Roy Cotton II is content to describe himself as a church musician who possesses a fond appreciation for the "hymns of the church." He has just released his new album Bring Back the Hymns. The new record features the musical artistry of some of today's most beloved singers and musicians including Kathy Taylor, Chrystal Rucker, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Chester D.T. Baldwin, Dr. Judith Christie-McAllister, Oscar Williams and Candy West adding their own unique and inimitable touches to classic hymns. Bring Back the Hymns comes in songbook form, demonstration and performance tracks. The 12 track disc alone is a spirit filled church celebration from beginning to end and worthy of being heard and celebrated.
Q: Roy, so grateful for your time. Congratulations on the release of your new album "Bring Back the Hymns." Why bring back the hymns?
Well for two primary reasons: 1) For the musician, I believe that hymns provide the theological foundation for music ministry, whether it's Traditional Gospel, Urban, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), Praise and Worship, Christian Hip Hop or anything else in between. Hymns are to the musician what the Bible is to the preacher. 2) For the believer, hymns provide an anchor to keep us during mountain highs and valley lows. Hymns have a unique way of poetically summarizing deep theological principles into memorable melodies that come to surface at the perfect time!
Q: What do you think churches are missing if they ignore the hymns?
They're missing sound theology in their songs. The church puts all of the weight of teaching on the pastor, while giving the pastor no musical tools to help the members carry the word daily. Music is a divine tool that utilizes organized sound to communicate a message. If the message has no substance, then what's the purpose of the music?
Churches that ignore hymns will fall victim to musical fads that are hot today and cold tomorrow. Now there are modern day hymns, which are exceptions (i.e., Through It All, I Need You To Survive, Total Praise) but in most cases, song that are based on fads inevitably fade away.
Q: Since there are so many hymns out there, how do you narrow down your choices to these 12?
I wish I had a spiritual answer to that question . The truth is, my team and I have recorded over 50 hymns and we choose 12 based on the artists/ministers who agreed to sing on the project. My goal was to make this an ecumenical work so that all denominations would appreciate something from the album. The artists I chose represent various denominations, which stylistically approach hymns very differently. The common thread is that every musician, artist or preacher on the project are exceptionally skilled and anointed to deliver the particular hymn with the utmost respect and sensitivity to the history.
Q: Since hymns have been around for such a long time, how do you bring new life to each hymn?
Though there are featured artists on the entire CD, I approached each hymn like the hymn itself was the star. I wanted to give them same attention to detail as I would with any other modern day production. Which song would need horns? Which song needs winds? Which song needs 2 guitar parts? Which song needs a big choir sound? Which song needs a smaller, chamber choir sound? These questions permitted me to respect the origin of each hymn while adding color so that the hymns wouldn't sound stale.
Q: You also have quite a few singers helping you on this project. Who are some of them?
My absolute favorite male singer in Gospel music is Bishop Paul S. Morton. Anyone who knows me know that I imitate him and the late Reverend James Moore all the time! It was an honor to have such a great man of God on this CD!
My great friend and mentor, Dr. Judith Christie-McAllister, sings on the project. She is a music and worship expert and historian who has an unmatched appreciation for hymns. I needed her voice on the album to make it timeless.
Kathy Taylor is singing Revive Us Again on the album. She is a 'one-take-wonder'! After her first take, I told her to go home ! She is an incredibly anointed singer! We had church right in that studio when she sang "May each soul be rekindled with fire from above" (when you hear the CD, you'll know what I'm talking about)!
My sister, Chrystal Rucker sings on this project. She effortlessly belts out these high notes and it just seems more natural the higher she goes! I was so excited to have her and Bishop Morton on the same song! The oil is all over that hymn, "He Is Lord".
Finally, my personal favorite (and I may be a little partial) happens to be my wife, Niya Cotton, singing "Let Us Break Bread Together"! She has an extremely diverse musical background (classical, jazz and gospel) that shows on this song. This particular hymn requires an anointed soloist because in most churches back in the day, the mother of the church would sing this one. My wife was the perfect choice because she understands how to merge the old with the new.
Q: While you were making this album, what were some of the highlights for you?
I had to facetime the studio session with Bishop Morton and my iPhone connection was slow. By the time I got facetime to work (5min), Bishop was done! These veterans don't waste time in the studio like us young'uns do. And his 1st take was perfect!
Another highlight was recording Darrell and LaTonja Blair! They told me that they had not been in the studio for over 5 years! I felt honored that they would take time from their heavy pastoral schedules to sing on this record!
Q: Let's talk about your own personal experience. Can you relate a time in your life when God used one of the hymns to minister to you?
I remember not having enough money to enroll into college my sophomore year (many know what that feels like). I told the lady in the registrar's office "So that's it? I can't attend this year?" She said, "Yes, that's right". I walked away feeling alone and hopeless but that melody (I've seen the lightning flashing, I've heard the thunder roll) came up in my spirit. I began to sing the chorus and within 2 hours, without me calling anyone or hustling my way back into school, that same lady called me and said my balance was cleared...I was back in school!
Q: For our readers who would like to find out more about you and your music, where can they go?
They can go to bringbackthehymns.com and find out about the project and buy the CD and musicians can purchase the 'Stems For Hymns' at songFLO.com.