An Interview with Anthony Nelson
Anthony Nelson’s gospel group, The Overcomers, has had an explosive debut album in the form of “Love Jesus, Love People”, and the gospel singer spoke to us about how things have changed since the group landed two top Billboard singles. For Nelson, whose career is only just beginning, the gospel scene has revitalized his devotion to his faith and has helped to strengthen the bonds of his family.
Nelson, who graduated with a B.S. from Southern University and A&M College, and an M.S. from Louisiana State University, is both humble and forthcoming about what makes his group successful and his process.
We wanted to find out how Nelson’s life has changed since launching the group, but we also felt it was important to look at his hopes for the future and see what makes this thoughtful singer tick.
Music isn’t something you normally equate to engineering, but they can be tangential. Both incorporate math, a sense of timing and form. So, how does an environmental engineer become a gospel singer?
It’s funny…music and math have a great deal in common and are tangential. Some self-taught artists, like myself, actually utilize basic mathematical knowledge of combinations and permutations to learn how to play different instruments. I believe that some of the best musicians throughout history were able to master the timing, form, chord progressions and other aspects of music through the application of math.
How does an environmental engineer become a gospel singer? I believe that God places several gifts/talents in each of us. It is up to us to obey God and to walk in righteousness, and I believe that you can discover those gifts over time. To be an environmental engineer, gospel singer/musician/composer/songwriter/producer and an author can seem overwhelming at times, but with great gifts comes great responsibility to help others.
What instruments do you play?
I play the keys, bass guitar and alto and tenor saxophones.
After your parents passed, you left the church. Yet you came back, not only as a singer but as a pastor. Tell us about that.
Everyone deals with grief differently. For me, as a somewhat introverted person, I sort of drifted away from church and became withdrawn. But, it was during the lonely times where I was able to meditate and to focus more on my relationship with God. Playing and composing music became very healthy outlets to deal with the mental and spiritual pain. Eventually, God led me back to church, where I became a minister of music and worship leader. And, from that point, I started recording music and never looked back.
The group members are all family, right? What influenced this decision?
Yes, the Overcomers include Melini Redditt, Lynn Burnett, Shalandra “Dee” Irvin and Michael Burnett. So, there are five total members, including myself. Yes, they are all family.
God influenced my decision. He just laid it on my heart who to choose for the group and it has worked out beautifully. Oftentimes, with groups of any genre, there is typically some chaos (i.e., money issues, egos, solo artist ambitions, etc.). But, I find that working with family members is much easier.
After your first album, The Overcomers had two Billboard hits. How has your life changed since finding this success?
Our first album, Love Jesus, Love People was critically acclaimed. Importantly, I think the album introduced people to our brand of sound.
Deeper (Billboard No. 1 Gospel Song) and Undeserved (Billboard Top 10 Gospel Song) were two singles that were released after the album. Both songs will be a part of an EP entitled Worship: In Spirit and In Truth that will be released in February 2018.
My life really hasn’t changed since finding success. Success can be very dangerous. I think that it is imperative to handle success with humility. I’m glad that people around the world are loving the music and allowing the words to minister to their souls. But, if I allow the success to go to my head, then I not only lose the hunger to put forth the best music but I am also being disobedient to God.
Many of your songs, especially Undeserved, have been described as very personal. What’s your writing process like?
I have to be alone to write. Songwriting is such an introspective process for me. Sometimes, I go to my music room late at night; sometimes I go to a bench in the park or to a beach. And, it is those different places and observations of nature and people that help me to write from different perspectives (i.e., first person, third person) and with various imagery. In my opinion, songwriting is not just about the catchy melodies.
Your music has a very modern feel, almost like an R&B ballad. Tell us about your influences, and how you blend these two styles.
My music does have a very modern feel. I actually blend stylings from several genres, including pop, folk, soul and R&B. Musically, it’s really not that hard to blend different stylings, as there are similarities between all genres. But, it is of the utmost importance that I ensure that the lyrics are Biblically and doctrinally sound.
As far as Gospel and Christian influences, I would definitely mention Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, Yolanda Adams, JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise, Hillsong Worship, Elevation Worship and Jesus Culture.
Have you been involved with any charities?
Yes, I am an avid supporter of Christian charities such as Compassion International, Feeding America, The Jesus Film Project, etc. I also participate in local food drives and disaster relief efforts associated with my church.
Where do you hope your music takes you in the next five years?
I hope that the music takes us across the world to minister to hurting souls. Whether it’s North America, South America, Australia, Africa, Asia or Europe, there are people yearning to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Anthony Nelson and the Overcomers New Album: Worship: In Spirit and In Truth
A brand new album from Anthony Nelson and the Overcomers is on its way. Entitled Worship: In Spirit and In Truth, the album is Nelson’s way of overcoming the often repetitive structure of Gospel music.
Worship: In Spirit and In Truth is built around the group’s #1 Billboard Gospel song: Deeper. There’s a lot to love here for fans of any genre, with a cohesive blend of the band’s signature sound – a mixture of soul, folk (acoustic) and R&B. Sonically, listeners will be pleased with the diversity and uniqueness in sound, song structure, melody, etc. Lyrically, and musically, this EP conquers the often repetitious nature accompanying worship music with words that challenge listeners to truly explore the meaning of worshipping God in spirit and truth.
Nelson comes from a place many can relate to. He’s an environmental engineer by trade, but the loss of his parents forced him to confront his relationship with God. This struggle was ultimately very personal: “Everyone deals with grief differently. For me, as a somewhat introverted person, I sort of drifted away from church and became withdrawn.” Nelson didn’t hold grudges or feel sorry for himself, instead, he focused his energy toward the good he could do with his life. “Playing and composing music became very healthy outlets to deal with the mental and spiritual pain. Eventually, God led me back to church, where I became a minister of music and worship leader.”
Nelson chose family to form the Overcomers. There can be a lot of drama and challenges when creating a band. When the ultimate goal is the message, the best way to wipe all that out, says Nelson, is by falling back on the loving arms of family. The Overcomers are Melini Redditt, Lynn Burnett, Shalandra “Dee” Irvin and Michael Burnett, and from the way Anthony tells it they are a group special to his heart and to his process. “Oftentimes, with groups of any genre, there is typically some chaos [but] I find that working with family members is much easier.” When Nelson started delving deeper into his music and exploring that part of himself, and that connection with his spiritual side, he turned to God for guidance. “God influenced my decision. He just laid it on my heart who to choose for the group and it has worked out beautifully.”
For Nelson, this upcoming album is as personal as all of his work. His process is very solitary, feeling the urge to explore more than just words. His music is often called “visual” for the impactful lyrics, usage of metaphors and imagery to build on his ideas. “Songwriting is such an introspective process for me. Sometimes, I go to my music room late at night; sometimes I go to a bench in the park or to a beach. And, it is those different places and observations of nature and people that help me to write from different perspectives (i.e., first person, third person) and with various imagery.”
The forthcoming Worship: In Spirit and In Truth is due out February 9th, 2018.