Sounds Of New Wine: UK gospel's Lawrence Johnson gives the background

Wednesday 17th April 2019

Tony Cummings spoke to Lawrence Johnson about the SOUNDS OF NEW WINE album emanating from the London megachurch

Continued from page 2

Lawrence: No doubt. It brings you together. I love R&B and soul, but there's something about gospel music seems to pulls you together. You can be in a place with your friends and they're crying. Why are they being so emotional? It just hits the heart. It's not based on colour or gender.

Tony: Was the album recorded live?

Lawrence: Yeah. We recorded live at our church, and we went to America to mix it in America. A great friend of mine, John Jaszcz. He mixed Commission's album. He's an amazing guy - he's 65, based in Nashville. He does Israel, he did Kim Burrell - all those guys. He just understood vocals. When I was doing this album, the first thing I was thinking about is I need someone who understands vocals from my perspective. We went over there - myself and Goz-I-Am, the producer - and came up with this album. He was amazing. We released it November last year, so it's still quite a new project to most people.

Tony: It's much easier technically to record an album than it was in the days when I did a couple.

Lawrence: Definitely. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time watching The Hawkins. The Hawkins and Andrae Crouch were my mentors. They recorded their live albums in four or five days. They'd take the best of each day. By the time you go in the studio, it's very little. What I find now, in a lot of live albums, they do one live day then spend 10 days in the studio. So now it doesn't sound like a live album. We recorded old school, over seven days, then went in the studio to do some fiddly bits afterwards. The first day we had just us on our own, then on the Friday and the Saturday we had the audience, so it feels like a real live album.

Tony: From what you've told me, "God Of The Impossible" is a lyric very close to your heart.

Lawrence: It's a big song. It's the one song that's been able to connect with everybody. It starts with acoustic guitar, it's very clear, and the words say, 'What they meant for me, you said no.' That says it all. The chorus talks about "God of the impossible," and by the time you hear the end of it, it's a mixture of Christian into gospel. The song works in that way. We build up, it's going, and the energy is amazing. It really just says what God is. "There's nothing you can't do." Sometimes you have to wait, though. As Christians, we want to see things happen quickly. When I was a kid, I wanted to work with Michael Jackson, Prince - Prince was interested in working with Nu Colours when we first came out, but Polydor didn't have the money - and Disney. I waited till I was 57, last year, and that door opened. Sometimes it's about the waiting process. God knows why. So when you are given that opportunity, you'll be ready.

Tony: Tell me about some of the other songs.

Lawrence: The title song, "The Siege Is Over". As I said, we feel like we've been under a siege. If you watch a boxing match, at some stage they've got to block - they've got to put their hand up, put their shield up. At some stage in life, you've got to put your shield down and start attacking - you've got come back out. I felt like this is not just a thing about New Wine Church. We as Christians have this resilience. It could be a job - you're too old, you're not good enough anymore - but even in the Christian field people push back and you feel, "Maybe I'm not needed anymore." The words of the song say "the siege is over." We've got to start coming back. I realise that experience is a good thing. I like to mix experience with youth. I like having young people around me, keeping me young. I've got the experience of 40 years, so I can teach the things I've learnt, and I can also teach the mistakes I've made. This song, "The Siege Is Over", is a high-power, high-energy song - very American-based, very choral.

The other song we have on the album which I think is really strong is "Release Your Faith". I auditioned everybody to sing the songs, and the guy who did the audition did a really good job, I thought he could definitely do the song. So I said to the person, "I want you to sing this on Sunday," because our recent pastor had cancer. But he said he wouldn't be in church that Sunday. So I went to a girl and said, "Candace, can you do this song for me?" I knew she'd gone through a really difficult time: she'd just lost twins. I said, "I need you to sing with all that pain you've been though." I was quite deliberate about what I was saying, and that Sunday she sang that song with all that pain. I remember people standing up - the pastor was the first one up with his hands in the air. I was like, "She's singing that song." It was like, "Give me all your heart," and that's what she did. That's a very powerful song. She's expecting again, and I'm so pleased for her. There's another song on there, "Yes I Will", which is kind of like a hymn. It's sung by a close friend of mine, Alfred. It's a song that says, "Whatever you want us to do, we'll be there."

Tony: I blame Billboard magazine for the problem of describing music and the madness that if it's black it's 'gospel' and if it's white it's 'Christian'.

Lawrence: I was talking to a friend of mine, Les Moir. I go to America, and in my mum and dad's church they're singing "Here I Am To Worship" like reggae. We take Christian music and do our own stuff. What I was saying to Les was we don't hear the mainstream artists doing what Noel Robinson or Mark Beswick are doing. I don't hear that coming back. We just love songs. We take songs and sing them in our churches. I would love to see more of a synergy of songs crossing over. Gospel artists come in and give you all we've got. I was able to sing on a guy called John Fleming's album. Great album. We're great at coming in and singing on other projects, but I would love to see some of our songs sang in predominantly white churches. These are songs you can do in any way. CR

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.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.

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Reader Comments

Posted by SEGUN ADEYI in Kent @ 12:06 on Apr 20 2019

Trust me, New Wine Church has been through, and arguably too, what no Church has never experienced! The Church lost their two Senior Pastors within a space of Five Years. Devastating is an understatement. Having been a member of New Wine Chuch even before the Church started, I know what I am talking about. I can only hope the songs will help heal the pain as much as possible.

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