Top gospel singer, Frank Edwards, in a recent interview with newsmen, opened up about the intricacies of his career, marriage and why money making and gospel music don’t go hand in hand.
According to the popular singer if one wants to make money, by doing gospel music, then the person will have a lot of issues.
“There are so many reasons. Firstly, you have to understand that the industry and ministry is not the same thing. Gospel music is a ministry, the other one is an industry, so it functions fully like that.
The gospel ministry is totally different from the secular industry even though you might say that there is a business side of it which makes it similar. But in gospel ministry, the business aspect of it is never the focus.
I tell people that if you want to make money, don’t do gospel music; you would have a lot of issues. Gospel music means one is reaching out to people through music; the others are strictly entertainment or at least 70-80 per cent entertainment.” He said.
Read excerpt from the interview:
What led you into gospel music?
I come from a musical family. My dad was in the church choir, so I followed him to rehearsals. I developed the love for playing the piano at the age of seven. Initially, I didn’t love music enough to become an artiste. As a matter of fact, my dad never wanted me to become one but music just overwhelmed me. I wanted to be a pilot.
How far did you go with your pilot ambition?
To be honest, I didn’t go far at all but I still want to go for it. I may not work with an airline afterwards but I still want to be a licensed pilot.
Why are gospel artistes rarely used as brand ambassadors or influencers?
There are so many reasons. Firstly, you have to understand that the industry and ministry is not the same thing. Gospel music is a ministry, the other one is an industry, so it functions fully like that. The gospel ministry is totally different from the secular industry even though you might say that there is a business side of it which makes it similar. But in gospel ministry, the business aspect of it is never the focus. I tell people that if you want to make money, don’t do gospel music; you would have a lot of issues. Gospel music means one is reaching out to people through music; the others are strictly entertainment or at least 70-80 per cent entertainment. The company would rather give the opportunity to musicians who sing songs that all religions, including Christians, would dance to, either at a party or in a club. Because the companies are looking for numbers, they would give the brand ambassadorship to someone who everybody loves their music. If the companies give it to gospel singers like me, people who don’t listen to gospel would probably not pay attention. Although I’m a brand ambassador, it is not everything that one must do as a gospel artiste. When you are not getting endorsements, think of how many souls you music has healed– that’s your reward.
Are there contracts that one should not sign as a gospel artiste?
The answer is yes. You have to know what you want to represent. Although anybody can choose to represent anything but note that whatever brand ambassadorship one takes on must not be anti- what one believes or represents. That should be one’s first yardstick of taking brand ambassador deals. For example, my body has zero tolerance for alcohol, so I can’t be a brand ambassador for makers of alcoholic products, no matter the money involved.
Why do you think young people, even some who claim to have started in the church, prefer doing secular music to gospel?
This is why I do some things as a young gospel artiste. I have met a lot of youths who have opined that gospel singers are broke people. But one can’t say that, if as a gospel act, one is still trying to operate with the industry’s law– it won’t work. So, one would be frustrated because android software cannot work on an IOS device. If one is in the ministry and one applies industry rules, one would struggle or be frustrated but if one abides by the rules and laws of God, one would see things works for one without stress. I’m a gospel music minister and I’m not going to change anytime. I’m not broke or hungry and I didn’t have to cut corners. God blessed me because I focused on everything that I should focus on and He added everything that He promised me. As a matter of fact, some people wanted me to compromise. They made me offers and promises but God told me if I ignored them, He would give me double of everything they promised me. Most of the things I do is to send signals to people who think that gospel musicians are hungry people. It is not true. For example, I don’t really drive because I’m always on assignments but I love cars and I love to help people.
I buy any car that I like. I don’t want to call myself a philanthropist because I’m much more than that and I’m not just doing it because I have money to do it; I love to help people. We are not hungry people. God always brings vision helpers to make the work easier. If Pastor Oyakhilome didn’t teach me some things, I would probably be struggling now. I have studied some things about the music industry and I would still go to Harvard Business School to study more.
Some gospel singers hawking their CDs at bus stops may not have a business recording a song yet but rather need some basic training and foundation to excel. As a gospel singer, one must get it right and that’s a lot of work. If one’s music must be on demand, it must be meeting a need. When people want to worship, need encouragement, are down, broken or going through tough phases, they must find healing and solution in one’s music. But one needs to have content, to have studied and been in a place of prayer for one’s songs to have such power on them. Alcohol would not give one that.
Gospel music is not about shouting and entertaining, the words one says matter but secular songs are all mostly about the rhythm. As a matter of fact, when people need real healing and solution, they come to gospel music. Imagine if one is sacked at work, or has house rent issues, I bet the person wouldn’t get home and start dancing to beats; the person would rather go and look for music that would elevate the spirit. When real needs arise, then one would see the importance of gospel music. Frankly speaking, it wasn’t always rosy for me too. I had financial challenges but it passed because I was focused and I chose to stay.
What has your music done that shocked you?
It is uncountable. People have been healed of brain tumours. A barrister saw me at the airport and shared the testimony of our he was healed of brain tumour. He said he went in for the surgery and was playing one of my songs, Mma Mma on repeat while the operation was going on in the theatre. This was about three years ago and till today, the man has been perfectly okay. He sends me messages almost daily. There have been different testimonies like that. It’s just great to know that God honours himself through one’s music.
What are the challenges facing the gospel industry?
One of the biggest challenges that I think is getting gospel singers to understand that they are in a ministry and not in the industry. It is getting them to know that they are not the same with artistes in the secular industry. A lot of people do things shabbily without putting a lot of work. Some gospel singers look ‘anyhow’ when they are invited to minster, forgetting that the way one represents God matters. One doesn’t have to buy the most expensive things, one should just dress neatly, take time to work on one’s music and make the right videos. Some feel that since it is gospel music, anything goes. Young people should relate to our sound, so we don’t lose out on them. Give them the sound they want with the right message. However, in trying to be lively, don’t be irreverent. Don’t infuse carnal words because it is what is reigning.
Some people say gospel singers should not sue for copyright infringement, do you agree?
The gospel is free but one still has to buy a Bible. On the issue of suing, I personally would never do that because I find it irreverent. Someone once informed me that a transport company had been using my songs for promotions and playing it in all their parks. When the company reached out to me to ask what they could do to use my songs officially, the Holy Spirit directed me to tell them, “Thank you for using my music to extend the gospel.” But if God had told me to collect money from them, I would have; even though someone I don’t know had sued then on my behalf. But it would have been proper if they came to take permission before using it. However, we have laws in Nigeria and there are laws that cover copyright, I think that should be respected. You should, at least, write the owner of the song before using it. It’s not that I’ve never had reasons to sue people but I pray about it and settle it.
How do you socialise?
I only socialise on social media. I’m an introvert, so it’s either I’m in the studio recording or I’m studying. I find social media very interesting because that’s where I get to interact with other people, hear their views and all.
How does your ministry affect you as a young unmarried man?
In this ministry, if one wants to avoid scandals, one has to be strict. One also doesn’t want to offend God. With me, purpose and ambition are more important than marriage. When one has a vision and purpose, marriage helps these things. To be honest, I wish I was married before now but I know God would help me through it. I really want to get over with it this year. I need to leave this club; it’s no longer fun having to slip into the kitchen in the middle of the night to get something to eat. My ministry affects me sometimes and at times, it doesn’t. For example, before one marries someone, one needs to know the person and speak to the person but a lot of times, I don’t find myself in the cycle where I meet people. Even if I find myself there, there’s always this gap. A lot of times, one is also being careful because one doesn’t know the one that one would talk to and would say, “Oh, man of God.” There is a way people see us, forgetting that a man of God would also get married. How would a man of God get married if he doesn’t ask for numbers? However, this year, I have made up my mind to break the jinx. I grew up in a very spiritual background but I had to work on myself and loosen up.
How do you get inspiration for your songs?
I don’t write songs. All my songs are 100 per cent inspired. I start to hear the full music in my head and spirit and I pick my phone to record what I’m hearing or jot down the chorus and lyrics, so I don’t forget, Then, I begin to work on them. It’s a supernatural thing that one can’t explain to another human being; one has to experience it.