Almost every quartet these days will find traces of their sound going back to the Kingsmen. Their tight four-part abstemious harmonies, their Scripture-soaked Cross-centered lyrics, and the way they approach each and every song they record with verve and panache are some of the ingredients that make this quartet a national icon. Since 1956 from the western mountains of North Carolina, the Kingsmen has had been making music for the Lord. Countless renowned artists have been a part of this great lineage; such as Eldridge Fox, "Big" Jim Hamill, Ray Dean Reese, Squire Parsons, Johnny Parrack, Anthony Burger, Ernie Phillips, Gary Sheppard, and a host of others. The momentum has not stopped as this group continues to help define the Southern Gospel genre for a whole new generation of music lovers.
The Kingsmen have just released their brand new album "Battle Cry." And we are so honored to be able to catch up with them for this exclusive Hallels' exclusive interview.
Hallels: Congratulations on your recent appearance at this year's NQC. What's the highlight for you at this year's NQC?
For us, NQC 2014 was a blast. Although, a change from the last 20 years, we feel that the NQC has found a niche in Pigeon Forge, TN. The city went over and above the call of duty to accommodate such an event. While the board mentioned some fine tuning and tweaks that would be made, we feel the first year at the LeConte Center went very well. For us the highlight would have to be visiting with folks that had not been to NQC in more than 20 years and renewing old acquaintances. Of course being close to home (Asheville, NC) wasn't bad either!
Hallels: You also have a brand new album "Battle Cry" coming out in October. What do you think is the message you want your listeners to grasp from this new album?
The aforementioned title says exactly what we feel. It's our "battle cry" to the world. The Bible says, we are to "fight the good fight of faith"! That's what we do from day to day as we tour over 200 days per year; we are spreading the gospel of Christ and carrying the message of salvation to this lost and dying world. This album makes a statement: The Kingsmen are here to make an eternal impact on this world for the cause of Christ!
Hallels: After all these years of releasing albums, how do you keep your music fresh?
This question comes up in conversation often. Every member is first a Kingsmen fan. All the guys grew up listening to Ray, Big Jim, and "Foxy", respectively. We know what "the Kingsmen sound" is. We don't try to BE Big Jim (Hamill), "Little" Ernie (Phillips) and "Squeaky" (Garry Shepherd), or Anthony (Burger), but we honor the rich heritage we have. We choose songs first and foremost have a message and are scriptural, then we see if they fall in line with that sound that The Kingsmen have carried all these years. Sometimes we catch ourselves saying, "Wow, Hamill would've worn Ernie out on this song if they had cut it then". We feel we have a treasure trove of songwriters on this recording. They are all top notch!
Hallels: One of the songs I really love is Rebecca Peck's "I've Never Seen the Righteous Forsaken." Why did you choose to record this song?
That's a great song! We feel in love with it the minute we heard it. Rebecca penned a couple of songs on this project and sent both of them directly to us for first listen in 2012. We put them on hold and held them for nearly two years in anticipation of recording them. When we heard " Righteous", we knew it was one with a simple message but would speak to the Lord's faithfulness to his children. This is our "gospel soul" song and it goes over really well in concert. Every man on the bus can speak of our lives that not one time has God lets us down or not provided exactly what we needed at a particular time. HE will supply our every need according to his riches in Christ Jesus!
Hallels: I believe the single off the record is "Oh Yes I Am." For our readers who may not have heard it yet, can you tell us what the song's about?
"Oh Yes I Am" is our current radio single. It starts by telling us the story of Lazarus, the beggar and the things he suffered while here on earth, but if we were to ask him what it was like to cross chilly Jordan, he'd describe all the glories of Heaven. What a thrill to anticipate of all the glories waiting on the other side. No more heartache, no more dying, no suffering, or pain, but the greatest thrill of all will be to see our Lord stand to greet us. If he calls today, I'm ready to go...OH YES I AM!"
Hallels: What were some of the things you are most excited about this new record?
This record covers every style, musically that The Kingsmen have ever recorded in all of their 58 years if ministry. It's got "barn-burners", ballads, driving-modern-mid-tempo, and even convention style songs. This is also our first album of new material since Bob Sellers (lead) and Chris Jenkins (tenor) have come aboard nearly three years ago! It's unique in that every member liked every single song that was chosen. That's not common in most cases. We are excited to share what we feel is our best effort to date.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to purchase "Battle Cry" or find out more about you, where can they go?
We love for everyone to keep up with all the latest Kingsmen happenings on Facebook and Twitter. Visit the official Kingsmen website at www.kingsmenquartet.com. Our album may be purchased at http://crossroadsmusic.com/kingsmen/battle-cry/ or iTunes and Amazon for physical and digital download.
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