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Deitrick Haddon: Challenges Facing Gospel Music & Staying Relevant

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Deitrick Haddon: Challenges Facing Gospel Music & Staying Relevant

Radically passionate and noticeably different – gospel music artist, Deitrick Haddon is a force to be reckoned with. Known throughout the gospel circuit for his new-age approach to spreading God’s message, the world renowned singer-songwriter recently gave Singersroom an exclusive interview to talk about more than just his new album “Church on the Moon.”

Equipped with the uncanny ability to preach without knowing, Haddon spoke on life lessons, producing relevant music, and even gave an honest critique of the gospel industry and areas to improve upon. A true music lover, Haddon believes that, “You should be able to play my record next to Drake, Rihanna, Lil Wayne or whoever else.” He went on to say, “I don’t see why you can’t have hot beats and a crazy hook in gospel music.” It is clear that confidence is not an issue for Haddon. Join the “Church on the Moon” sensation as he gives us insight, words of wisdom, and shares his love for gospel music.

Singersroom: Can you explain the title of your recently released album “Church on the Moon” and where you got the inspiration for the album.

Deitrick Haddon:
The inspiration for me dropped out of nowhere. I was tired of the same old thing I was listening to, where gospel music was, and listening to everything on the radio. I’m such a fan of gospel music to the point that I dedicated my life to it. I just felt like I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. The minute I had the idea that I wanted to do something different, this title just dropped into my heart. I believe it came from God, I really do. I feel like it was something bigger than me that dropped it in my heart. It was crazy to me when I first thought about it because I thought with “Church on the Moon” religious and traditional church people and gospel listeners are going to think I’m crazy for doing something that’s so out there. But then I started hearing the lyrics and the songs started coming together. To sum it up in my point of view, it’s gospel music but it’s from another perspective. It’s not your typical, same old, recycled lyrics, it’s not church hymns it’s something from a fresh perspective. It’s gospel music out of this world – it’s “Church on the Moon”. I thought it was a great title because it would make everybody think about the future and make everyone think out of the box in terms of this genre.

Singersroom: I know that your wife, Damita Haddon, co-wrote several songs on “Church on the Moon”, what are the differences in working with your wife on a song as opposed to other songwriters?

Deitrick Haddon:
Oh she’s my better half – we are one. She thinks just the way I think so I can literally turn her loose on a song and she’ll just write. She’ll write the whole song if I don’t stop her [Laughs] and then it will come out the exact way I wanted to articulate it. That’s the beautiful thing about having a soul-mate and having someone who really knows what you’re trying to accomplish and convey. As opposed to other writers who are great but may have their own message they’re trying to get across and may not be completely plugged into your vision of what you’re trying to say in that particular song. When you asked me this question, I think what really sums it up is the song “Church on the Moon” – she wrote the whole second verse. The first one was written and I said, ‘Damita write the second verse’ and I came back from somewhere and it was perfect. That’s how tied in together we are. That song is a real depiction of how well we work together.

Singersroom: You have a large following of fans from all ages but especially with this current generation. How do you continue to keep your younger listeners captivated with so many distractions going on in their world (i.e. sex, drugs, bullying, social media).

Deitrick Haddon:
I think it’s important to keep the music relevant. When you think about gospel music you don’t equate that with relevancy. You think of the old sound – Shirley Caesar, Mahalia Jackson and the old traditional sound. You even have young artists in gospel music that are still producing that old sound because that’s what we’ve made them to believe that gospel music should sound like. To me, you can’t put God’s music in a box and say that’s the way it’s supposed to sound. It’s almost as if you put yourself in a time machine and you miss so many young people because they are disconnected because that’s not the sound this generation can relate to. It’s important to me that my music stays relevant – the beats have to be hotter than anybody out there. You should be able to play my record next to Drake, Rihanna, Lil Wayne or whoever else. I love fresh sounding contemporary hip-hop music, so it’s going to reflect in my presentation of whatever I do. It’s important to me to keep the message in there because I want to help people. I use the beat to lock them in but I put that message in there to help them build their lives. We’ve lost a lot of fans in gospel music overall because we refuse to stay relevant. The only way to really connect is to put out something they can really get with which is hot beats and a crazy hook. I don’t see why you can’t have hot beats and a crazy hook in gospel music [Laughs].

Singersroom: How well do you think the two styles of gospel music – traditional and contemporary – coexist?

Deitrick Haddon: I think they go hand in hand. The rift comes from the people who refuse to accept something new. It has nothing to do with the message because it’s the same message. The message I’m conveying on the record “Fighting Temptation” is the same message as somebody on a traditional song but they’re articulating it differently. They’ll say, “you need to get yourself together…get hooked and start living right” [Laughs] but I just say it in a regular way, “I’m fighting temptations…I’m trying to live a Godly life, be lying if I said it ain’t hard”. So the message is consistent, it’s the people that are having wars against each other not the message. The traditional and the contemporary need to learn how to coexist and work together because together we can get some stuff done and get a whole lot of people saved. The Bible says, “He called the young because they are strong and the old because they know the way”. What a powerful thing it is to have wisdom and strength working together!

Singersroom: How would you categorize your unique style of music? I don’t want to put it into a box and say contemporary gospel because you have all these different elements about yourself. So how would you classify your sound?

Deitrick Haddon:
The only word that can really sum up my mission and what I’m doing is fusion. It’s a culmination and a gumbo – it’s whatever it takes to get the message across and make the best recipe. I will go back to do an older traditional sounding song to keep my older crowd engaged but still do it in a very contemporary way so that I don’t lose my younger audience. I simply infuse everything together.

Singersroom: Which gospel artists, who would you say have inspired you the most – either personally or musically?

Deitrick Haddon:
It’s not one particular person. I just appreciate music period. That’s what plays into my style. I can say most of the Detroit gospel artists that were at their prime when I was coming up really played a part in influencing me. I started out really just wanting to represent Detroit because I was so proud of and influenced by the contemporary artists in Detroit. We are known for our contemporary sound – the Winans, Commissioned, The Clark Sisters, and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. It just seemed like Detroit bred these artists that refused to fall in sync with what everyone else was doing and they were having success with it. So I feel like I’m a product of that era of gospel artists at that time.

Singersroom: Are there any secular or R&B artists that influence your music?

Deitrick Haddon:
Oh absolutely. I don’t care who you are – saint or sinner – you got to give respect to artists like Michael Jackson for his electrifying stage presence and Stevie Wonder for his writing ability and being a prolific songwriter. I’m also a big fan of the old soul artists like Al Green, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, and Jackie Wilson. I enjoy real vocalist – those that can flat out organically sing! Not just old artists too but people like R. Kelly, I really respect because he’s done so much since he’s been in the game. Anybody that’s great in what they do, I respect it. I can go on for days simply because I love music.

Singersroom: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge gospel music faces?

Deitrck Haddon: We have to respect our own genre the way other people respect our genre. We don’t know just how much people appreciate our music. We think because we’re gospel singers that we should be in the back or something, I don’t know. But people respect those who are bold enough to share their beliefs and their faith. I think the one thing we need to do is start respecting ourselves and stop making ourselves second choice and change our mentality about our genre. Number two, I think our program directors on all these radio stations need to change up their style to connect with the generation now to be relevant. We’re playing this old music and young people are not listening to it anymore – I’m not even listening to it anymore and I love gospel music. When I turn on the radio I want to hear something that’s connecting with something right now in society and in the world today. If you’re trying to take me back to those old days then I will turn it off. And I love gospel but I refuse to go back, I don’t want to keep going back there. I’m not alone because millions of young people feel the same so we’re losing a generation of people. You have to play relevant music. Number three, [Laughs] I’m sorry I can go on for days about this. Record companies have to put up money to promote and market these artists. You have artists that are doper than these artists people are going crazy over. They can sing and perform better but you would never know because record companies are second handing these artists. There’s not a strong awareness campaign and that is hurting us. [Laughs] I need to stop right there before I get everyone mad at me.

Singersroom: Where do you think the gospel music industry is going? And where do you see yourself in that movement?

Deitrick Haddon: I see myself as a leader, a pioneer and trailblazer. I am somebody that is not waiting for someone to tell me what to do – I can take initiative and lead. So I see gospel music becoming bigger, hotter, and I see us filling up stadiums if people will just get with it and embrace it. We need to understand that we have to make music for the world, not just for each other. When it comes to God and you’re singing His music, you cannot put a limit on it and for the most part the limitations come from people. I feel like “Church on the Moon” is one of those CDs that helps you take that limit off. That’s why I named it that because it broadens your thinking. I also feel that there’s going to be a generation that’s going to come up behind me and they’re going to flood the music world. You can’t stop us!

Singersroom: What’s next for Deitrick Haddon?

Deitrick Haddon:
I’m really trying to dive into this independent film business. I did my first independent film called Blessed and Cursed. It’s doing very well and is an underground phenomenon. I say that because we didn’t release it in theaters. We released it straight to DVD then in the UK, Ireland, and Kenya. People are going crazy about this urban faith based film. It’s based on my life and I had a team of writers help me put it all together. Now in June we’re going to begin shooting two more independent films back to back. One is called A Beautiful Soul and the other is called Woodward, which my wife wrote – if you’re from Detroit then you know what Woodward is. Every neighborhood has a Woodward like in L.A. they have Crenshaw. It’s really a platform that we’re trying to open up to gospel artists – to expand our genre to create another outlet for us. I want to motivate everyone to look out for that!

—— By: Interview By Aleta Watson

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