One of the world's top CCM singers, KATHY TROCCOLI rang the changes with her eponymous album. She spoke to Jan Willem Vink.
It took Kathy Troccoli five years to figure out what she was doing. After recording three successful albums for Reunion Records, Kathy Troccoli, one of their premier artists, took a long break. While recording her successful comeback, 'Pure Attraction', Kathy had to take care of her mother who was dying of breast cancer. Her new album, simply titled 'Kathy Troccoli', is the fruit of a much more relaxed recording process. It clearly depicts KT as the Christian romantic. Or romantic Christian?
"I feel very blessed that I was received with open arms back into Christian music," says Kathy. "In addition, I have been amazed at the opportunity to have my records heard on pop radio with 'Everything Changes' and 'You've Got Away'. The two past years have afforded me some things that I had only dreamed of in the past, - including the tour with Michael Bolton, opening for Jay Leno and one of the largest Christian tours in the States, the 'Young Messiah Tour'."
According to Kathy, her new album is much more mainstream oriented. "There is a song that I wrote with Bill Montvilo that is called 'My Life Is In Your Hands' that was just released on Christian Radio this week. We shot the video all over New York City and it turned out to be so moving. Also, 'Mission Of Love' and 'I Will Be There For You' will be played and promoted on Christian radio."
Already, Kathy Troccoli is getting attention in the secular charts. Comments Kathy: "I think hit songs carry the success of a record. I would only hope that this new project would continue the momentum. We are already getting a substantial amount of attention in Adult Contemporary Radio with my new pop single Tell Me Where It Hurts. This week it is number 29 on Billboard's AC chart and number 16 on Radio And Records."
When I ask Kathy if she sees any difference between the 'secular' and 'Christian' songs, she answers, "Yes, in that the relation between these songs is that I have experienced in my own personal life all of what these songs say, whether love songs or Christian songs. God is directly involved with every aspect of my life - my romantic encounters, my friendships, my worship experiences. I pray that God is always in everything I do."
"Mission Of Love" has become the national theme song for Teen Life, an American Catholic youth organisation with over 30,000 members. According to a press release, "Several Teen Life chapters across the United States are opening their weekly meetings listening to 'Mission Of Love'. Through Troccoli's music and personal mission of love, she is not only calling thousands of youth to worship on a weekly basis, she is also calling them to a life of ministry and service in the world."
'Kathy Troccoli' features an all-star cast of producers. Michael Omartian and Keith Thomas are most known for their work in Christian music, most recently on Amy Grant's 'House Of Love' album. Rick Wake has produced artists like Mariah Carey before and also produced 'Pure Attraction' for KT. Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff worked with Michael Bolton and Smokey Robinson and also produced Clay Cross' successful debut album 'My Place Is With You'.
Comments Troccoli: "I was excited to work with five of the most talented and gifted producers in the music industry. Each one contributed different aspects to the record. For example, Rick Chudacoff and Peter Bunetta brought out a sound to my music and my voice that fulfilled a long-time musical goal of mine. Michael Omartian put on an energy because of his ability to produce great pop music and beautiful orchestration. Keith Thomas recorded an amazing representation of my debut pop single, written by Dianne Warren, 'Tell Me Where It Hurts'. Rick Wake once again delivered a major up-tempo pop song written by Whitney Houston, BeBe Winans and Keith Thomas, 'Taking A Chance'."
The overall mood of 'Kathy Troccoli' is quite different from 'Pure Attraction'. "I co-wrote six of the 10 tunes on the record and I absolutely did want this record to have more up-tempo tunes," explains Kathy. "When people bought 'Pure Attraction' for 'Everything Changes', I'm not sure they got a lot of that up-beat element on the record. One of the reasons being that my mother was sick and dying while I was in the process of putting 'Pure Attraction' together. The new 'Kathy Troccoli' record is no less personal, but is less melancholy."
The difference between recording 'Pure Attraction' and 'Kathy Troccoli' is quite remarkable for the American singer. "I don't think I have ever made a record with as much peace and joy that I had in making my self-titled record 'Kathy Troccoli'. I recorded a lot at Amy Grant's farm in Nashville, which was very beautiful and serene. Also with Keith Thomas, I was working in a great studio in the historic, small southern town of Franklin, Tennessee, which provided a relaxed atmosphere to work. Not having to go from a hospital to a studio is naturally a burden lifted off the recording process of my new record. Of course, I would love to have my mother share in the making of this record, because she was such a champion of mine."
It was Kathy's mother that had always believed in her daughter becoming a singer. Josephine Troccoli shared her house with her daughter in the five-year interim period, while Kathy taught voice lessons, sang at weddings and occasionally gave a small concert. Her mother kept occasionally asking her, "Aren't you going to make another record?" She would pinch her in the cheeks and say, "My Kathleen will be somebody."
When Kathy eventually started planning her comeback, her mother got diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially, Kathy was reluctant to record again. Her first thought was to pray, her second was to postpone her album sessions. "I told my mother, I've waited this long, I'll wait some more,'" Kathy told an American journalist. "I won't go for my chemo if you don't do the record," was the firm response of her mother.
"I miss my mother every single day, but I always think of her as very much alive," reflects Kathy. "The hope of eternity and walking with Jesus every day allows me to do that. He has been faithful to provide me with surrogate families, a prayerful and supportive sister and loyal and loving friends who fill the loneliness that I feel some days with Mom being gone."
Kathy told CCM: "Going through the death of my mom, going through that whole, episode single, I don't have parents' and seeing how God really does provide for the fatherless and the widows... I've seen God's faithfulness coming in ways... I had my agenda on how I think he should come in my life. But he's come far more beautifully and far more powerfully than I could have ever hoped for.
"It's still a journey," says Kathy. "But I feel like I'm far more into the high places than ever before, yet never forgetting what the valley feels like. Ever."
Being single doesn't prevent Kathy from singing romantic songs. "I desire to be married and am anxiously awaiting the man God has for me. Ever since I was a kid, I felt very deeply. I would watch old movies with my mother and was drawn into the romance of the stories. I don't think you have to be married to know what it is like to long for, to want to be known, to know what it is like to share your life with someone."
Presenting a wider scale of subjects in her songs has benefited her Christian work as well. She has seen tangible results as to how her pop success could draw people into the church at a recent concert in her hometown. "A couple of weeks before the concert, my friends from church would say, 'Kath, I asked some of my friends at work if they would like to come. I said, "You know, that girl who sings 'Everything Changes'? Well, she's singing at my church Saturday night."' And these people would come and they would just be amazed that they heard contemporary Christian music, let alone Jesus, spoken about in that way. And so a lot of people came to know him that night.
"When I get the chance to share and play in Christian environments, my desire is to be as compelling as Keith Green in his ability to start fires of faith and action in the hearts of God's people," comments Kathy. She has stated before that she would quit music if she weren't living for God anymore. Kathy comments: "I think I can say that first and foremost, I hope that my public life is not different from my personal life. A quote I put on the liner notes of my album are from Oswald Chambers: 'May my worth to you in public be what I am in private.' How I stay focused is two things, direct accountability with a couple of close friends and my church family on Long Island, New York. I think all Christians need to have people around them who will be honest and encourage them in all that is right and true."
Of course, Kathy leads a life outside music as well. "I love antique shopping, going into little out-of-the-way stores and finding unique, old, beautiful things. I am continuing to decorate my home with these treasures. Also I have been reading more and more in the last year and a half and I find a great deal of enjoyment and calming moments when I read. Some of my favourite books include Barbara Taylor Bradford's Woman Of Substance and Lavryle Spencer's November Of The Heart. My favourite Christian author is Max Lucado. I just finished reading He Still Moves Stones and have begun to read excerpts of that in my concerts."
It is very clear that Kathy's background is Italian, though she has never visited Italy. "I have wanted to visit Italy for a very long time. In fact, I would often dream about taking my Mom over there (my father passed away when I was in High School) since my grandparents came from Naples and Bari. Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to go together. I have to tell you though, this will be a dream fulfilled, to go to my homeland in what I hope is the not too distant future. My Italian background influenced my upbringing in many ways. I love being around family. I'm a lover of people. Part of my heritage was interacting with extended family, every day of the week, which brought a great deal of joy and dimension to my early years. In addition, I believe my Italian background has given me the fervour for life that I possess, the passion and drive and intensity. Feeling so deeply has caused me to feel great joy but also great pain. I wouldn't trade any of it."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.