Q&A: Kim Burrell

Kim BurrellGospel music legend Kim Burrell, the vocal mentor for BET’s wildly popular Sunday Best, has amassed an impressive record of accomplishments that ranks among the all-time greats in any music genre.  With a voice regarded by many people as being matchless, Ms. Burrell is affectionately known as “The Voice.”  Over the course of Pastor Burrell’s career, she has collaborated with a diverse constellation of artists, including Harry Connick, Jr., R. Kelly, George Clinton, Shirley Caesar, Stevie Wonder and many more.

On September 4, 2015, Burrell will release her sixth album, A Different Place.  Thank You Jesus (That’s What He’s Done),” the lead single from A Different Place, is steadily climbing gospel music charts.  The album promises to deliver the classic vocal prowess and power fans of Kim Burrell have come to love.

SoulTrain.com: What was your reason or reasons for naming this album A Different Place?

Kim Burrell: Since I last recorded, so much has happened in my personal life that I didn’t feel that down through the years so much of my personal pains, experiences, and issues could be filtered into my music without offending the listener. But I got a different perspective when I experienced so many losses—from losing Whitney Houston to my stepdad and my mother—all within two years. I found out that you cannot hide truth, especially for a person who is honest like me. Now, I’m singing from a different place, a revealed place, a much more transparent place. I’m also not just singing as Kim Burrell, the artist, but I’m singing from a different place as Kim Burrell, the pastor. I’m singing as a pastor, from a pastor’s perspective and heart—even in my projection. So, there are many instances that have happened that have caused this album to be called A Different Place.

SoulTrain.com: In reviewing A Different Place, the dominant themes seem to be worship, praise, gratitude, faith, grace, trust, and patience. Are there any other themes in this album?

Kim Burrell: I think you have covered them for the most part, and I thank you for being that attentive and sensitive. I would add believing in God. By adding that to the list, that will make it complete.

Kim Burrell_A Different PlaceSoulTrain.com: What, if anything, distinguishes this album from your past albums?

Kim Burrell: For one, this one took a total of two years really. Because of life’s circumstances, I just couldn’t consistently do this record—that’s one of the biggest differences. My approach to the songs has been far more intentional. Being a recording artist and talented, you can just go in and just kinda make it happen. I was so much more intentional and purpose-filled. A lot of time was spent talking because I had to detox through conversation and meditation. This album contains songs that I traveled and sang but never recorded.

SoulTrain.com: What challenges did you experience in developing A Different Place?

Kim Burrell: Outside of adjusting to my own personal pains and losses, just having to be away from my child. I travel a lot and he’s an only child and I’m a single parent. Although he is well-taken care of with great people around him, spiritual people around him, one of the biggest challenges is being gone away from my baby a lot. Then, not being able to bare it anymore bringing him along and watching him pretty much live in the studio for a few days with his mom during the summer. Other than that, it was pretty much smooth sailing.

SoulTrain.com: In creating this album, where did your inspiration come from?

Kim Burrell: My life, traveling, interacting with different people, and having life experiences and meeting them head-on. You know, this album was very intentional from a perspective of wanting people to really get the message, and the truth of the spirit of this record.

SoulTrain.com: In your view, how will consumers benefit from listening to A Different Place?

Kim Burrell: Just as you said, “Listen.” If they take time and just listen to the record—not just for the enjoyment of the groove or beat—but listen to the heart of what I’m saying. Listen to the lyrics, listen to the pattern of the music—for the musician—listen to layout of the music. Listen to the work that was put into this record, and they will benefit greatly.

SoulTrain.com: What do you hope to accomplish with this album?

Kim Burrell: That all that will have a listening ear will hear it, and that it will be received in many worlds, many nations. That it will go into several different countries because of one thing: music is universal. And then, of course, the interpreter, the master interpreter, which is the Holy Spirit, will take this record into lives, homes, ethnicities, and religions and cause there to become a common thread of enjoyment across the world.

SoulTrain.com: What separates A Different Place from other current gospel music albums?

Kim Burrell: You know, it would have to be happenstance because I don’t necessarily listen for the sake of taking that approach. I just think that my way of singing and delivering is just different from everybody else’s, and that alone stands by itself. I didn’t say I’m the only artist, but I’m saying I have a distinction in my sound.

SoulTrain.com: In the future, are there any artists you have not worked with that you would like to collaborate with?

Kim Burrell: Yes, I would like to collaborate with Erica Campbell. I think she has a very unique approach to music. I think her voice and tone is at a very special nature and I love it. I would also like to collaborate with Prince. He is one of my biggest feats. I want to get in that studio with the infamous Prince and create some very heartfelt music. I think Prince has the ability to worship God because we all do. But his approach to music is that of a worship form, even his music itself without the lyrics is a very powerful movement, and I pray that the Lord will bless me to be able to do that one.

SoulTrain.com: In your view, what is the current state of gospel music? Are you generally pleased or generally displeased by the majority of the work currently on the market?

Kim Burrell: I’ll say I’m concerned that gospel music is losing—those putting it out now—its authenticity of the message of Jesus Christ. I feel like it’s being compromised in some way. I feel like an approach is being taken from a very non-traditional perspective, but it is causing the tradition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be compromised, and I’m praying that we won’t get caught up in the sound of gospel and forget about the message of gospel. I’m not displeased; I am a bit concerned—and hopeful at the same time. My interest is in making sure that gospel music artists are governed by God so that we don’t lose our direction.

SoulTrain.com: What have you not already accomplished professionally that you would like to accomplish?

Kim Burrell: I would like to do a world tour. I’d like to do Asia, a lot more of Africa than I’ve done before, I’d like to do a lot of Europe, I’d like to do Brazil, and I’d like to do far more Third World countries touring with a full band and the singers and all. I really want to do mission work because I want to touch so many lives.

SoulTrain.com: In your roles as vocal mentor on BET’s Sunday Best, what do you enjoy the most? What is your greatest challenge as a vocal mentor?

Kim Burrell: Watching them develop, watching them mature, watching them form into a better and strong them. I enjoy watching them come to rehearsal to the stage—that’s the biggest highlight for me. After we’ve spent time together and they tell me what their interests are and then they attack it in rehearsal, and then I see them come on stage and conquer it, I’m like a mother that cannot hide her happiness. The greatest challenge is watching people sign-up to become better and then get there and think they already are without the help. I’m so eternally grateful for those who have come before me. I respect the legends. I love Walter Hawkins in his grave today. I love Albertina Walker, I’m in awe of the Clarks, I’m in awe of Thomas Whitfield, I’m in awe of James Moore, and I’m in awe of all of these contributors, so when I see people, especially the younger generation, show up and not know the legacy of where they come from and not recognize and respect it by being ornery and uppity and being so caught up in their gifts that they forget about those who gave them a reason to even be there, that does kinda rub me the wrong way.

SoulTrain.com: We have numerous hurting people across the world and people who have suffered and endured great losses and tragedies. What message do you send them today and what message does A Different Place offer to them?

Kim Burrell: It offers what I feel is the spirit of the Scriptures. Romans 8:28, “For we know all things are working together,” and I explained this when I was on Lift Every Voice’s taping this past Sunday. We are worried about things working out, but the most important thing for me is that we know. What makes you know that it’s going to work out? There’s no way you can know unless you have confidence in what you’re trusting. My interest is in people knowing that I sang about a God that I know about—that’s what’s inside of A Different Place. For I know that all things are working together for me because I know Him, and I know Him to be a God that never fails. I know Him to be a God that answers prayer. I know Him to be comforting God. I know God to be the beginning, middle and end. I know Him to be the protector. I know Him to be the God of the divine. I know Him to be the God of miracles. I know Him in many experiences. And so, that’s what I want people to know—know what the core of knowing is. We are to interact with Him and reciprocate. We are to give Him as much as we can. He is God—He cannot be topped. We have a responsibility to interact with Him, and give him obedience and give Him time. We are to let Him know how much we love Him, and keep ourselves open to Him. God inhabits our praises—that II Chronicles 7:14 person.

SoulTrain.com: Any final message you would like to communicate?

Kim Burrell: Love God but live God.   

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels is a Research Associate in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He blogs regularly for his cultural commentary blog, Revolutionary Paideia. His works have been featured widely in academic journals and popular online publications, including Mused MagazineFrom Ashy to ClassyThe Black Man Can, and Healthy Black Men Magazine. He’s a Writer for Lunjeal Music Group, featuring gospel music star Jekalyn Carr. Follow him on Twitter at @paideiarebel.

One Comment

  1. This was an incredible interview. It was great to read and genuinely feel the passion and candor from which she spoke. The interview questions allowed fans, like myself, a more in-depth perspective into Kim Burrell’s music, intangibles, and love of God. Dr. Daniels, thank you for interviewing Kim Burrell and Mrs. Burrell, thank you for blessing our souls and hearts (the core of who we are) with your anointing.

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