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Gospel Legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong – The Unstoppable Force of Gospel Music [Exclusive interview]

For four decades, Gospel legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong has scored countless gospel hits…

Gospel Legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong – The Unstoppable Force of Gospel Music
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Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor (@iamcomprehend)   
Gospel Legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong – The Unstoppable Force of Gospel Music Exclusive interview

Gospel Legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong – The Unstoppable Force of Gospel Music Exclusive interview

For four decades, Gospel legend Vanessa Bell Armstrong has scored countless gospel hits such as “Peace Be Still”, “Pressing On”, “You Bring Out the Best In Me”, just to name several. The vocal powerhouse artist has won numerous Grammy Awards, Stellar Awards, and Soul Train Awards. Shanachie Entertainment is set to release her first single off of her forthcoming albumtitled Today, (written by Tony Jones, Walter W. Millsap III, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Teak and produced by Millsap III and Teak) which is soon scheduled for release. Today will be her fourteenth album during her career as she will bring you praise and worship and messages of inspiration. The album also captures all facets of her artistry, as she has been very successful bridging traditional and contemporary Gospel music.
I, (Consciousness Magazine) had the opportunity and privilege to interview Vanessa Bell Armstrong, who is one of the greatest and most beloved Gospel vocalists of our time. We had the opportunity to talk about her new album Today, which is dedicated to her father who recently passed away after her album was finished, along with many more inspiring topics in hopes that the readers will be empowered by this one-of-a-kind interview.
Aaron RobinsonHi Vanessa!
Vanessa Bell Armstrong: Hey!
Aaron Robinson: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to pursue an interview with Consciousness Magazine.
Vanessa: Thank you sweet heart!
Aaron: Over a decade of not releasing an album, what inspired you to release the album titled Today?
VanessaThe company, Shanachie Entertainment thought that this would be just the perfect record, because it’s summer. Also, you know, everybody has so many problems and worries. The company just wanted to put that (record) out there. I was going through myself. My father had just passed 3-weeks ago, so I needed something to fix me up too.
Aaron: The first single you are releasing from the album Today is titled “Today”. What inspired this lovely song?
Vanessa: Really, honestly, Walter W. Millsap III told me to trust him. He said, “We can do this and I think it would be a nice happy up-tempo song to crossover, for even the young people to get a hold to it. Let’s go with it.” And I said, “Okay.”  So, we got in there, we worked on it, and like I said, it’s so simple and it’s just right on time and I think that it’s going to really do some good out there. It’s reintroducing me to come back out again so you all can hear what God has done for me.

AaronAnd speaking of God, while you were recording the albums or during that timeframe, did you have any memorable spiritual or inspirational moments that you encountered while you were working on the project?
Vanessa: This song right here, I’m satisfied! Oh my God, will he be satisfied with me? I’m like my dad now. I’m like, let’s talk sho’nuff the truth. When everything is over with, it’s about the message. I felt like even in the song “Today”, it says, don’t worry, just be happy. Also, it says, what you’re worrying about, it’s going to be alright. It just takes you into play time at the beginning, but you know how we go to church a little bit at the end. Like we did with “Good News.” [laugh]
Aaron[Laugh] Nice! My family was going through poverty… many times our electricity was turned off, there were times when we didn’t have any food to eat. My mother, who passed away a little over a year ago, always played your albums when we were children. That’s how I got to know you in the 80’s. Regarding your music, you helped us (my family) get through a lot of tough times. Do you get these kinds of testimonies all of the time?
Vanessa: Oh yeah.
Aaron: What does that mean to you… just to put out powerful music?
Vanessa: It means more than a Grammy and Stellar Award. It means more to me because I’m doing what God says do. So, whether you give me an award or not, I can care less because I want my reward when I see God. And the only way I’m going to see God and see Him at peace is, I got to do what He said to do. I can’t get caught up in all of this competition.
Aaron: You have always had the success of bridging contemporary Gospel music with “old school” Gospel. After four decades in the music industry, how do you manage to stay relevant? What’s the key to that?
VanessaI guess it would have to be just God, because I don’t know how I’m doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I got aches and pains and what have you. I worry just like everybody else does. But I think the thing is, is that I have four girls, grown girls that help me and 14 grandchildren and two greats. So, I mean, I know that they look at me. I think my grandkids are more into all about me than my children because to them, I’m just mama. So, that’s what is pushing me to be able to do this for me.
Aaron: Going back to the meaning of your music, what inspired theses messages in your music such as you picking up people, uplifting them and encouraging them? What inspired these messages in your music?
Vanessa: I think I sing realistic. When I sing the Word, I sing what I feel. I sing what God has done for me. I sing with what I know what He will do for you if you let Him. God put me on a great platform to have. This is my 14th CD. God has blessed me with writers and for me to write a little bit also.
Aaron: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. During your career, as you mentioned, you have managed to release 14 albums, that’s not including compilations? Having a gift to sing, worship and give positive messages over your tenure as an artist, what type of gratification is this for you?
Vanessa: It’s been Godly; it’s been great! It’s been ups and downs. It’s been times that I felt like I really didn’t do what I could have done or should have done. People ask me, “Do I get nervous when I get up there?” I said, “Oh yeah, because I’m doing this for the Lord. I am not doing it out of self.” If I did it out of self, then I’d say, “I got this, let’s do it.” I ask God, I tell Him, you going to have to do this for me because I don’t know what they need out there, who needs what, when, or why. Just give me the right words and the right way to say something so it could trigger their heart. The reason why I say the right way is because anybody can sing. If they really can sing, but don’t have the anointing, they’re just flapping their wings and they’re not flying anywhere.

And I remember that this guy a long time ago he said that he was going to commit suicide but it was something in the way I said something in that song or a word that he heard in there that God spoke to him and changed his mind. So, if everybody was to do their job and stop trying to do everybody’s job… if you do yours and the other person do theirs, I think we got it well covered. We can finish doing what God created us to do.
AaronGoing back to the album Today, are there any songs on the album that you hold dear to your heart more so than other songs? Are there songs more special to you than others or do all of them mean so much to you?
Vanessa: Every one of them has gotten me, but it’s one that I didn’t even start singing it. I was listening to a person that was singing it and it was the word… it’s called “Will He Be Satisfied With Me”? That’s all I want. That’s my heart’s desire. Will He be satisfied with me? And then “Miracles”. “Miracles” – my God! You are not going to know what to do with yourself when you hear “Miracles”. Miracles are what people need today and for people to have something to look forward too. So, if they know, whatever God said, He can’t lie; He’s going to do it. So, you got something to look forward to.
AaronYou’re right about that. And Vanessa, what would you say to inspire upcoming artist who want to have the longevity as you do in the music industry?
Vanessa: Just sing before God. Don’t get high-minded. Don’t get above yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about God. So, you do that and do it for the Lord. If you do something and you fall, He said, “You get back up” and that’s what I love about God. He said “get right back up and get in line and let’s go.” He’d forgive you. Ask for forgiveness and He got you. And I know that’s what I had to do to be out here with 50 years. He knew my ending before I even got started, before I was born. He knew I was going to be determined to try to do my very best. And that’s what I mean because I want to see Him in peace.
AaronBefore we conclude the interview, would you like to add something that we didn’t talk about in the relevance of the album or anything you just want to mention?
Vanessa: You know, I’m always doing something different. I got one on there (the album) that says, “I’m gonna lift Him up with my hands, lift Him up with my feet.” Ooh, that beat! It sounds more like down in Louisiana. We are going to have some folks shouting and dancing on it. It’s bluesy-bluesy, but it’s an up-tempo one. And it’s something that I thought I couldn’t sing. I remember Charles Jenkins said, “You can sing it, you can sing anything.” But I guess whether or not I wanted to try to sing it. And I think that was a challenge for me. Walter W. Millsap III brought me a lot of different challenges. Donald Lawrence, I was nervous with him the first time too, but I knew he knew me. He had studied me and he showed me that. So, it was easy with him. I was intimidated because he’s such a perfectionist, but I knew where he was coming from. Walter, I had never met before; Donald introduced me to him. He came to the church where I had to sing. Ever since then, we’ve just been friends. I gave him a hard time! I had to apologize to him. [laugh] I was like, “Oh, do I have to sing this?” He kept saying, “Trust me. I promise you can do it.”  I said, “Okay.”  And come to find out, I was able to do it. I got a little bit of everything on there (the album). I have praise and worship, dancing…. I’ve got a little bit of everything on there and I think that everybody is going to really, really enjoy it.
AaronThank you so much Vanessa, we love you and appreciate you!
Vanessa: Thank you! You’re welcome!
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Listen to the song “Today
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Last modified: June 16, 2024