brown: Oh man, you’ve got all my people right now. Everybody knows Vashawn and Tasha are my brother and sister. I came to the industry…you know, it can be a rough place. The ministry side is one thing, but the industry side is something totally different, and it can be a scary place, and it gets lonely as well. So Vashawn was really the first person that kind of like said, “Listen, I think I can help you to get a record deal.” And he literally walked me into my first recording contract, which is unheard of. “You are Mr. Nobody, but go ahead and get done what you’re doing.”
Having him look out for me along the way was huge. So he is still very much in my corner, and also one of my advice people. He gives me advice. He treats me like a little brother—like for real. We fight like brothers, but he has my back. And Tasha Cobbs is a blessing to the whole entire world. She is incredible. She is incredible as a believer and incredible as a voice. Nobody can sing like her. But she happens to be my friend and my sister. She is like my little sister. We talk and text. Sometimes we hang out when we are in the same city, and sometimes we hook up just to go to the city together. All three of us hang out and have a good time. So they are real friends, and I appreciate them.
Christopher Heron: Speaking of voices, your vocalists in Group Therapy are phenomenal. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t you an alumnus of the prestigious Morgan State University? Are any of your singers also from Morgan State U?
Anthony Brown: They are. They majority actually are, and that’s really where this whole ministry started. We would practice in the hallways of the Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State. It wasn’t like an official thing, like “I am starting a group here.” It was more like, “Hey you, you, you and you, meet me after class, let’s sing a song.” That’s really how it all started. And so now here we are, 15 years later, still together and still doing it. That’s how we kind of started at Morgan State.
Christopher Heron: Just to take it to another level, you have some very distinctive voices featured on Everyday Jesus. My favorite song, right at the top of the list, is Deserved with Gaye Arbuckle. But I also think of Crystal Rucker and Maurette Brown Clark. How did you hand select these particular voices for these very strong songs?
Anthony Brown: That’s a great question. First of all, I absolutely like these people. All of the people you mentioned are just incredibly distinctive voices. I have always been told my voice was distinct. I didn’t know how to take that, because I didn’t find anybody else like me, and I thought it was a bad thing. But eventually I learned that it was probably my greatest strength—that I didn’t sound like anybody else. These are the kinds of voices that I wanted to be leveraged into Everyday Jesus, so it wasn’t a matter of who was available for the song. When I wrote the songs, I heard particular voices and particular people, and had them in mind. So all of that was thought out, planned out, God-ordained—absolutely.
When I first wrote Deserved, I called Gaye Arbuckle, who was one of my favorite voices. I am like, “I want you to sing this.” And she was like, “Me?” And I’m like, “Yes, you.” I mean, I like people who are absolutely relationship driven, I love them in real life, people who I know on a broader scale. But man, you can’t deny once you hear it. I was just hoping that maybe these kinds of people would open up the door, the gateway, even in the streets. Because I believe in them and love them so very much. I don’t think anybody could have sung Deserved better than Gaye Arbuckle did. And Crystal Rucker on the song Free…she is classic. Crystal Rucker is a classy lady, and she delivered the song like it was hers. Everybody that sang the songs on the record, they sang like they were their own songs.
Christopher Heron: Wow. So what are the ministerial or professional lessons that you learned in the forerunner to Group Therapy? I am talking about Answered Prayers. Were there things that you learned along the way that prepared you for this professional ministry that you have now with Group Therapy?
Anthony Brown: Absolutely. A lot of the members of Answered Prayers are currently in Group Therapy. The change came with all of us, I think…we had some growing up lessons. Some of those lessons, really quickly, are that you have to invest and believe in yourself, even if nobody else does. A lot of people have visions. They believe in God, and believe that it is going to happen, but do they put in the work? Think about that. We can’t count on anybody else. When it comes to money, we must buy into what we want, and be willing to invest in ourselves. So that’s probably the biggest lesson we all learned.
Two, I learned what my wife told me the day after I had a break into the industry, which is that if this was not for me—if it was not God ordained, not my calling in life—I should go get a job. Run the other way. Don’t waste my time. That’s what she told me. It blew me away, but that was the best thing she could have ever told me, because I had to really search God for myself, and say, “Lord, I know what I want in my life, but what do you want for my life? If that’s what you want me to do, then I believe you will open the door.” That was my prayer, and still is. I say it everywhere I go, to anybody I am talking to. Just to put it in prayer. “You know, God, if this is for me to do, then open the door, and I’ll know it’s You. And if it is not for me, shut the door in my face and let me go to where your door is open for me.”
Christopher Heron: Great. I want to ask my final two questions. The first is…serving in ministry in praise and worship, as well as an artist—how does that help cultivate both your ministry and your music for Group Therapy?
Anthony Brown: Wow. It was hugely instrumental in helping to develop who I currently am as an artist, and how we handle Group Therapy. Stephen Hurd is an incredible worship leader, and I have watched him do it week by week for the past seven years. For me, that helped me to cultivate my own craft and sharpen my ability to not just sing, but to usher people into corporate worship. How do you draw people in, not to watch you sing, but to sing with you to the God whom we’re all singing about? It was really instrumental in that, and helped me get over the hunger for a platform. You know what I mean?
Like, a lot of people are hungry for a platform, and I used to be the same way. I wanted somebody to hear me sing. But I sing in front of 4,000 people every Sunday. I am able to serve them every Sunday, and I believe that God has a heart for the sheep more so than for the stage. I think that’s really important—that you don’t get overwhelmed with things like who gets to be on the platform, or pleasing people. Instead, you can use the platform to bring attention to the Father.
Christopher Heron: Nice. People are going to be pleasantly surprised to hear the development and maturation of your music in this next album. I know people were very, very pleasantly surprised with your debut project, but this is going to be even more of a surprise. How would you describe the advancements of your sophomore release?
Anthony Brown: Oh wow. First of all, thank you, Chris, I appreciate that. I think that this record…you hit it on the head. It’s a maturity issue. This time around I really wanted to unveil a little bit more of my intimate worship time, and hope that people will be able to gravitate and sing it for themselves. Vocally, Group Therapy has the ability to be something, but this time around I really wanted to get back to the simplicity of the lyrics of the songs, and the melody. And that’s what this project is going to highlight more than anything else—the lyrics and the melody. It’s all about Jesus for every situation in your life, whatever you are going through, wherever you are—there is a Jesus for that. That’s what this Everyday Jesus project is about. Wherever you find yourself or whatever feelings you experience, there is a song on this project that I believe will speak to your heart. That’s my hope, that’s my prayer, and I think when people hear it, they will hear that message.