Anybody who’s anybody in traditional and contemporary gospel music – as well those who are just trying to be somebody – are in Cincinnati this week for the 42nd annual Gospel Music Workshop of America convention. And some of the biggest stars in the gospel galaxy will appear at the convention’s first-ever Gospel Festival tonight (7/30), presented by the Macy’s Music Festival and the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.
More than 15 local and national artists are scheduled to perform at the concert, including Byron Cage, who’s earned the nickname “The Prince of Praise.” Byron recently sat down with Lauren Bishop of Cincinnati’s Enquirer Newspaper and took a few minutes to talk about his music, his message and his work with some of the biggest names in entertainment.
How did you get into gospel music?
It actually started more than 30 years ago. I sang in churches in Detroit, Michigan. I was born in Grand Rapids and I was in the choir with the famed R&B group called DeBarge that was popular in the ’80s. I just grew up in church, listening to gospel music and both my parents were ministers, so that’s how it happened.
Once we moved to Detroit, I started playing piano and directing choirs. I began singing background for the late minister (and gospel singer) Thomas Whitfield. Then I started singing for a group called Commissioned, which was a popular group in the ’80s. Then I moved to Atlanta on a music scholarship to go to Morehouse College. Atlanta is also the place where I was in Tyler Perry’s very first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed.”
You also appeared on an episode of “The Cosby Show” while you were at Morehouse.
That was back in 1987, and it was the episode at Hillman College when Bill Cosby was there with his daughters, and the oldest daughter was graduating and he was the keynote speaker at the college that year. I actually sang in the choir that they called Hillman Choir. It was going to be a combination of Spelman’s (women’s) choir and Morehouse’s men’s chorus, so it was a combination of both choirs. I did a song with Phylicia Rashad called “All Good Things Will Be Added Unto You.” People thought I had an actual solo, but it wasn’t. It was just that they had me standing right behind her and my voice kind of towered over hers just a little bit on one part.
Tell me about your new live CD due out Oct. 27, “Faithful to Believe.”
This is my sixth professional recording as a solo artist. I have a new song on (the CD called) “Goodbye.” I’ve kind of taken the whole R&B kind of feel to reach another group of young people that may not go to church or may not necessarily listen to gospel music with the tambourine and all that (traditional) stuff. The New Testament talks about reaching all people, becoming all things to all people, so you can win them. And I think that’s what we try to do. We try to win souls for Christ through gospel music, whether we do it creatively through traditional or if we do it through our secular kind of R&B, hip-hop sound.
What will people hear from you at the Gospel Festival?
I’ll be doing three new songs that are going to be coming from my upcoming project in October. So it’s going to be high energy praise and worship. It’s an exciting night because so many of the top artists are on that show with (host) Yolanda Adams.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s trying to break into gospel?
I would really tell them to gain as much knowledge as they can about the music business itself, because the only difference between gospel music and secular music is that we have Biblical principles that we try to live our lives by and govern our lives by. But there is a business side as well. Just gain as much knowledge as you can, because the more knowledge you have, the more power you have.