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Fred Hammond "How Sweet the Sound" (Exclusive Interview)

Interviewed and written by Tocarra Eldridge

When it comes to gospel music, genius is only one word to describe the talented gospel singer, writer and record producer, Fred Hammond. For nearly three decades, Fred Hammond has been considerable a respected name in the industry, respectfully known for dropping hit songs after hit song, his original sound developed into a new gospel genre, Urban Praise and Worship. it is evident that the CEO of fHammond Music Label and Face to Face Productions is a legend and pioneer in his own right.

Fred Hammond has worked with numerous talents and producers in the music industry as well as moved into a direction of producing and directing, such as the film The Gospel and the music drama, "Been There, Done That." His recently urban entertainment company fHammond Family Entertainment, Inc., address the exclusive needs of the urban family market.

I had the opportunity to interview the phenomenal artist, as he gives the readers insight on Verizon's How Sweet The Sound Celebration, as well as insight of his remarkable career. Here is what Fred Hammond had to share with the Consciousness Magazine readers.

Tocarra Eldridge: How did you land the role as a judge for How Sweet the Sound?
Fred Hammond: It was a call from the production company.  You know I think they combed the area of the country. They called me and I’m glad they did. [I’m] Glad to be a part of this celebration.

TE: What do you think is the most challenge about being a judge?
FH: In the past Verizon didn’t want us to say any negative things, they didn’t want to come across as being negative. They said always find the best you can. They’re like ‘don’t be mean. If they’re [competitors] not that good, let’s go ahead and tell them, some constructive criticism, so they can win next year.

TE: When was the moment you realized that you could stand alone as a solo artist?
FH: I’m going to tell you, it was real rough. When I made the transition slowly from Commissioned, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I put out two solo albums that did really well. I had a lot of nerves before I went on. I was like ‘these people are used to seeing me with these other guys, and I could lean on them, they could lean on me. And now, it’s just me, and what if they don’t like it.’ It was a very scary time, very very terrifying. It took me a minute, a couple of years and I didn’t get it together. I think it was one of those times that I had to go out there and stand and do it, and deliver it. It made me sharpen my craft. I was part of 5 guys who could speak or talk in between songs, now I got to carry the whole concert. It made me learn, what did people really want! I stopped doing what I wanted and did what people wanted. People wanted some sort of choir sound. I went ahead and found that DNA and there it was.

TE: You previously stated that you had nerves and you were terrified. So, how did you overcome the nervousness?
FH: It was horrible. Oh no no, you don’t understand! If you walked out there and there wasn’t that many people out there and people were saying “they didn’t care for you” – it was a lot of rejection that you were trying to fight. The promoter may not have been great! But, you have to stand there and you have to deliver. Yesterday, my Bishop, Bishop Jakes preached ‘don’t die in the nest’. As long as I was in Commissioned I was in the nest. I was comfortable; I was surrounded by people. Nobody really focused on me. If it was bad, we were bad together; if we won, we won together. But, now if you’re bad, you’re bad on your own. He made that nest uncomfortable, and then I had to step out. It was a very poignant message that fitted me yesterday. You’re gonna get cut; you’re gonna get hurt. Change hurts, but if you’re strong you will push through it and you will make it to the other side. I concentrated on the people that were there. They were very encouraging. It was different because when I come out and singing these songs nobody knew – I’m telling you, my nerves were in the pit of my stomach for two years. But I just kept fighting through it.

TE: You have excelled to such a great level of excellence as a talented individual, what do you think has been your key to longevity?
FH: My key to longevity has been knowing the seasons. Life is about seasons, and there’s spiritual seasons as well as there are natural seasons. My ability to recognize every season that came along over the last 30 years, that’s probably what’s been keeping me. I don’t stay stuck in an old season, thinking that it’s that season. So, I always try to keep a new way of thinking and transform more - like whatever the earth is doing – and try to stay ahead of the curve. And also, not believing your own comic book. You know, ‘you’re not the greatest thing in the world.’ You trust God and stay humble and recognize those seasons, and when they change try to stay in front of it.

TE: With so many accomplishments over the course of your career, what is the most rewarding or remembered moment of your career?
FH: Well, I am one of the few artists that went platinum without a radio hit. I never had a radio song hit on R&B radio. It was like God was saying to me that I don’t need to do that to achieve that…sold two-million records on this, million records on this, half a million over here. Those are probably my greatest joys, because you can’t manipulate those. Award shows, you can manipulate. You can buy a plaque, you can buy an award. If you get enough people to vote for you doesn’t mean you have the best album; it just means that many people voted for you behind the scene. But, that platinum and gold, the RIAA is strict; if you didn’t sell it, you’re not getting it. So, that means people went to the store with their hard earned money and they voted and took it home. Getting a Grammy was great, but I was at home sleep when that happened, because I had lost the zeal for award shows. Stellars are absolutely great; I love those. Those are our own.

TE: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist who is looking to break into the music industry?
FH: Today the music industry has changed. When we were coming along, if you were good and a record company heard you, they blew you up. But today, because of home recording devices and all sorts of ways to put a record out, everybody has a CD, so you’re fighting with thousands of people trying to get in a 40 slot position. And it seems like the same people are trying to move in to get into the top 10. Now they’re moving some new people into the top 10. You have to be unique; you have to be good. You have to have a message and here’s the key – you can’t say you have a message, people will tell you if you have a message. I’ve adopted for myself the Quincy Jones method, which is hang your art upon the wall, but give the people what they want. A lot of people concentrate on artistry, [I want them to hear my artistry, this is my gift and this is what God wants me to do.] If it’s effective, people will go to it, if it’s not effective, they’re gonna tell you real quick that it’s not hitting. So make sure you can move people. Offer your best, but find out what the people need. You know how when you go to a potluck and somebody brings in some fried chicken and it’s gone, somebody brings in some macaroni and cheese and it’s gone…then somebody brings in some macaroni and cheese with peaches and carrots, and it’s their favorite family recipe and they saying ‘oh I know everybody gonna love this’. And at the end of the night that dish is still sitting there. That person probably didn’t pay attention to what was best to bring to the party. You better find out what the people want because that’s what they are going to eat. That’s what helped me the last 30 years. I said what do you want and I’ll serve it.

TE: Is there every going to be a Commissioned reunion?
FH: Seems like that’s dead. That’s pretty much over. But, I am working on a brand new group. I will reveal the name sometime in September. We’re working on the legal details. It’s going to be pretty nice. We’ve been working on it for about a year and a half.

TE: Would you like to add anything before we close the interview?
FH: I just want everybody to come out to How Sweet the Sound choir competition. This is going to be a great year. It’s gonna be a little harder for the choirs. We have great talent that is judging and hosting, Donald Lawrence and Yolanda Adams.  Donald executive produced this thing and he is one of the guys in key positions. If anybody knows choirs, it’s Donald Lawrence. Then you have the stellar, awesome Yolanda Adams. Then you have CeCe Winans, and yours truly Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, Erica Campbell and a host of others that will join to judge this competition, and sing and participate and have a ball. That’s the main focus. I want to make sure that people come out and enjoy this event. This is going to be a great event. This is my 3rd year and I’m looking forward to it.

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Consciousness Magazine had the opportunity to interview Verizon's How Sweet The Sound hosts and judges. Here is what they had to say about this remarkable event as they travel to various cities around the country. These gospel artists also share valuable information regarding their life and career, in hopes to empower and enlighten our readers and their fans.

Donald Lawrence (Read Interview)
Yolanda Adams (Read Interview)
Erica Campbell (Read Interview)
Hezekiah Walker (Read Interview)
CeCe Winans (Read Interview)
VaShawn Mitchell (Read Interview)