Home / Artists / Interviews / Jermaine Dolly talks church & Jesus, music, ministry & more. | @JermaineDolly
Philly Soul is back like a bullet train…and the high-octane locomotive is called The Dolly Express, a mix of music crafted by the rail conductor, Jermaine Dolly, an affable, amusing, Philly native that knows a thing or two about music and social media. Under the tutelage of Tye Tribbett, Dolly witnessed firsthand how to bring the Bible to the boyz in the hood, as a member of Greater Anointing. Now, as a bold disciple of the Gospel too, Jermaine is proclaiming Jesus, his own quirky and charismatic way.
On the heels of his breakthrough, chart-topping singles, You & Come And Knock On Our Door, Dolly has delivered an album that’s designed to connect with both thugs and theologians, social media mavens and church matriarchs. It’s music for millennials, where ole skool soul and powerful praise collide to the delight of the listener. With such a big personality, there was little doubt that Jermaine Dolly would make our exclusive 1-on-1 for BlackGospel.com a homerun.
Christopher Heron: As a Philly native, which is your go-to team? The Eagles, the 76ers, the Phillies, or the Flyers?
Jermaine Dolly: The Phillies. At least they’ve won in the last 10 years.
Christopher Heron: [laughs] That’s the truth. Did the music scene in Philly have an impact on you as an artist?
Jermaine Dolly: Most definitely. I love Musiq Soulchild and Jill Scott, Boyz 2 Men, but I really wanted to be part of State Property growing up, with Beanie Sigel and Freeway.
Christopher Heron: You worked closely with Tye Tribbett and Greater Anointing. How did that experience impact you?
Jermaine Dolly: At that time I was out of church. Then when he came out and I was like, ‘’Wow, this happens in church? So I can do this in church?’’ His style gave me a right to be free in my worship. When I was singing with Tye, I didn’t want to be an artist but over time, he got me into reading the Word and a prayer life. Tye always related everything back to the Bible. I didn’t understand a lot in the King James Bible, so I would text him scriptures and say, ‘’What does this mean?’’ and I guess he got tired of me texting him so he got me the Message Bible for my 21st birthday and that made a huge impact on who I am today.
Christopher Heron: Your breakthrough single, You, is smooth, original, and true Philly Soul. Did you always have this melody in your head?
Jermaine Dolly: Yeah, I most definitely had this melody in my head. I used to sing it to Tye Tribbett all the time. Before I got saved, I used to run the streets a lot in Philadelphia. But then I got saved and then I became the Jesus guy in the hood. Everybody used to call me that. I have a friend who writes and directs movies. I was looking at his life and it was going really well. I do comedy on Instagram and I’m thinking he’s going to put me in a movie when he finally calls me. So he came over to my house and first thing he asked me was, ‘’Why are you always happy?’’ We had a 2-hour conversation about Jesus and after that is when the song came out. ‘’People always ask me why I’m always happy and never down, why I’m always laughing and how they never catch me in a frown.’’ That’s how the song came about.
Christopher Heron: You’re other song, Come And Knock At Your Door is really out-the-box. Where did that song come from?
Jermaine Dolly: Again, I’m the Jesus guy from the hood. I find that people are intrigued as soon as I talk about going to church. Everybody I know hates church. They say, ‘’I don’t like church because it’s full of liars. There’s fraud in the church.’’ but when it comes down to it, I say, ‘’You’re absolutely right, that does happen in church but do you have a job?’’ ‘’Yeah, I’ve got a job.’’ Then I say, ‘’Do you like everybody at your job and would you let them stop you from getting a check?’ I tell them, ‘’Don’t let anybody stop you from getting the love of Jesus Christ from church.’’ So that’s the way I wrote the song. That’s my way of putting a positive vibe back on church, which is putting it back on Jesus Christ. My goal is trying to make the church and Jesus Christ a cooler place for Christians. I’m just trying to change the narrative. That’s all.
Christopher Heron: Was this album inspired by the success of the singles or did you always have music that you wanted to share with the world?
Jermaine Dolly: Oh no, this is music I had to share with the world. This is music that came from Jesus Christ. Here’s what happened. The Dolly Express is a movement. It’s not just an album. The Dolly Express is about everybody getting on this train and following me as I follow Christ. I’m an independent Gospel artist with an independent label that teamed up with Fred Jerkins of DarkChild Gospel.’’ When we first came out with the song, You, it was an underground sensation on social media. I want to be very clear. When we first went to radio, we were rejected a million times. People told us, ‘’No, this doesn’t fit our format.’’
Christopher Heron: So were the gatekeepers of Gospel out of touch or they just didn’t see the vision behind the music?
Jermaine Dolly: The gatekeepers had no choice but to play the song. Then it went 44 weeks Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs. I still got told no. A lot of organizations still told me no. Then the next single, Come And Knock On Our Door comes out and they did the same thing but the people wanted it and now it’s been top streaming song on iTunes in Gospel music. Now I was still getting told no, but God told me, ‘’Assignment before accolades. I’m calling you to reach a generation that has nothing to do with the gatekeepers. Don’t worry about that. I’m going to get you through. I just need you to follow my assignment.’’
Release Date: May 19, 2017
The song, You, was not your typical song but I still lift up the name of Jesus. Success can happen if you put Jesus Christ in front of everything. The Dolly Express is me saying, ‘’This is what I do. I put Jesus Christ in front of everything.’’ Truth is, the people that are on top of the Gospel music aren’t even Christian. So they don’t get it. What they see is that you’ve got your Top 20 songs in Gospel music and it’s all Worship songs. So that’s what’s making money for them and we have to play them. So, when they hear a song like, Come And Knock On My Door. they’re not going to get it right away because they feel that the song doesn’t fit the mold. But when you put Jesus in the mix, there’s nothing they can do. Radio thinks that the new generation is all about Worship music, so they keep that in the forefront. Hear me good. I have no problem with Worship music. Tasha Cobbs, Travis Greene, I have no problem with them at all. But here’s the thing, that’s authentically who they are.
Christopher Heron: So what’s the essence of your message in The Dolly Express? Where is The Dolly Express taking us?
Jermaine Dolly: The Dolly Express is taking you to places where Jesus Christ is leading me. I say follow me as I follow Jesus Christ. It may sound very simple but it requires much. If you want to follow Jesus Christ you’ve got to be in the Word, you’ve got to have a prayer life. I’m encouraging people to put Jesus Christ first. We live in a generation where we’re slowly taking Jesus out of Gospel music. You’ve got people that don’t want to consider themselves Gospel artists because it’s got a negative connotation.
I just want people to know that The Dolly Express is saying, ‘’You can have Jesus Christ and be successful. You can scream Jesus Christ’s name and still be popular in pop culture without compromise. You can still be an independent Gospel artist, with no major label, have Walmart and Target supporting you all over the world all because you thought to put Jesus Christ first.’ That’s what’s The Dolly Express is about. It’s good music on top of everything else, so you can’t go wrong.