Gospel star Vashawn Mitchell on his latest album, and working with Fantasia.
When you hear the name Vashawn Mitchell, chances are you immediately think of his massive hit “Nobody Greater.” It’s been two years since “Nobody” made him a bonafide star in the Gospel community, and he’s ready to have another go at number one with his latest album, Created 4 This. Mitchell took a moment from his duties as choral director at Atlanta’s Higher Living Christian Church to chat with ESSENCE.com about the pressure to top “Nobody Greater,” getting Fantasia to feature on his album, and finding success in his 30’s.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve said your new album, Created 4 This, builds off the sound of your older works. What does that mean?
VASHAWN MITCHELL: I’m very clear that I cannot duplicate what God did with Nobody Greater and Triumphant, but what I could do is build off the sound. For this record we built a body of music that would inspire people coming out of a recession, going back to school, and just getting their lives back together. The songs were created to empower, encourage and inspire people to recognize what they were created for.
ESSENCE.com: You recorded it at your alma mater, Thornton High School, earlier this year. What inspired that?
VASHAWN: Thornton is a performing arts high school in Harvey, Illinois and the auditorium really doesn’t feel like a high school. It’s perfect for a recording. Going home to record wasn’t a hard decision; I just didn’t realize the auditorium was going to be too small for all the poeple that wanted to attend. The auditorium holds 1700 people and I think we squeezed like 1800 people in there.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve included an affirmation in the album notes.
VASHAWN: I make up an affirmation every morning. It may be “This day is going to be great day” or “Nothing will block me today.” With every great calling there is a great attack so I try to block the negativity in the atmosphere. I believe when we pray to God we should also put into the atmosphere what we want to happen that day. I wanted to share some type of affirmation for everyone so that they don’t only listen to the record, but that they could understand what they were created for.
ESSENCE.com: Fantasia came along to record the song "Potter's House" with you at that auditorium. Did you know each prior to this?
VASHAWN: We had met before. When I was getting ready for this record I knew I wanted to collaborate with a mainstream artist and I know she’s one who always wants to be in touch with her Gospel roots. So I just took a shot and reached out to her management. We recorded “Potter’s House” live. It was great. A few months later she invited me onto the stage with her at the ESSEENCE Music Festival to sing “Nobody Greater” in front of 50,000 people. It’s been a great developing friendship, and I’m just glad that our spirits connect as well.
ESSENCE.com: After the success of “Nobody Greater,” did you feel any pressure to try and top it?
VASHAWN: I felt the pressure at first and found myself trying to write every song like “Nobody Greater.” But once God showed me the direction of this record, I realized I could not duplicate that. The pressure left me. People still want to hear “Nobody Greater” but I believe this record will have a life of it’s own.
ESSENCE.com: What’s been the funniest place you’ve heard “Nobody Greater”?
VASHAWN: Freeport, Bahamas. [Laughs] “Nobody Greater” to an island beat is the best in the world.
ESSENCE.com: You became successful in your 30’s. What can you say about realizing your muscial dreams at that age?
VASHAWN: I’m glad it happened in my 30’s because had it happened in my 20’s I probably wouldn’t have been ready for it. I would have messed it up worse than some of the mistakes that I’m making now. At the Stellar Awards a few years ago Marvin Sapp said, “I’m glad God did this when I was ready.” I always look back on that because I really believe that being successful and traveling the world and becoming this person everyone knows – I believe I can handle it better in my 30’s.
Vashawn Mitchell's album Created 4 This is available on iTunes.