By Kevin Sparkman, CCM Magazine.com
If your nightly sleeping patterns have avoided rocks the last few years, there’s a strong chance that you are already very familiar with Danny Gokey’s story. Real talk, here. It’s also likely the ad nauseam of our inundation from television media and reality shows—the very same mediums that introduced all of us to Gokey in 2009—have certainly done their part in clouding our minds from then to now.
Along with those [constant] distractions and the huge 2016 success of his now flagship single, “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” (from Hope In Front Of Me, released in 2014), you might not remember—or even realize—that Gokey, in fact, has merely just been chipping away at a “comeback,” of sorts. It’s easy to think that he’s “hade it made,” considering the shine that was handed him through the auspices of American Idol. But after the initial album released in the glow of those moments, that light began to dim. Quickly.
Gokey was dropped from his first label. No new music had been recorded. Despite the good that came from 2009’s huge rise, was this just another flash in the pan? The other part of the story you may not know, is that before hanging out in Hollywood green room’s with the likes of Ryan Seacrest, Adam Lambert, and Kris Allen, for eight-plus years Gokey was a worship leader in his local church, bouncing back and forth between various campus locations, and leading his given community. His dreams and aspirations, at that time, were to one day possibly use that voice on a bigger stage.
Obviously, God had other plans.
“One of the things I love about my career is that, I think it should be ‘this way,’” admits Gokey. “I have what I think, but I love how God is like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool. Let Me put it right there.’ I’m a visionary—I like to talk about things. I like to see things from my perspective, but I have a great Dad who just knows how to say, ‘I’m going to put you right here.’” Through the up’s and down’s—this roller coaster ride—Gokey now seems secure in that vision, through Christ’s lenses, of course, but his message remains the same: Hope. After all, who better to offer words of hope, time and again, than Danny Gokey?
He may not be your “traditional contemporary Christian artist,” but then again, who are we to put God inside of a box? Rise, fall, and now Rise (buy)—his January 13, 2017 BMG release—CCM Magazine sits down with Danny Gokey to discuss the new album, a clearer voice, and where God now has him.
CCM Magazine: We’ve recently heard you talk about “victories” in your life and career, what are some “wins” that can be attributed to the release of Rise?
Danny Gokey: Let me tell you, [one of] the biggest that I can say right now is that we got to make this follow-up album to Hope In Front Of Me. From the perspective of coming off of a big [opportunity like American Idol], the odds were for us in that moment. Then my career took a dip for several years. I went quiet and didn’t release music. When I released Hope In Front Of Me, the odds had been turned against us.
To look back and see that it did way better than the expected projections—the way it connected with radio and with the listeners—and that I got to make a second record, a follow-up to Hope In Front Of Me, that is why it’s a huge victory. Comparatively when we released the first album, My Best Days (buy), there wasn’t a whole lot of faith in us. We tried to get on all of these different tours, no one was biting, and we had to trudge through that. Now, we have tours lined up right out the gate, we have great media lined up—it’s just a testament. But I can’t take the credit. I just say, “Lord, thank you.” You know? That’s the victory.
Before American Idol I always thought it was, “Us versus them,” but once I got on the show, I learned that there’s a lot of people who are finding God through this experience. I heard things like, “I’ve never gone to church, but I feel like you make me want to go…” or, “You make me want to give God a chance.” That’s where this was birthed. Of course, it’s been an evolving process since then, but that’s why I want to say things that will reach the church, but also appeal to those outside of the church. I love the fact that my last album was being licensed and synced on television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent, that was a massive victory in the sense that it allowed exposure to people who wouldn’t choose to listen to Christian music.
CCM: Where does your heart settle in terms of your calling?
DG: When my team and I sat down to work on my first restart after I’d been dropped from the first label, I couldn’t get signed by Christian labels because they felt like I didn’t know my message, that I needed more time to develop. I understood. If they’re going to take a financial risk, they have a right to make sure that they can invest in someone they feel confident about. So, we signed with a non-Christian label. I am the first “Christian” artist that they’ve ever had. They approached it with, “We don’t know why we’re doing this. We’re just going to do it.”
I’ve been in the church my entire life. I spoke church, I did church—I thought I was going to be the next big praise and worship leader. To now be a solo act and mixing entertainment with the gospel message, I couldn’t have envisioned that. Again, that was all birthed on the American Idol stage. That’s where I fully realized the Great Commission for my life. Our message can’t just be for the church, it’s got to go into all the world. That’s why I now write the way I do.
CCM: You’re increasingly being touted as a singer-songwriter, with more of an emphasis on “songwriter” now. Since the last album, how has that been more of an integral role in what you’re crafting?
DG: Well, with My Best Days (2010), I didn’t do any writing on it. Going into Hope In Front Of Me, I did a lot more. I think with Rise, I knew more than ever before, now that I had more experience, exactly what I wanted to say. It’s funny, because before when I would be writing with others, it was their words that came out of my idea. That’s what happens in the room, you all share your ideas. Now, I knew how to [put words to even] their ideas. Does that make sense?
DG: I actually spent a lot of time writing for the first album, but none of that ended up going on the record. [During the production of the first album], I didn’t really know everything I wanted to say, this time I felt more focused on what needed to be said. This time [with other writers], I would go, “I like the thought, but this is actually how I would say that.” That was a really fun experience and I grew to love that about this process since [the last album]. I learned a lot. I’m always going to be a student—I hope I stay there. In fact, I know with Rise that I will continue that because I want to come back and ask, “What can I do now?” You’re constantly learning, you know?
Read the rest of the interview with Danny Gokey at CCMMagazine.com