One of the more cerebral and insightful artists to hold a mic for the sake of ministry is tenor extraordinaire, Ted Winn. Though his reputation is firmly rooted in his vocal tone and texture that slips effortlessly from his lips, Ted is gaining new traction for his outspoken views on the direction of faith-based music.
Winn is on a bit of a war path for the preservation of Gospel music as a rich legacy tied to African-Americans. As an artist, Winn would love to see a more committed connection to the pioneers like The Hawkins Family, Andrae Crouch and Don Moen who penned timeless songs that’ve stood the test of time.
On his new album, Stand In Awe, Ted applies his zeal for songwriting with his genius for ripping songs to shreds. The result is a collection of exquisite tracks that stay with you long after the album concludes. BlackGospel.com engaged Ted Win about his views and sentiments on his favorite singers, the process of songwriting and the slippery slope Praise & Worship presents.
Christopher Heron: Are there a couple of tenors you absolutely admire and love?
Ted Winn: That would be Stevie Wonder and Daryl Coley.
Christopher Heron: If there was one all-time favorite recording choir you’d love to join from any era, which choir would that be?
Ted Winn: That’s the easiest question in the world. That would be Rev. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers. I am their biggest fan ever. I literally found out they were having a reunion concert the night before it happened and I bought a ticket and flew to Chicago to see it. When I was a teenager in Memphis, I would drive an hour and a half to watch them in concerts. I’m a diehard fan.
Christopher Heron: You’ve developed your brand as a notable vocalist singing with Sheri Jones-Moffett. You also record a wonderful duet with Lisa Knowles on the latest project. Is there one female vocalist from any era you’d love to share a duet with?
Ted Winn: It’s Brandy. I’ve met a lot of people in my life like Aretha Franklin, and a bunch of folks. Brandy is the only person I’ve met and was literally shaken when I walked away. Ever since I was young, I listened to her and she’s very specific about what she does, the details, nuance, and vocal approach.
It’s so unique, specific and effortless and it really affected me as a singer. Brandy came out in the mid-90s. We’re talking 20 years. I was speechless. I don’t even know what I said. I just mumbled. It was quite embarrassing.
Christopher Heron: You’re also a masterful songwriter who pays homage to greats like Andrae Crouch and Walter Hawkins. Why do they still resonate with you, in an era where they’re quickly being forgotten?
Ted Winn: It’s the music that shaped and peeked my interest as an artist. I feel the music is timeless. It’s unique in its expression. I think the originality, the quality and the clarity is what really sticks with me.
Christopher Heron: You also launched Veracity Entertainment a few years ago. Was this a reflection of your passion for songwriting or was it to manage the business of songwriting?
Ted Winn: I think it has to do with the passion I have for songwriting and being a business person. The company was born out of me helping a songwriter collect royalties who didn’t know the process. I educated myself as a songwriter about my own missteps.
I wanted to empower other songwriters who were making the same mistakes. Some people say experience is the best teacher. I think the experiences of others can be a teachable moment, so you won’t have to make the same mistakes.
Christopher: It’s 2017, eight years since your debut album, Balance. Why was there such a long pause?
Ted Winn: [laughs] To be fair, 2009 to 2011, I was promoting the album. Then I started writing for this album, starting around 2012. What also happened is that I really started building my company. That took a lot of my time, energy, and resources. I was watching the landscape of the music industry change. I wasn’t really inspired, to be honest. I’m just being candid.
Everything moved to variations of Praise & Worship. It’s just not artistically interesting to me. It doesn’t inspire me to sing or write. When I hear a Richard Smallwood or Don Moen song, it makes me write music. When I hear a worship chorus, it makes me want to worship and maybe have a good time in church but not really create.
Christopher Heron: Very interesting! You opened up a Pandora’s Box. Is this a reversible trend?
Ted Winn: I don’t know if it needs to be reversed. I’m going to say this so that what I’m saying makes sense. Part of what happened is that this new expression is interpreted as better. It’s being interpreted as more spiritual and pure. This next point is where I’m going to get a lot of attention. It’s what happens all the time with Black people. We assimilate to ‘whiteness’ and think it’s better, and it’s not.
Gospel music is a creation from Black people. I think we should embrace all of it. People perceive it as a pure form of worship in expression to God. For me, that’s troubling. Hopefully, more artists will be inspired to produce Gospel music, in the future. It’s a part of why I did the kind of record that I did.
Christopher Heron: So how would you define the style, sound and format of your latest project, Stand in Awe?
Ted Winn: It’s a legitimate Gospel album. That’s the response I’ve gotten. You just can’t listen to my songs halfway through. It’s not repetitive. It’s art. You have to listen, study, and learn before you teach. That’s how I grew up. You could never anticipate where a Richard Smallwood song was going. You have to really learn music.
There are so many incredibly talented young people who are bursting with creativity. I don’t want people to hear only certain expressions and think you have to dumb it down. People should be liberated to create the kind of art that they want to and know people are going to embrace it.
Christopher Heron: Let me end with one final question. Stand in Awe, who is this album designed to minister to?
Ted Winn: My goal was for this record to speak to people who love and appreciate Gospel music. My hope is that people will listen and be moved by the lyrics but also be inspired to create whatever it is that they feel is organically unique to them, whatever that sounds like for them.