by TJ Armour
Chicago bred singer & songwriter Todd Dulaney left behind a promising Major League Baseball career to pursue ministry. His calling quickly led him to singing behind Grammy Award winner Smokie Norful and soon thereafter assuming the role of the worship leader at Norful’s church. After going solo and later experiencing success with his debut album, Pulling Me Through, Dulaney was signed to eOne Music, which houses many of today’s biggest heavyweights in gospel such as Erica Campbell, Jonathan McReynolds, and Donald Lawrence.
His recently released sophomore effort, A Worshipper’s Heart, is currently blazing up the charts thanks in part to it’s lead single, a soulful rendition of the Planetshakers’ popular song, “The Anthem”. Other standouts from the collection include “Higher”, “Free Worshipper”, “Fall On Us”, “Put The Attention On Jesus”, and more.
Having recently performing to a packed house for his album release party at the Living Word Christian Center, N’DIGO recently sat down with Dulaney to discuss his calling to the ministry, his new album, and his best advice for aspiring musicians.
What is the experience like to record and perform in the church with the church members there a few feet in front of you?
The thing is with that it’s a little bit more freedom because something like that with the album release, you have your people that come out who really support the ministry, and they know what to expect from you. The people that were there were really hungry and thirsty for worship and the presence of God so it was a really really easy flow because those people came like ‘We’re here to worship God. We know what you do. You don’t have to introduce the songs to us. Just lead us and we’re gonna go!’
Talk about your musical origins? When did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I was playing professional baseball with the New York Mets and one offseason I began to sing background with Pastor Smokie Norful. Throughout that experience I kept saying to myself ‘Man, this is really really cool the way we get a chance to meet people from all over the world and touch them.’ It felt like purpose. It just felt like we had a purpose for being out there – not just singing songs, but we were actually touching people. Once I got that feeling I knew that this is what I’m meant to do. To reach people and put my hands in their lives through music and allow them to see God.
Prior to that, you had always assumed baseball would be your career?
Music was just a fun outlet for me. Baseball is definitely what I thought I’d be doing forever at the time. I thought I would just make millions of dollars playing baseball and that was that. I never imagined music, let alone gospel music, would be my life’s work. The church was not a place that I really wanted to be a part of. I didn’t think that I would want to or be able to fit in at a church. So for me to end up becoming one of the leaders in the church was mind-blowing altogether. Honestly, I even wrestle with it now because I’m not the type of personality that you would normally think that would lead in a church but man when God’s with you, that’s all you need to lead is His hand. And He has His hand on me and the music and it’s working for me and it’s all because of Him. It really has nothing to do with me. Like it doesn’t work without His hand.
What are some of the things you learned about the business and being a better artist from Smokie Norful?
I think I learned pretty much everything that I knew going. Everything that I knew going in I grasped from him. I got a chance to watch him do interviews. I even sat in on some business meetings. He taught me about percentages and publishing and writing. Pretty much everything that I knew coming into the business I learned from Pastor Norful. He took the time out to teach me more than just a little bit. I remember turning songs in to him like ‘I just wrote this song’ and he’d go ‘You need to go back and finish it’ and I’d say ”Well I am finished with it’ and he says’ No, it needs something else.’ So even down to the formatting of putting together songs I learned from him.
For those that have yet to check out the album, A Worshipper’s Heart, what can fans expect?
This album is driven by worship, hence the title, A Worshipper’s Heart. This album is for people that are looking for the greater things in God. If you’re looking for an atmosphere in your home. Or if you’re looking for something that can kinda draw you into the presence of God, then this is the album for you. We’ve done more than just sing on this album. We really tried to make sure that there is a sound on this album that draws you into the presence of God. And that’s become a thing for me. It’s become THE thing that I’m trying to make sure is in the music. So on this album, we’ve just loaded it with presence-driven, congregational, easy sing-a-longs that could aid us on Sunday morning or any other day as we draw ourselves into the presence of God.
Tell me of the history behind the song, “The Anthem”, and your inspiration in covering it for the album?
“The Anthem” is a song that has been recorded many many times by many artists. It was originally written by three of the leader singers in a band called Planetshakers and I followed them closely because they produce a lot of music that I like to sing on Sunday morning. But this particular song has always stuck with me and I’ve been singing it and singing it but for the album, what we did with it was just add some parts to it that I think would help it kinda move along with our culture in the African-American church. It’s really caught fire over the last couple months for me. Especially just coming out of Easter and resurrection season and it’s just the perfect song.
Who would you put in a gospel super group including yourself?
Tasha Cobbs. Tye Tribbett. Jonathan McReynolds. Yolanda Adams and Israel Houghton. I would want the group to be able to touch all angles and I think that lineup would definitely do it.
Name a song that you love so much that you wish you had wrote it?
“Stand” by Donnie McClurkin. It’s truly timeless. It just lasts forever. It’s been one of those songs in my life that I can always rely on. It’s scripture. Every time I hear that song I feel like it could be a hit today. It’ll just never get old.
Do you have a specific formula that you use as far as creating music?
My process is usually sitting down at the piano and if I hear a melody or whatever it starts there with the melody. If a melody is really really catchy to me then I’ll try to find a message to go with it. So I’ll sit down at the piano and fall in love with a melody and then I’ll try to put the right phrase to it. And it comes from God. Whatever the message is that He wants to deliver will come to me and I pair the two together. Then I’ll send it to my producer in a voice note saying ‘Hey blow this up. Blow this out for a little bit’ because I need to really hear it. Then he’ll go into the studio and put a nice feel to it. You know…bass…guitar….drums, and then send it back to me. And from there I can really feel it then finish it off. We work well like that. That’s kinda our process with the voice notes on the iPhone. It’s the best thing to happen to a songwriter.
As a married father of three, how do you balance your career and your family life?
The balance for me is my wife and the family, and the music and ministry and the business of it comes waaaay second. Really it comes third because it’s the Father God, then my family, then the business comes a far third. I really have to keep in mind that I have the stance of if God asked me to stop doing this then I’ll do that to take care of my family. So I can’t get too wrapped up in this because at the end of the day it’s my Lord and my family that I really need and not this. Because if I don’t have this, the Lord will find something else for me to do that will prosper my family. That’s how much I believe Him and not what I’m doing, you know? This doesn’t make me. My relationship with God and my relationship with my wife and children is what really forms me. I have to always remind myself that no matter how successful I am that this is not it. Loving them is really really it.
Any advice for artists looking to get into music and the world of gospel?
I’d say that to develop a following where you are now. The biggest and best thing that an artist can have that no one can take away from you is the support of the people. If people support you and you’re looking for a record label then they don’t have a choice but to acknowledge that people love what you do. Or even if you’re controversial and people follow you, they cant help but acknowledge that ‘Man, for whatever reason people love to hear this person. People love to be around this person. So we will put our energy and effort behind him based off the fact that if you say his name a thousand people are gonna come and be where he is.’ So I just say build where you are. Some people will try to go to a big city or go to a major record label but nobody will come and see you do anything because you haven’t worked where you are. And so if we go to your home city and you do a concert and two people come out, then that’s a problem. So you gotta build where you are first and it’ll spread from there.
What’s next for Todd Dulaney?
There’s so much that my heart wants to do in the future but right now I definitely wanna tour off this album. I believe it’s gonna be a really big album for me and the church so that’s what my immediate sights are on. In the bit more distant future I would like to get into some type of hosting for Christian television. That’s really in my vision because I wanna get to a place where I can provide a platform for anointed artists to release the sound that God has given them.
A Worshipper’s Heart is in stores now and available at all digital music outlets. For more information on Todd Dulaney, please visit www.todddulaneyland.com
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