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Kim Burrell Interview
Kim Burrell Gives the World Her All …For the Love of God!
By Shamerra T. Brown
Ten years ago, music icon Stevie Wonder told a then-24-year-old singer that he
could hear God in her voice. At that defining moment, young songbird Kimberly
Burrell decided, “If a legend can acknowledge that he heard God in me, then I will
never do any other kind of music than Gospel.” And the world said, “Amen!” It’s
been a long while since we’ve heard from the proud PK (pastor’s kid) from
Houston. So when the artist with the golden voice decided to take a break and
open her heart in a rare exclusive interview, MannaScript was set to take it all in.
With jazz, soul and Gospel-infused productions, Kim has effortlessly set
uncontested standards in music. She is a sought-after composer, artist, musician
and producer, who is multifaceted both in ministry and the entertainment industry.
Since her first solo project, Try Me Again in the mid-1990s, Kim has shared the
stage with greats such as Shirley Caesar, Marvin Winans, Kirk Franklin and
earned the respect of musicians and artists in all genres. The Grammy nominee
and Stellar Award winner is also revered in colleges and universities throughout
the nation. She inundated the music scene with her critically acclaimed projects
Everlasting Life and Kim Burrell Live—churning out favorites like “I’ll Keep Holding
On,” “Holy Ghost” and “Everywhere You Go.” On the road, audiences can catch a
glimpse of Kim singing, playing instruments and preaching the Word. After
spending time with this gifted woman of God, it’s easy to grasp why everybody
Shamerra T. Brown: Kim, when did you develop your style? As a PK, you grew
up in the root of the church and I don’t know if you were allowed to listen to
anything other than Christian music, but you have influences of jazz and other
sounds in your music.
Kim Burrell: I was taught in my home to be original and my father and mother
were very open-minded. And although we had an extremely Pentecostal
environment, we were not necessarily banned from listening…well, Lord forgive
me because that’s not the truth—there was certain R&B [music] and things like
that, that we were not allowed to listen to, but it was OK for us to listen to other
kinds of music that was innovative, like instrumental, classical…but I didn’t grow
up listening to jazz and that’s not how my style was formed. I don’t really know
when, where and why God decided to give me the sound that I have. I think that I
just sing a lot of notes that happen to sound jazzy. That’s my understanding about
it because growing up I did hear certain kinds of Gospel music that, when I was
younger, sounded scary to me. I remember saying, “Lord, if that’s Gospel, I don’t
want to sound like that.” Now that I’m older, I have an appreciation for the content.
However, I think the Lord must’ve heard my prayer.
STB: Tell me about when you were ill as a child.
KB: Well from the ages of about 6 to 14, my body was stricken with double
pneumonia every single year and it would last three to five months at a time. I
would have to be home-schooled, my parents risked losing their jobs because it
was so rough on me. My lungs would collapse, and they would send me home
from the children’s hospital to die. But the Lord did heal me, after eight years.
STB: Were you scared, or were you so sick that you didn’t know what to think?
KB: So ill, there were a lot of times where I was hallucinating…and I just remember
apologizing a lot. There was one night in particular, my body was really going
through and I hate to be so explicit, but I was regurgitating out of control. I
remember saying, “I’m so sorry,” and I couldn’t stop. I remember being so
sensitive, even back then. I could feel that it was not only pressure on my mom to
see her child in this condition, but also I could feel the pressures of her own life,
having three other children, a husband, a home to look after and even a job. She
just burst into tears, “Don’t apologize, don’t say you’re sorry!” I guess that’s why I
spoil her so much now.
STB: Well that’s a beautiful thing Kim.
KB: Oh she’s so spoiled. It’s not beautiful, it’s sad! [Laughter] I’m just kidding…it is
a beautiful thing. But I spoil her out of her mind.
STB: What were your responsibilities at your parents’ church?
KB: When I was in church, daddy was pastor, mom was first lady, I taught Sunday
School, directed the choir and my mom would make sure that we cleaned the
church, and be the examples before anybody else would do it. I had a lot of
duties. I was the pastor’s daughter honey…My dad is now my biggest fan,
personally and professionally. He currently pastors in Vallejo, California…he
actually named his church after his favorite album of mine, “Everlasting Life
Church of God in Christ.”
STB: He must truly be your biggest fan then. How did growing up in a ministry
family have an impact on you today and the way you interact with people in the
KB: It created who I am today, especially the way I deal with people. We were
trained in our home and church to love people. Being the pastor’s children,
please, I wish we did have a problem with somebody! We could not react the way
other people would. It was the perfect training ground. I think that my greatest joy
is dealing with people; I know I was made for ministry so it does not scare me at
all. I’ve seen people rejoice, I’ve seen people cry, heard people confess their
biggest problems. There were people who came to our home and had to move in
with us because of their own personal problems. So, my life was given to that. My
dad, being a pastor who was well-known, there were times we’d hear that door
open at midnight and my dad would come in laughing, we’d know that was a
pastor in from out of town…we’d have to get up and fry chicken at midnight! It
prepared me for everything I do to this day.
STB: Well these days you’ve got yourself some notable fans. I mean just about
everybody loves Kim Burrell. What do you think attracts people to you?
KB: My spirit. Because I hear it a lot, so that’s not my opinion, I’ve just drawn that
conclusion based on what I’ve heard them say. Take for instance, Stevie Wonder.
We first met about 10 years ago. I was in Memphis for COGIC’s Holy Convocation
[Church of God in Christ’s annual national assembly] and I remember getting a
call from Stevie. He wanted me to come to Nashville. Stevie and I had never met,
but when I arrived and walked over to him, he started kissing the back of my hand.
He stopped everything and said, “Hey everybody, this is Kim Burrell.” All the
background singers and musicians and everybody came over to hug me. So I’m
like, “Oh my God please don’t do this, this is your rehearsal!” Then Stevie said, “I
love your voice so much…When I first heard you sing, I could hear God in your
voice.” That’s one of the things in my career that made this thing called singing
Gospel music a conviction from that day on. I said to the Lord, “If somebody who
has dedicated their career to singing R&B or love music, can acknowledge the
fact that they heard You in me, I will never do any other kind of music than this. I
will always be convicted to sing Gospel because I touched the heart of someone
who is an icon, a legend connected to millions of people. If I can touch his life and
he can eventually say that God is in his life completely, then I will never stop
singing this music.”
STB: How do you respond to or interact with well-known people who adore you,
but who may not share your faith? Or those who believe in Christ as the Savior,
but are not necessarily living like it?
KB: I’m very attentive to them, but I had to learn to do that because growing up in
a very strict church environment, we could be very judgmental. Thank God for the
conviction that we have about our salvation and being filled with the spirit of God,
but…[Kim’s son, Christian, comes in the room searching for his mommy, whom he
thought had left him home alone. She reassures him of her presence, gets a
blanket and situates the 4-year-old on a nearby couch.]…They find my ministry
very interesting and I’m very sensitive to who they are. I’ve had so many personal
encounters, like I cherish my experience with Whitney [Houston]. At the time she
reached out to me and needed my help, I was able to be there for her.
STB: What happened with that encounter?
KB: I moved into a facility with her for two or three days during the time that she
was trying to recover. It was a house actually, and I gladly went there. I remember
they had a beautiful hotel waiting for me but she wanted me to be with her the
entire time, to pray her through. That was such a beautiful experience, but out of
respect and loyalty to our friendship, I wouldn’t want to reveal certain things.
STB: I totally agree.
KB: And just to cover her, because the Lord is doing something incredible in her
life. I was so encouraged by the fact that she wants God and she knows that that’s
where her help comes from. And we all know that Whitney was a church girl
growing up…and still is. She’s very adamant about her Christianity and oh my
God, she doesn’t like to feel at all like she’s away from the church, you know.
STB: Well, you know she’s coming—
KB: Oh man! You know God has His hand on her. I will say this, I shared with her,
“Girl don’t you know that half the stuff you’ve probably done, some people have
died [because of it]. But the Lord blessed you to survive it. To be here is a part of
STB: He has actually preserved her, through it all.
KB: He has kept her mind. The last time we spoke, we talked for over two hours
and I heard my old girl Whitney...