Gospel lovers know Isaac Carree as one of the soloists in the John P. Kee & New Life Community Choir and founding members of the beloved trio, Man of Standard. In the past three years he has branched out on his own to release two solo album, a decision, he says, was challenging. “I’ve enjoyed sharing the stage with other people so it was hard for me to branch out on my own,” he tells ESSENCE.com.
We caught up with Carree during his recent visit to New York City to talk about his latest album Reset, working with the new guard of gospel music and his mentors in the business.
ESSENCE: Your latest single “Clean House” features R. Kelly. Why did you choose him?
Isaac Carree: He chose to do it. We didn’t seek after him. He heard the song and he wanted to be a part of it. I’m not going to say no to R. Kelly. It did have that little R. Kelly feel to it anyway so everybody was doing the comparisons, so when he said he wanted to do I was like, ‘Okay cool.’ Let’s give the people what they’ve been talking about. I think it’s great to show that even R&B artists have that spiritual side and he wanted to show his version of how God cleaned him up and give his testimony. I thought it was amazing.
ESSENCE: You’re calling your latest album Reset. What are we resetting?
Carree: Resetting your life, your goals and dreams. At the end of the day everybody goes through situations in life and sometimes you miss out on things because of your fear. “Reset” means you can press that button and start over again. And it’s good to know that when you’ve gone through so many problems in your life, you can always just press a button and God will give you a second chance at it. I think that’s good for everybody because everybody needs a restart or a reset. So that was the motivation behind the title of the album, to inspire, uplift and encourage people.
ESSENCE: You pulled the new generation of gospel singer, like Lecrae, Le’Andria Johnson, to feature on this album.
Carree: Yes, because there’s a new wave going on. There are new voices and faces in gospel music that need to be introduced. No knock to the veterans or the ones who get all the love, but there’s a new regime coming up and there’s going to come a time when people are going to have to pay attention to the Le’Andria Johnsons, to the Kierra Sheards, to the Lacrae’s, the Isaac Carees and James Fortunes. I felt like I wanted to display who they were outside of their own records. I think it turned out great.
ESSENCE: Is there any tension between the old and the new gospel artists?
Carree: No, absolutely not. They’re like veterans that are passing the torch and they’re so gracious about doing it. They’re affording us the opportunities and platforms to be heard and seen. They tweet about us and support our records, so no tension at all. Its just time that we as a generation bond together to leave a legacy for the next generation to come. Donnie McClurkin says it the best. He says this generation of gospel singers have displayed something that no other generation has ever done. The support and camaraderie. There’s no jealousy, envy or competition, just rolling and rocking it out together.”
ESSENCE: You honored Donnie McClurkin at ESSENCE Festival. Is he someone that’s very mentor like to you?
Carree: Absolutely. Uncle Donnie has been a great inspiration to me. It’s more so what he does behind the scenes¬–the encouragement, tweets, texts, the conversations about life and being a better person. Also, Kirk Franklin is one of my mentors. There are so many people who pour into me and who have helped develop the man, the musician and the character of Isaac Carree. I applaud them for that and I don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and ask them questions or if I need to be refueled I’ll hit them up. They’ve always been so gracious.
ESSENCE: You’ve been doing this for almost a 25 years, what are some of the things you’ve learned about tenacity and believing in the gift that you’ve been given?
Carree: I believe that serving pays off. A lot of my career I’ve always been in a position where I’ve been able to help other artists. I started my career with John P. Kee; I traveled with my own group Men of Standard, serving with the guys. For the last nine years I’ve been on the road with Kirk Franklin. So I’ve always been lending my gift to help someone else’s career or helping their movement become bigger and I’ve never had a problem with that. Some people are looking for their moment and their opportunity, but I’ve enjoyed sharing the stage with other people so it was hard for me to branch out on my own three years ago and do this because I didn’t want to. I was so comfortable in my comfort zone and when I did it God just reminded me that he’d get back to me and that I’ve been faithful and now he’s given back to me. Those are the tools I’ve learned. Just stay humble, make sure you’re in a position to serve others and when you think people have forgotten about you God always reminds you that he’s always remembering and watching.
Isaac Carree’s album Reset is out now.