MICAH STAMPLEY: His Season of Blessings, How He Got There

by Louise M Moore

(October 14, 2009) When Micah Stampley stepped into his season of blessing, he had stopped praying for opportunities. Rather, he submitted himself to the preparation and conditioning that God provided to make him ready for his big break on the national stage. So, when he won the 2004 Stellar Awards National Star Search and began traveling with Bishop T.D. Jakes as the bishop's personal psalmist, the multi-octive singer was well prepared for this new season in his life. The result has been a celebrated musical career with three highly acclaimed albums, multiple Stellar Award nominations and songs like War Cry, Holiness and The Corinthian Song that penetrate one's very soul.

Released in 2005, his debut album The Songbook of Micah was recorded on Jakes' Dexterity/EMI Gospel and debuted at #3 on Billboard's Gospel Chart, the second highest debut for a male gospel artist in Billboard's history. Still reeling from the success of Songbook, Stampley promptly followed in 2006 with his sophomore project Fresh Wind for which he enlisted the remarkable skills of Grammy award-winning producer Aaron Lindsey (Marvin Sapp, Israel Houghton, Byron Cage). Peaking at #6 on Billboard, Fresh Wind was Stampley's first release on his independent record label Interface (formerly Levitical). His most recent release on Interface is Ransomed (2008) and is produced by yet another Grammy award-winning producer, Kevin Bond, featuring the beautiful worship ballad The Corinthian Song penned by songwriter extraordinaire V. Michael McKay.

With all of his experiences, Stampley has gained much wisdom and is obliged in sharing his story with AIRPLAY 360. He discusses breaking into the gospel music industry, realizing his true calling and using good business sense which is greatly complimented by Heidi--his wife, manager, songwriting partner and Vice President of Interface. This is where we began our conversation.

A360: How has it been advantageous having Heidi as your manager?
Micah: By profession my wife is a registered nurse. When the Lord began to really catapult me, my ministry and career through Bishop T. D. Jakes, my wife began to work with me back then and it's been a wonderful experience. I knew that I needed a manager. I needed someone to help me really stay on top of things--the business things. It's kind of difficult for artists to juggle bookings and the whole nine because in my case I had a lot going on. My wife and I have five children and it was just difficult for me to juggle everything. Heidi didn't know anything about the music industry so I was still having to coach her along but she dug in as well and started learning terminology in the industry, helping to negotiate contracts and things like that. She did all her work. She did a lot of studying and asking questions. It worked and now she's telling me, "No, it doesn't work like that. This is how it goes." She has even impressed my attorneys.

A360: You have a large family-five children (Brandon, Micah, Adam, Mary, David). How do you balance family with being an artist and traveling?
Micah: There are times when Heidi has to step back into the role of a wife and a mother and redefine when to step in as the manager. We understand that we cannot accept every engagement that comes our way. A lot of times I'm having to say no because Micah may have a track meet and I'm the assistant coach on the track team. So then Brandon is playing basketball, he and Adam. We also have a nanny that lives with us. The children keep us balanced and humbled.

A360: You've said on occasion that you didn't just pop up on the scene and that you've been a background singer. Can you tell us some of the people that you have done background for?Micah: I've done background for Vanessa Bell. I've done background for Daryl Coley. I've worked with John P. Kee at New Life. For awhile I was Bishop Paul S. Morton's organist at his local church, Greater St. Stephen's in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A360: In your music ministry, who inspires you?
Micah: So many artists. Certainly the ones that I mentioned earlier that I've had opportunity to work with in the past. But the Clark Sisters by far I think have had the greatest influence on my life. Also, Larnelle Harris, Shirley Caesar and The Winans. And, then on a non-gospel end definitely Michael Jackson, Brian McKnight and Babyface because I love ballads so I gravitate toward balladeers. Also, Stevie Wonder and people like that.

A360: Some years ago you won a contest (2004 Stellar Awards National Star Search) which is how you ended up recording on Bishop Jakes' label, Deterity Records. Would you encourage Indies to try out on a talent search as you did?
Micah: Having a major platform will definitely help. When the Stellars launched that talent search and I won, that enabled me to be able to sing in front of the entire industry. Part of the winnings was to perform at the Stellar Awards, the pre-Stellar and then the nominee banquet during the Stellar Awards weekend. And, so I was put in front of the entire industry as a solo artist which is something I had never had before and so doing a Sunday Best (Black Entertainment Television) or Gospel Dream (Gospel Music Channel) are major platforms and they really brand you, especially television. And I've had the opportunity to be branded via TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). Bishop Jakes was the first person to bring me on a national platform on TBN, and from that moment God has given me tremendous favor with Jan and Paul Crouch and they've just called me back. So having a major platform like that, I would tell anybody to jump into those things because it will help brand you as an artist.

A360: Does that mean that everyone should pursue a singing career?
Micah: Well, a lot of times we tend to think that we're supposed to be recording artists if we have musical ability. We have to be sure that we know what God is calling us to do because somebody has to be the minister of music at the local church. Somebody has to be the worship leader. Somebody has to be musical director at the local church. Everybody is not supposed to be on the road so you have to be sure that God is calling you to be a recording artist and that you're supposed to be traveling and doing all these things. Because the truth of the matter is, there's a lot that has to take place right there in the local community.

A360: How hard was it for you and your wife Heidi to realize that now it's time for you to really be a recording artist and tour?
Micah: I was at my own local church minding my own business when they found me. I was leading worship and the minister of music was ill at the time and Marcus Dawson who is Bishop Jakes' road musician came in to fill in for the minister of music. He heard me leading worship and went back and told Bishop Jakes about me. They invited me to the Potters House. This was February 2004 and I ended up going out there ministering at both of his services and he offered me a recording contract. Unfortunately, we never really locked down on the deal and that's why I'm independent now. But I traveled the world with Bishop. He and I have a great relationship. But again, they found me. And I stopped praying for opportunities back then and said, "God just make me ready, process me, take me through what you need to take me through and make me ready so that when the opportunity comes I will have longevity." Because a lot of artists come on the scene and have hit songs and then they disappear. A lot of times that character building hasn't taken place. Your gift can put you somewhere and your character can't keep you there. I've had a slow build here and I'm grateful for that, that I didn't just pop on the scene, that God has been processing me and making me ready for this.

A360: So do you like being independent?
Micah: I do but being independent has its challenges as well. Radio for one has been a huge obstacle for me and for many other independent artists. I think that the major machines kind of dominate the charts, dominate radio and I don't know how to really break into that.

A360: Any last advice for Indies?
Micah: Know the industry. Learn the industry and the business side of things because a lot of times we get taken and sign things we're not really sure about and then in the long run, we're stuck and can't go anywhere because we signed something and didn't read the fine print. I know we've heard that over and over again but it happens and it continues to happen so we have to be sure that we understand the business.

In his personal journey as a recording artist, Stampley's character and movement in his season of blessing has put him on an international platform where he has found favor, developed relationships and amassed throngs of fans to ensure that he will not be another "one hit wonder" but an artist with anointing, substance, character and longevity.

For more information on Micah Stampley, go to http://www.micahstampley.org/.
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About Airplay 360

AIRPLAY 360 is a monthly published digital magazine designed to inform, empower and motivate independent inspirational musical artists by offering a soundboard of information provided by artists, producers, label executives and other industry professionals.
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