From the Mountains of East Tennessee, Southern Gospel Music fills the air and is the home of The Kingdom Heirs, one of Southern Gospel Music's top Male Quartets. The group sang in local churches and concert halls in 1981, and as their music and message spread to a wider audience, so did their popularity and demand. Later in 1981 they began singing at the Silver Dollar City theme park, which is now Dollywood. In 1986 when the theme park took on their new name, The Kingdom Heirs were asked to become the resident gospel group and now this year, both The Kingdom Heirs and Dollywood will be celebrating 28 years. Not only are they one of Dollywood's favorites, but a favorite to millions everywhere.
The Kingdom Heirs have been nominated many times for industry awards such as The SGMA Awards, Dove Awards and The Singing News Fan Awards. Winning Newcomer Group of the Year in 1989, the group has been a constant favorite. The latest award is 2014 Band of the Year, which the band also won in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2013.
This year, they are celebrating their 30th Anniversary with the release of their Sonlite compilation album "30th Anniversary," which is currently available online and in stores.
Hallels: Congratulations on your 30th Anniversary as a group. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently if you were given the chance to do it all again?
(Arthur) I guess in any ministry you can second guess some decisions you make along the way. It mirrors our christian life as well. Should we have stepped left instead of right. Could we have done more with what the Lord has given us? I think we all could ask those questions in any situation or opportunity. But the fact that God used us in spite of us and in our weakness He was exalted. That's the important thing. As Proverbs 3:6 says "In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your path".
Hallels: What were some of the milestones along the way you were most grateful for?
(Arthur) Radio has been great to us over the years. Being at Dollywood most of the year keeps us out of sight to a lot of regular southern gospel fans and concert goers. So radio has tremendously helped us stay visible in our industry. I'd really have to say if it weren't for having great songwriters and great radio response the past 30 years would have been a lot different.
Hallels: In celebration, Sonlite/Crossroads Records has released a compilation album entitled "30th Anniversary" with 12 tracks taken from various albums. From your copious albums, how do you narrow it down to these 12 songs?
(Jerry) Unlike the 25th Anniversary album that showcased many hits from some of the Kingdom Heirs most popular recordings of the past, the 30th Anniversary brings to light a lot of the hidden gems that you have never heard on radio or anywhere else unless you happen to have bought the recordings they were on. These are some of my favorites that I have heard many years ago and now I'll get to perform on stage at Dollywood and throughout next years winter tour.
Hallels: Out of the 12 songs on this disc, can you pick two songs that mean a lot to you?
(Arthur) "God's Word" was written by our drummer Dennis Murphy. It only went to #2 on the charts but it was BMI song of the year, witch is a pretty big deal. The fact that it's a song about the Word encourages me.
"I Sing Because" I actually recorded this song back in the 80's with Kingsmen for the first time and then we revived it several years ago. It means a lot to me because put into a song all the reasons that we do what we do and why we sing. Especially for the 30th anniversary I think it really explains the reason behind our ministry.
Hallels: On your website I have read that you are also performing at Dollywood, tell us more.
(Jerry) We perform at Dollywood for 9 months out of the year. From the time Dollywood opens in March and until it closes the first week of January. We have been the resident Gospel band at Dollywood for 30 years. It's a joy to come to Dollywood each day and perform in front of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, countries and beliefs. It really is a great opportunity that we have been given to tell the world about Jesus through the songs we perform and have recorded. Whether they come in looking for a cool place from the heat of the day or just to see what the show is all about, they will get a good dose of Gospel music that has a strong message within each song and that's where the seed is planted and hopefully lives are changed and burdens are a little lighter than when they came in. We want them to leave refreshed and happy that they came in to see what we are doing within Dollywood.
Hallels: What's next? Are you working on a new album now? When will it be released?
(Jerry) We are working on a new Sonlite Records album. We have picked a lot of great material for this one and we are so excited to be recording again. There are many writers featured on this new album from Dianne Wilkinson, Rebecca J. Peck, Rodney Griffin, Mark Bishop, and our very own Dennis Murphy just to name a few. There's a lot of variety within this recording and there's so much more to do than just laying down the music and vocals these days. Theres all kinds of promotional work that's involved now and it's an exciting process for me that I get to be "hands on" with through our media outlets and working closer with our record company. I think we are looking to have it released by late summer if all goes well.
Hallels: Looking back, how has Gospel music changed? And how do you think Gospel music will evolve in the days ahead?
(Arthur) I think music will always change and rearrange and go left or right and come back. It's a cycle, what's old is new, what's new is old. But the most important part is the message never gets old. Someone ask me the other day if singing the same songs ever gets old. The message is always fresh and never gets old. That's what keeps us singing and spreading the good news of a loving savior.
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