| © Copyright 2010 MannaScript LLC
Reproduction or republication without publisher’s written permission is prohibited.
George Huff: From Poverty to American Idol to Kingdom Ambassador
By Shamerra T. Brown
To say that George Huff is a singin' Southern gentleman is a meager
understatement. He exudes joy when he shares his turbulent ride to his current
destination. You'd never guess George had a past that would make anybody want
to call it quits and turn to a life of mediocrity.
On the flip side, after finishing the third season of American Idol in the Top 5,
George is grounded enough to take it all in stride. Perhaps it's his poverty-stricken
childhood in New Orleans. Maybe it was the humbling experience he endured
when he had to drop out of college after three years of studying music, to wash
dishes in the school's cafeteria. Whatever the cause, George Huff is certainly
bringing a full deck to the table.
To his delight, George is watching his dreams play out like a movie. But, as
MannaScript discovered, it didn't come easily. Even when things were going well, it
seemed like the goods were literally snatched away from him.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, spirituality and music became integral
parts of his young life. George frequented the local church circuit--his uncle would
become his taxi as George was often invited to sing. After abruptly leaving New
Orleans for what he assumed would be a better living at Oklahoma University,
George discovered that the grass wasn't greener in Oklahoma either. Things
looked promising at first--when he arrived at the school, he slept in his car for two
days, auditioned for the music department and got a scholarship on the spot. But
George soon fell on hard times again when funding wasn't renewed and he had to
take a job on campus.
Then there was American Idol. He auditioned for the show, believing it was a
directive from God, only to be rejected--and then later approved by the outspoken
Simon Cowell, the hit show's scrupulous talent judge. After finishing that season
and its subsequent CD and national tour, George found himself back in New
Orleans, facing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. After their possessions were
destroyed, he eventually had to relocate to Dallas with his family.
Now, with a debut CD (Miracles, Word 2005) under his belt, the baritone vocalist
has a lot to say. In an in-depth interview, George Huff opens up about what's on
his mind and how it really felt when Simon said “no.”
Shamerra T.Brown: George, why Gospel music?
George Huff: Well, where your heart is, that's where your treasure will be. No
matter where life has taken me, there's a seed that's been planted in me from a
child growing up. I started singing Gospel as a child. The first song I ever learned
was, “Safe in His Arms.” Growing up in the church is the reason why, 25 years
later, I would do a Gospel album. That's where my greatest influence came from.
People like Daryl Coley, Vanessa Bell, Vickie Winans, and then the choirs like
Milton Brunson, Thomas Whitfield. Those are the people who impacted my life and
inspired me to do Gospel music. So, that's why Gospel. Only what you do for
Christ will last. I find that a lot of R&B singers are starting to sing Gospel, or come
back to their roots. And I sort of “went out,” but since my run is over with
American Idol…I said I'm coming back and I don't plan to leave. The Lord has
opened great doors for me.
STB: When you were in school struggling, did you think you were headed for
certain failure or were you seasoned enough by then to trust that God would bring
it all together?
GH: As I was going through, trying to pay rent, go to school full time, working full
time, I did feel like after doing everything I knew to do to survive in the college
setting and it didn't work out for me, I felt that I was going to fail, after things didn't
work out the way I expected them to work out…I said, “Lord, you have a plan, now
what is that plan?” And after coming to a place of stillness, I began to talk to God
and seek direction. But, at the same time, He was requiring things from me and I
was to dedicate myself to service.
STB: What kind of service?
GH: The Lord asked me to join the prison ministry. So I was going to the prisons
twice a week, to sing and pray for the men and women, and then I also started the
Oklahoma University Gospel Choir. This was all in that year of turmoil. And I said
to the choir, if this is what the Lord wants me to do for the rest of my life, then I'll
do it because I want what He wants for me. So I continued to seek God and I talked
to my pastor. All things work together…no matter what you're going through,
whether you think it should work the way you want it to work, the thing that seems
like it's not working in your favor, it is actually working in your favor because of
purpose. When you accept the call, and you understand purpose, things work out
for you. Because the Lord said to me, “You understand that if things don't go the
way you want them to go, or if you don't make a million dollars and you don't ever
become famous, you understand why it is that I called you to do what it is that you
do, and that is to serve.”
STB: With the year that you were going through with school and financial
difficulties, did you find it easy to obey God (because of your relationship with
Him)? Joining the prison ministry, starting the Gospel Choir, trying to get
scholarship money…knowing that you had other goals is pretty amazing.
STB: Nah, you got it…
GH: That's the hardest thing because a lot of people don't know the full story, but
this is so good that I get to talk to you…I'll write a book one day, but I have to tell
you it was not easy. Even though I know Scripture, it wasn't easy being in a place
of unfamiliarity, not knowing what was coming up next but at the same time saying,
“Lord I trust you, even though I can't see my way…” It was so hard because it's
easy to have faith when we can see and everything is going good, but the minute
the Lord allows things to be removed from you, He then asks, “Do you trust me?”
STB: In the midst of obeying during this challenging time, did you still kind of have
in the back of your mind the things you wanted to achieve?
GH: Yes, I had in the back of my mind what my true desire was. The Lord gives us
all gifts and there's a dream that He puts inside of us. Vanessa Bell has a song
that says, “Show me the desire of my heart,” and at the end of the song she says,
“You are the desire of my heart.” As long as I continue to make Him the desire of
my heart, that thing I long for, I'm bound to accomplish everything that is set
before me and to reach the divine destiny that God has set before me…I
remember, during that year, I was in my apartment, seeking the Lord in prayer, I
began to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” about five times. This one time I stood up singing it
and the Holy Ghost just knocked me down on my knees and all of a sudden,
Shamerra, a cry came out of me…Then this peace came in the room and I was
talking to God just like I'm talking to you. So I said, “Lord, what is it that I'm
missing?...Because I don't understand it. What is the key to getting what You have
for me?” In that moment, Scriptures started coming…Wealth of the wicked is laid
up for the just…Our Father which art in Heaven...Beloved, I wish that you prosper
and be in good health, even as your soul prospers…The Kingdom suffereth
violence, but the violent take it by force. I said, “Lord, how do I get it, what do I
do?” I was struggling with that because my mind wasn't on wealth, it was on
Heavenly things…but [through Scriptures] there's a wealth that I'm supposed to
have here on earth, as well as in Heaven. And I was praying to the Lord about
American Idol, which was the weirdest thing because I didn't even think the show
was real, even though I saw Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard win. I thought
about the Scriptures again and something in the pit of my stomach released me to
audition for the show. I knew it was God. So this happened to be the week before
auditions and I talked to my family and my pastor and got on the Greyhound,
headed for Houston.
STB: As a singer, you've never thought about being on American Idol before that
day in prayer?
GH: No, never. When I talked to God that day, I knew that what I felt was Him
talking to me. I got to Houston and there were 3,000 people in the line outside,
days before the auditions. And then there were another 7,000 inside the building.
Shamerra, I slept on concrete for three days!
STB: What was going through your mind while you were waiting?
GH: Oh I was ready to go home, because I said, “There's no way…what are the
odds…this doesn't make sense.” A friend of mine convinced me to stay in the line.
So I finally got in to audition--I had on my glasses, my cap (I'm a nerd) and this
fake leather coat! I sang, “You Are So Beautiful to Me.” I advanced to the
executive producer audition and then from there I auditioned for Simon and
Randy, Paula didn't show up. Randy was cool with me, but Simon said, “George,
you can sing 10 million songs and it's still a 'no' for me.” I was like, “Come on
Simon,” and he gave me another shot and I made it to the Hollywood audition, was
sent home and later got a call to be invited back. The same Simon who told me I
was not the ideal American Idol, later chose me to be on the televised show. So I
competed on the show and ended my run in the Top 5.
STB: How did it feel being on display to be criticized for a gift that you've been
operating in for most of your life?
GH: Being that it was done on national TV of course I was more afraid because
they called out everything I hated about myself...
a break from
at a benefit