october 2011

Micah Stampley: As multi-textured as his music.

Micah Stampley: One Voice, Many Expressions

By Bob Marovich

Recorded in four days, Micah Stampley’s new album, One Voice, on Matthew Knowles’ Music World Gospel imprint, explores a variety of musical realms.

In an interview, Stampley says his audience may not be as familiar with his multi-layered side, but after learning about the man, this side is not at all surprising. Track and field sprinter, model and actor, musician and singer-songwriter, and now social entrepreneur, Micah is as multi-textured as his music.

Micah Stampley was born in Los Angeles, the fifth of nine children, but his family moved back to their hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana when he was still an infant. Micah's grandfather, James Stampley, Sr., was pastor of Nazarene Church of God in Christ in Baton Rouge, and once traveled the country preaching alongside COGIC founder Bishop Charles H. Mason.

At age seven, little Micah made a big impression on Nazarene COGIC when he directed the church choir. He recalled, “They would pick me up and stand me on top of the offering table, because nobody could see me! So here’s this little seven year-old kid teaching parts to the choir. You have a soprano and alto who are singing the wrong note, and he’s correcting them! They’re looking like, ‘Who’s this little kid telling me I’m singing the wrong part!’”

Micah Stampley, ‘Heaven On Earth,’ from his 2010 EP, Release Me

Growing up, Micah enjoyed the music of traditional gospel singers such as Shirley Caesar and the Mighty Clouds of Joy, as well as contemporary artists such as the Winans, Andrae Crouch, Daryl Coley, and the Hawkins Family.

“And of course,” he adds, “growing up in the Church of God in Christ, everything outside of gospel was a sin! I discovered other music when I was riding the school bus. I would hear Prince, Michael Jackson, Billy Ocean, Cyndi Lauper, and all those kinds of sounds, and I thought, ‘Man, this stuff can’t be too bad!’”

Micah returned to California in 1994 to pursue careers in modeling and acting. His associates encouraged him to sing R&B and pop, but he was not persuaded. “I’d been singing all my life, and I wanted to explore other things outside of music.”

Still, he had an inkling his career would come down to “either music or the Olympics,” since he had achieved success as a track and field sprinter, running the 4 x 100 relay, the 200 meter, the 100 yard dash and the long jump.

But music won over, “organically,” he says, while he was a church musician in Houston.

Micah was assistant music minister at St. Agnes Baptist Church in Houston when Marcus Dawson, Bishop T.D. Jakes’ musician, was asked to fill in for the church’s ailing minister of music. When Marcus heard Micah sing, he relayed his enthusiasm to Bishop Jakes. But it wasn’t until after Micah won the Stellar Awards Talent Search in 2004 that he was invited to sing for Bishop Jakes and the Potter’s House.

One Sunday in February, he and wife Heidi journeyed to the Potter’s House, and literally turned the house out. In fact, during the second service, Micah sang so hard that “the power of God fell in that place. Bishop Jakes couldn’t preach. He had to have the Media Department play his sermon from the first service on the big screen, and he sat down.” From there, Micah earned a slot on Bishop Jakes’ 2004 compilation He-Motions and gospel music became his primary pursuit.

One Voice

Now, seven years and several albums later, Micah is set to release One Voice.

“It’s a multi-cultural album,” Micah explained. “Every race, every nationality, everyone can get something from this record.” The album contains different styles and textures that the artist has wanted to explore for some time. “People are not used to hearing me do anything else but the high energetic gospel pieces.”

Of his new album, One Voice, Micah Stampley says: “It’s a multi-cultural album. Every race, every nationality, everyone can get something from this record.”

But Micah is all about musical diversity. He’s especially pleased that the praise and worship style is catching on. “The praise and worship movement is really beginning to grow in the gospel community,” he said. We still sing songs about our struggles and downfalls, but on the CCM side, the music is more vertical, and I now hear gospel artists embracing that sound. For me, it’s so refreshing, because this is something I’ve done for quite some time. If you listen to my music, I’ve never done anything that talks about my struggles, because I believe if we worship God and give Him our all, He already knows what we need. If we develop that [vertical] mindset in the gospel community, you will hear more music like that coming from gospel artists.”

One of Micah’s personal favorites on the new album is “Overcome.” During the recording process, “the worship experience with that song took over and we literally wrote another song right after it. They flow into one another on the record, and so we just called [the second song] “Worthy!”

Operation I Believe

In addition to being being marriage partners, Micah and Heidi are now social entrepreneurs. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the couple formed a nonprofit organization called Operation I Believe.

“Heidi and I bought a bunch of gas cards and were handing them out to people who needed money to buy gas. We partnered with construction companies to get sheet rock to help people rebuild their homes. We went to a food distribution center and boxed enough food to feed around 20,000 people. That’s what we love to do.”

This past winter, Heidi and Micah bought huge cans of chicken soup and cooked it, bottled it, purchased blankets, scarves and gloves, and gave them to the homeless living under Houston’s bridges. “We gave one guy soup and a blanket, and tears began to roll down his eyes. He said, ‘Now I really know that God loves me.’ We cried and wept all the way home.

“Music is the conduit to Operation I Believe,” Micah says. “That’s the heart of the ministry.”

For more information on Micah Stampley and One Voice, visit http://www.musicworldgospel.com/.

marovichBob Marovich is a gospel music historian, radio announcer, and author. In its seventh season, Bob's "Gospel Memories" program of vintage black gospel music and artist interviews airs live first Sundays from 3:00 to 7:30 a.m. on Chicago's WLUW 88.7 FM, and streams live at http://www.wluw.org. Snippets of recent broadcasts can be heard at http://www.gospelmemories.com/. Bob is also editor of The Black Gospel Blog.


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