Duawne Starling Talks About Working with Michael Jackson, His Dad & His Music

Duawne Starling

Duawne (pronounced da-juan) Starling is one of the most highly sought after and respected supporting vocalists in the music industry. Providing his impeccable tenor on projects for artists including Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Sandy Patti, Patti Austin, Michael McDonald and the late, great Michael Jackson, Starling has been the secret weapon on many classic albums and songs over the years. Now, Starling's vocals saturate the front mic as his new single - "In This House" - is released to radio.

An upbeat song of pure worship, "In This House" will easily become a Sunday morning mainstay. Starling's flawless voice drives home a message of joyful devotion to the Lord. The refrain alone immediately sticks in the listeners' head: "Of all the things we do/to serve and honor you/ we worship in this house/ we worship in this house..." The song grabs hold of the spirit and doesn't let go.

Hallels:  Thanks so much for your time.  Tell us how did you feel God's call to sing for Him?

Thank you for having me. I actually love talking about this experience and I will never forget it. I was 18 years old and I was beginning my voluntary faith walk with God. I had begun talking to God a lot that year and sensed very strongly that He was calling me into ministry. I think a common mistake among some people is confusing the call to serve with how to serve. I immediately thought God wanted me to be a pastor because the only ministry I associated with a "call" was that of a pastor. Having wrestled with that sense for a few months, I decided it was easier to follow God's plan than my own. I considered changing my major to theology, and transferring from the university I was attending to another university, because I thought  it was what God wanted.  I even told God if He wanted me to preach I would preach and never sing another note. But I had no desire to preach. I wanted to become a singer. On a visit to an alumni weekend of the university that I would eventually attend, I heard God speak to me while I was sitting in a Friday night service. He said, "Music is your ministry." I said to the person next to me, "Did you hear that?" It was an audible voice but only I heard it. From that day forward I've held on to the conviction that singing is more than just my passion, but my ministry and calling as well.

Hallels:  I was reading your bio and I am so sorry that your dad who was also a singer died of cancer.  How has that affected your faith in Christ?

That's a great question! My spiritual life began at an early age and it was my mother who introduced me to Christ. My father believed in God but was not the spiritual leader of our home. So, in my early years, the image I had of Christ was through my mother's eyes. And when my father died, I continued to see God through her eyes. Growing up without a father impacted my relationship with God in a very peculiar way. I saw God as mother and not a Father. All of the character traits that mothers have, I ascribed to God. As I grew older and began developing a trust relationship with God, it was hard for me to think of Him as daddy because I only had mommy. But the beautiful thing about God is that He embodies character traits of both mother and father. He's tender yet strong. He's a nurturer and a provider. He's a lover and a warrior. Losing my father in many ways has forced me to see the the full range of God's character.

Hallels:  I believe you have even worked with Michael Jackson.  Tell us more about your involvement with him.

Throughout Michael Jackson's career I believe most kids wanted to meet him and be like him. I was one of those kids. I had the posters, the Thriller jacket, and even the Jheri Curl. I loved his precision in dance and how he laid his backgrounds. I've sung background on countless records and with many different artists, but I have not met every artist whose records I've worked on. A producer friend of mine who was also Micheal's friend and co-producer called me in to sing on "Keeping Your Head Up" from the "Michael" CD. Unfortunately, I never met him personally, as this was the record Michael was working on when he died. Meeting him was a dream that did not come true, but singing on his record was like adding color to my dream. When I walked into the studio to lay my BGV's, I put on my earphones and asked my friend, "Who was the last person that sang on this mic?" He looked at me and said, "MJ".

Hallels:  How would you describe your style of music?

My music is very eclectic. When I was asked a similar question years ago with my first CD, I said my music is "Feel Good" music. It makes me feel good to sing it and others feel good when they hear it. As a child I listened to Gospel, Negro Spirituals, hymns, Pop, Top 40, Country, Blues, and R&B. In high school and college I studied Classical voice but always loved singing Gospel music. My musical exposure is pretty wide. All of these genres have left an imprint on me and helped develop my style. This new CD, "Deeper Faith," is a contemporary Praise & Worship record. I wrote songs in a variety of styles but it is definitely Praise & Worship.

Hallels:  You have a brand new single out "In this House."  What's the song about?

"In This House" was the last song I wrote for this record. It's an up beat, high-energy song with a very simple message. "...Of all the things we do to serve and honor You, we worship in this house..." When I looked at how church and worship services have evolved, I wanted to remind myself and others that dance, preaching, singing, theater, etc. are all great expressions to God. I love each one individually and collectively for how they elevate my spirit, but if worship is not at the heart of it, then it's pointless. 

Hallels:  Who are working with for your album "Deeper Faith"?  When will it be released?

I worked with my friend, Justin Savage on the production of "Deeper Faith." Justin gets me and working together comes very easy for us. He is the lead producer and I am the co-producer. I asked my musician friends, and spiritual family to help me bring life to my vision and they did. Andrea McClurkin Mellini, Sherry McGhee, Ayana George, Jerard Woods and I all sang BGV's with Donnie McClurkin. They agreed to be a part of this project as well as two great singer/friends, Theo Milford, and Lakisha Goldsberry. It never feels like work with these singers. "Deeper Faith" is a Live CD/DVD and it will release in the fall of 2015. 

Hallels:  For our readers who would like to find out more about you, where can they go?

I love connecting with readers and listeners. They can connect with me via my website,,  @Duawne on Twitter, Duawne Starling - Artist on Facebook, or @DuawneStarling on Instagram.


Tags : duawne starling michael jackson duawne starling new album in this house deeper faith duawne starling news duawne starling interview Hallels interview

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