If you were to infuse gospel, 70’s soul and contemporary R&B; the influences of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and other male soul/R&B vocalists of the 70’s and 80’s you would have the anointed powerful heartfelt vocals of Smokie Norful.
Son of a Preacher Man
Norful, son of an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas but grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was interested in music from a very young age, reportedly picking out one-finger piano melodies from the age of two. His parents supported him with music lessons, and, unusually for his background, allowed him to experiment with and listen to the current R&B and soul music of the day as well as gospel music.
History & Ministry Degrees
Graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a B.A. in History, he taught history for seven years in Pine Bluff, AR and Evanston, IL. In 1998 he felt “called” to the ministry, and pursued a Masters of Divinity degree at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois and Trinity International Seminary in Deerfield, IL, where he studied to receive a Master’s of Divinity.
Upon graduation and ordination, he took a position as assistant pastor at a church in Chicago. He participated in an album release by Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers, a well-known Chicago gospel group, and contributed a song as well as solo vocals. He was then offered the opportunity to make a solo album for EMI Gospel. I Need You Now.
I Need You Now was the 2002 release that catapulted him to worldwide recognition as an internationally known singer, musician and music composer. Since that time he has found commercial success with three # 1 Billboard Albums (I NEED YOU NOW, NOTHING WITHOUT YOU, SMOKIE NORFUL LIVE) and over 2 million albums sold worldwide. Norful is a multiple RIAA certified gold-selling artist and has been named “Gospel Artist of the Year” in 2003 and 2004.
He has earned Stellar, Dove, Soul Train, NAACP Image and Grammy award nominations. Norful received the Grammy Award in 2005 for Contemporary Soul Gospel Album of the Year for his chart topping CD NOTHING WITHOUT YOU.
An accomplished songwriter, he is signed to EMI-CMG Publishing and formed Norful Music Publishing. He has written for several major Gospel recording artists. His notable performances include appearances on The Trumpet Awards, Save Africa’s Children Event in Soweto, the BET Awards, the Stellar Awards, Soul Train, the Dove Awards, the Parade of Stars, the Essence Music Festival and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. He has starred on the Hopeville Tour with Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and Donnie McClurkin and will headline the McDonalds Inspiration Celebration tour this summer.
Norful officially launched his church Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, IL on September 20, 2005 where he serves as Senior Pastor. Since its launch, Norful and the Victory Cathedral Church Family have experienced an extraordinary and unprecedented growth in this community. He launched a second campus on the south side of Chicago in September 2008. The ministry has been focused on reaching the community by encouraging its members to live a life to be remembered through volunteerism, charity and philanthropy via their Give Yourself Away initiative. Norful a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., now brings his music and ministry efforts towards global humanitarianism.
New CD – Forever Yours
Smokie Norful, one of gospel music’s most beloved and talented vocalists will release his first All-New studio album, Forever Yours, on August 5th on Motown Gospel/Tre Myles Music. It’s been 5 years in the making and this Grammy Award-winning recording artist, world renowned Pastor, educator and visionary (who has been in the game for over a decade) continues to reach new heights of success in both music and ministry. He now brings his music and ministry efforts towards global humanitarianism.
FOREVER YOURS sounds like a love letter. It is exactly that – it is Smokie Norful’s ultimate love letter to God and as with all classic love letters, it is an unabashed outpouring of his feelings thoughts and affections towards God. It is a musical composition of all styles and sentiments from Smokie’s heart shared with you.
It has been 5 years since Smokie’s last full length new album and while it has been a long journey for Norful, FOREVER YOURS points to his grateful and love-filled heart.
In today’s fast paced music industry, five years is a long time for top tier artists to release a new album. Taking his time, Smokie went through different phases with the album but it is the evolution of FOREVER YOURS that has been the most rewarding for Norful. He has seen God direct and appoint this project to be exactly what it is supposed to be. “That’s how it’s come together, God has given me certain creative people … all of them coming together to make this a phenomenal compilation of music,” he said.
“I have enjoyed this process more than any other album I’ve ever done,” Smokie continued. “I was able to take my time and just create music … I was uninhibited with no tight deadlines, no pressure from the label. None of the usual hurry up or rushing and honestly was the most amazing place to be in my career.”
As is Norful’s trademark, FOREVER YOURS offers great versatility in a seamless way. A clear result of working with a number of talented and accomplished producers including Aaron Lindsey, Tony Dixon, Derek D.O.A. Allen, Elvis Williams (Blac Elvis) and Warryn Campbell. From ballads, the strongest weapon in Norful’s arsenal, to dance tracks and contemporary R&B styled songs to upbeat praise and worship, FOREVER YOURS has literally something for everyone.
Norful’s resonant vocals are at their peak right now and are beautifully matched with the range of musicality of the album. A perfect example is the first radio single “No Greater Love,” a stately sounding ballad with the simplest of messages, there is no greater love than that of Jesus’s transcendent love. It was Norful’s first time working with super producer, Aaron Lindsey who Smokie calls “a masterful musician.” “When Aaron first played the song, I thought I have to have that,” said Norful. “It fits me … my style of singing, my presentation … we worked on it together and I contributed lyrics to infuse my own voice.”
Working with long time producer Tony Dixon, Norful says their musical chemistry is evident. “Nothing is forced or contrived,” said Norful. “All of that comes across in the music – it happened beautifully and powerfully.” One such example is the album’s title track “Forever Yours.” The embodiment of the love letter that is this entire project, Norful wrote the song as a declaration of his commitment to God. “The tone of the song speaks of solemnity, of the absolute reverence I have for God. I called the album ‘Forever Yours’ because I am here to be used by Him [forever] … that I’m nothing without Him in my life. This is the season where I stand now, literally ‘here I stand’ and I will never leave Him again.”
Another product of the pair working together is “Imperfect Me,” a reflective, expressive and soulful tune that everyone can connect to. “It moves people and causes them to think … could we have excelled if it were up to our own abilities … None of us would have ever made it because we are all unqualified in some way – who hasn’t fallen?; who hasn’t made a mistake?,” said Smokie. “I felt something just from hearing the music. Then I was hit with writer’s block … I couldn’t come up with the right thing. We brought in Harold Lily (one of the industry’s most prolific writers). He came in, wrote the first verse and it snowballed from there. It’s an incredible song.”
With influences of soft rock and pop, the mid tempo ballad, “In The Meantime,” is another personal song for Norful that speaks to total reliance on God. Originally the title cut, the song communicates specifically the place where Norful has been over the last 5 years. “In the season between the last album and this album I’ve gone through much internal growth,” said Norful “It was a dark place but the hope of what I knew God was capable of doing is what kept me moving. It literally talks about that place where you ask God for something and believe in your heart that HE is God and He’s faithful to do what He promised He would do. The song was born out of being in the place between asked and answered.”
Livening things up are “Love,” a bouncy, rhythmic track from Warryn Campbell and the ambling, cheery reggae song “Nothing Is Impossible” contributed by A-list producer Blac Elvis.
Another clear-cut winner is the-soon-to-be Sunday morning staple, “Mighty God,” an upbeat, infectious song produced and written by the Aaron Lindsey and Israel Houghton. “I told them I wanted a praise and worship song, something that can get the service started and when I heard this song it was exactly what I needed,” Norful said.
A Smokie-Norful album would not be a Smokie-Norful album if he wasn’t playing the piano somewhere. “I Need A Word,” finds Norful back at the piano where his rich, clear tenor matches perfectly with his exceptional playing ability.
Norful’s hope for the album: “My prayer is that the world will get to hear it and experience it with me … to take the journey with me. I hope it accomplishes meeting people at the point of their need.” “I don’t want anyone to leave my music or my ministry without receiving hope, healing and empowerment. I think this album has that for people at all different points and seasons in their lives.”
Smokie closes his love letter as anyone would to the love of their life: Forever Yours.