One of the architects of anointed worship music is Fred Hammond. Dating back to his groundbreaking musical memento called The Inner Court, nearly 20 years ago, Fred found a niche that met the spiritual appetite of the empty and unsettled Christian.
It should come as no surprise that two decades later, Hammond would return to the music that made him a pioneer in the worship genre. That project would be appropriately entitled, The Worship Journal. Adding to his many ventures designed to deliver a powerful blow is the ongoing musical extravaganza entitled The Festival Of Praise tour.
The two titanic projects on his plate are evidence that Fred Hammond is still in full effect. BlackGospel.comspoke with the man-with-a-plan about the big tour and taking his craft as musician, producer and singer very seriously.
Christopher Heron: Fred., why did you decide to revive the Festival of Praise Tour?
Fred Hammond: It’s not so much of a revival as it is a continuation. It’s annual. We’re already planning Festival of Praise 4. We’re on Fest 3. Fest 2 was great. We’re trying to get people who love Gospel to be ticket buyers. We’re trying to get them used to quality and a high production event.
Christopher Heron: The 2016 line-up has been amazing with contributions by Karen Clark Sheard, Hezekiah Walker, Israel Houghton and Donnie McClurkin…why did you add Casey J, Regina Belle and even Earthquake to the mix?
Fred Hammond: Here’s the deal. We like to add a little young blood in what we do which balances the line-up because we aren’t dead, but we’re older. There are some young women and men we want to minister to as well. Last year we featured Zacardi, there was also Jessica Reedy. We like to infuse new blood into what we’re doing which adds a great element. We’re also trying to pass the torch.
Christopher Heron: Your brother – Ray Hammond – has always been your right-hand man, your business partner, your project coordinator…he’s always in the mix. Do you share similar visions or do you have to sometimes clash and work it out to get back on the same page?
Fred Hammond: No, we have one vision. One vision doesn’t necessarily mean creatively you won’t have differences. I came up with the theme of Festival Of Praise and he did the ground work. He got the personnel, he ordered the trucks and buses and the stage. He puts the framework together and I paint the picture. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make it home.
Then this year, we did a game event on a boat, it was Family Feud, it was me against Kirk Franklin, it was so funny and intense. I’m talking about the audience was running around laughing, screaming out answers, trying to get it right, it was crazy and when we got back home, we knew we had to figure out how to create that atmosphere in the Gospel tour. So, now we have game nights. People are on stage, winning prizes, we sing, we praise, we dance, it’s theatrical, we hope it works.
Christopher Heron: The Worship Journal is your first live album is over a decade, why so long?
Fred Hammond: I’m not just a singer. I’m a musician first and foremost. I have the heart and spirit of a musician, I am a musician in every sense of the word. My instrument of choice is base. I don’t play that much, but I still think from a musician’s point of view. Secondly, I’m a producer, and then third I’m a singer. When we do live events, I don’t get to be as creative. In the studio, I can play and have fun. When it’s live, I have to give the creative process over to other people, and that’s cool, but I do that a lot in our live shows. As a singer, I’m old school. My voice is old school. Therefore, I study my songs. I go in the studio, I craft every note that I want, I think about it a lot.
I look at someone like Kim Burrell. I recorded with her one time. I just sat back and I was amazed. Same with Zacardi Cortez. I wish I could do what they do but I’m old school and so I have to stick with the melody. I record all my own vocals. I have choices. These days my daughter is in the studio with me. She has the vocal gift these people have. They just sing and I’m like, ‘’How do y’all do that?’’ I love the creative process and live recordings take 65% of that away from me.
Christopher Heron: Tell us about that steady transition in your music to worship music. It’s a long way away from the sound of albums like Pages Of Life and Purpose By Design.
Fred Hammond: This is Fred Hammond. Honestly, you have to go to the album, The Innercourt, that’s where urban worship started. Years ago, it was just choir music, it was praise, it was inspiration, but then urban worship started. If you go back and listen to The Spirit Of David and The Inner Court and songs like I Yield and Holy Holy and The Communion Song or praise songs like Glory To Glory, you will hear a heart of a worshiper.
When I was young, I went to a Baptist Church in Mount Clemens, Michigan, and there were times the pastor would get up and say, ‘’All right everybody, turn your hymnals to page 238.’’ And we’d all stand up with our little hands behind our back, and we’d sing, ‘’Leaning oh leaning.’’ and the whole congregation would sing, there was no worship leader. The pastor was just the one who told you where to go in the hymnal but we all sung together, songs like, ‘’And he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am alone.’’ That’s what this album is about. If you notice, it may be 2 or 3 of the 12 songs where I sing, but everything else everybody is singing on the album. That’s what I want. I want everyone singing.
Christopher Heron: So, you’re one of the forefathers of worship music but how do you account for this insatiable demand for worship music? Is it just the season for worship or is there something more going on?
Fred Hammond: I think there’s a change. There’s always going to be a demand for worship music. If churches are singing your songs across America, then you have White and Hispanic Christians singing it. Churches are always looking for something to sing, something brand new. I come from the Quincy Jones School of thought. His thing is ‘hang your art up on the wall but give people what they want’ meaning I’m going to give you what you need.
The stores that do well are the stores that sell what the common person needs. Walmart has 75%-80% of the market because you can get everything there, and that’s why they’re successful, and that’s what I want to be. That’s probably why I lasted, I love to give people what they want. When I left Commissioned – that was the coolest group in the world, I went to choir music. Look at the choir music back then. It’s what was happening, and I said I want to give people what they want.
I want to tell every artist you can stand up and let people see your art in Gospel. You may find it difficult. People are having trouble even if they have money in the bank, people are looking for a reason to keep going. Their lives are torn apart, families are torn apart, jobs are lost, kids are having trouble and the country is in turmoil. Should you stand or sit for your country’s anthem. We’ve got to do something. Black Lives Matter. People are looking for something to say, ‘’Can I get a break? Somebody tell me that it’s going to be okay.’’
That’s when you’re going to minister to people.Go to the person who can hardly sing, make something that they can sing driving down the street. Something they could sing when the co-workers are getting on their nerves. People want to sing with you, they don’t want to watch you. I guess that’s probably why I lasted so long.
For all the real information on Fred Hammond, including his discography and tickets to the Festival Of Praise, visit the premier portal on the digital global village for Fred @ www.realfredhammond.com.