Fred Hammond is the voice of gospel music. He recently received a major distribution deal with Universal Music Christian Group and released a highly anticipated gospel CD/DVD, “Life in the Word.” Hammond’s work is so musically captivating, “Word” debuted at number two on Billboard’s Top Gospel Album Chart, giving Fred two CDs in Billboard’s Top Gospel category — his earlier album “Love Unstoppable” is still holding strong at number six. ESSENCE.com: Congratulations on your distribution agreement with Universal Music Christian Group. What we can expect to witness? FRED HAMMOND: People can expect to see the foundation of gospel music. I’m putting myself in a position where I don’t have to sell a billion records. I want to broaden the scope of gospel music. You can also expect to hear jazz, as well as other surprises. ESSENCE.com: Can we look forward to some collaborations with other artists through your label. If so, who? HAMMOND: Yes, absolutely. As fHammond Family Entertainment grows, you will see some great collaborations coming. Kim Burrell and Lalah Hathaway are two artists I would like to collaborate with, as well as other artists. ESSENCE.com: How vital is sacrificing in order to reach the level you’ve reached as both renowned gospel singer and owner of fHammond Family Entertainment? HAMMOND: I gave away my publishing during the ’80s because I wanted to make it appealing for a record company to sign the group. I gave and the Lord gave back to me. In the 1980s many people thought giving away my publishing rights was a dumb move, however, it paid off for me because my catalog got bigger, due to my sacrificing. That move helped me to get more back from the Lord in the long run. I sacrificed, in an effort to get back. ESSENCE.com: When did the desire to own your own label manifest? HAMMOND: In 1995, in the group Commissioned, we talked about owning a label, but it seemed far-fetched at the time. Over time, owning a label became obtainable; presently it’s easier to own your own label. The only question at this point is, who’s going to have a successful label? I put my name on the label, so you will understand the music will be quality and trust you’re receiving quality, because my name is attached. ESSENCE.com: Do aspiring gospel artists really understand the commitment and dedication it takes to build a solid career? HAMMOND: Many artists are deceived. They believe they will attain greatness, wealth, and accolades because someone likes how they sing. It takes struggle to attain greatness. Within the realm of gospel music you have to want to serve GOD and do the job, even if no one knows your name. Gospel music is about GOD first and not art first. I am not interested in understanding what a new artist think they should know. My experience in the industry has shown me what the artist needs to know. You have to have a heart that wants to serve. ESSENCE.com: How does “Life in the Word” differ from past projects? HAMMOND: It’s a praise and worship devotional, which means we have scriptural interludes and spoken-word segments. Also this project is different because when the CD is purchased, it contains a DVD that features six songs displayed in a concert series format. The six songs are memorable classics. ESSENCE.com: What inspired the scriptural interludes and spoken-word segments heard throughout “Life in the Word”? HAMMOND: I wanted to put the “Word” in the music. If the title is “Life in the Word” then you should receive the “Word.” ESSENCE.com: Gospel music has played such an intricate part in the healing of people, especially people of color. How does it feel when people approach you and say that your words and music changed their life? HAMMOND: That’s my Grammy. That’s my award. I would rather they say; I was in prison or I wanted to commit suicide and your song saved my life. That’s more rewarding than someone saying that I’m a great singer. ESSENCE.com: Fans are amazed by your ability to connect with both older and younger generations — how are you able to connect the gap? HAMMOND: I record a broad spectrum of music styles that can appeal to anyone. Although, I appeal to my generation and older people first. However, if you make the music right, the younger generation will connect to the music. ESSENCE.com: What does Fred Hammond enjoy doing for fun on a day off? HAMMOND: I go to the lake and spend time on my boat. I enjoy fishing. I ride my motorcycle. Also, I enjoy climbing up mountains with a dirt bike. Spending time with my family and friends is rewarding also. ESSENCE.com: What are your go-to Scriptures when you need a pick me up? HAMMOND: Philippians 4:7 and Hebrews 5:1-4, which reminds me I’m not a perfect person but GOD called me anyway. ESSENCE.com: Would you like to speak about the significance of the song “Dwelling Place”? HAMMOND: My mother died. It was written inspired by my mother. After her passing I didn’t want to do anything anymore. The song speaks about how I felt and what was my remedy. ESSENCE.com: To the men and women struggling to find their purpose in the world, what do you say? HAMMOND: Understand GOD. You have to understand GOD; he really is a good guy. He understands the struggle and nothing you do surprises him. God knows how the story is going to end. God knows everything and he will still love you. God wants you to keep trying; he doesn’t want you to give up. ESSENCE.com: Do men with spiritual strength intimidate women? HAMMOND: It’s the opposite. I think women are drawn to men with spiritual strength. I think that’s what they want first. I think women believe if a man is spiritual, he will be able to lead. ESSENCE.com: In ten years where will fHammond Family Entertainment be? HAMMOND: My hope is that it’s a successful company that will broadened the scope of the music business and provides people with the tools they need for everyday life. Books, movies, and anything else that can provide healing for everyday life. ESSENCE.com: Any book projects? HAMMOND: I am writing fictional novels. The first story is dealing with a male attorney who is etched in a lot of pain and GOD is helping him to get through the mess that he has created. When people read it, they will see how GOD helped the character to transform his life.
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