J Moss has returned after three years with “V4…The Other Side of Victory.” The album held the Number 1 spot for two weeks after its debut and remains in the Top 5 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart. In this candid interview the singer with impeccable vocal skills talks about the album, growing up in a musical family and his views on the state of Gospel music today.
Tell me how you the concept for “V4…The Other Side of Victory come about.”
“I noticed that everything was just being down, a struggle, painful. I thought that there’s got to be more to serving God than that. Whenever you look on the TV screen and you see a comedian or somebody talking about the church, they always crack jokes on how uplifting we are, how we shout, how we praise, how we do this, because we’re just so excited about God and the resources of Christians and being a born-again believer, but in our songs we’re so sad. Our songs don’t repeat that, so I just wanted to combat that with a record that people could put in and say ‘you know what I feel better.’ That’s what you’re going to get when you start v4 from the beginning all the way down to the ‘Good and Bad’ remix. It’s just an uplifting album where you can just really be encouraged.”
What is your favorite track?
“I don’t have one. I do a record full of favorites. I don’t think any of the songs are fillers. I feel like any song could be a first single and like every song has it’s purpose and meaning. I love records like that because it just makes you feel like wow you have a real diverse body of work and at any given time each song can carry its own weight.”
We’re you surprised when the album debuted #1?
“You never really know, you have to pray over it. You never know where you are until the people speak and the people basically spoke. I really didn’t have the base for this song on the radio or anything like that. It’s just all God and people getting on the phone and saying ‘I got it, it’s great,’ people getting on Twitter saying ‘I got it, its great, its blessing me.’ That type of response really gave me more of an encouragement than if I had a #1 song on the radio, if I had a reality TV show or if I had some big other thing that I could use to help sell records. No disrespect to anybody, but I didn’t have any of those things and the people still embraced it. That let me know all the late sleepless nights, the prayers, the strategic meetings, all the Twitter responses, the Facebook responses, it wasn’t in vain because the people have spoken and they appreciate the body of work.”
What advice would you give to someone in the industry working hard, doing a lot of things but still being faced with different trials and temptations?
“It doesn’t rain anywhere all the time. God was dealing with me one day and I just looked up and said ‘is there anyplace on the planet where there is rain everyday all day, every day?’ and I couldn’t find it anywhere. There are some places where it rains a lot more than others. There’s no place where it rains all the time. If you’re still breathing there’s a chance. God doesn’t hate you, God loves you and that is my message to everybody. It’s just like being a parent. We’re not going to allow our children to just lie and steal and get all the benefits, but once they shape up they can have those benefits again and God is the same way. He’s saying ‘I ask you to love your neighbor, I ask you to commit to me, I ask you not to lie, I ask you not to steal, I ask you not to kill and you do those things. You try to live your life according to how I ask you to do it, to the best of your ability, I got your back.’ And that’s what we need to try to portray more of and that’s my message, that’s my life’s example, my wife and I, my children. We’re just living examples of God’s favor and His ability to give second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances. We know better than anybody else. I hope my life, by way of example, can be a healing ointment to somebody.”
What is your musical process when working on an album?
“When you have 3 years, you got a lot of time (laughs). You sample and you flirt with a lot of different approaches, different scenarios. Anything you can do to spark up inspiration. I didn’t need a lot on this particular record. I just knew I wanted everything to be happy. I wanted every song to be about a party, a celebration. I didn’t want to cry anymore, didn’t want to be down anymore, so it really wasn’t hard because that’s where my life is. That’s where I was. If you’re a true writer, true musician you can get inspiration from cutting the grass, taking out the trash, coming from work, it doesn’t matter and I embrace all of that.”
What do you really think of gospel music today?
“I’m really saddened that not enough of our people are being unique. God gave us all unique abilities and he gave us a unique story. He gave us a unique sound. Some sound similar and that’s okay. If that’s your voice, then that’s your voice. But, he gave us a different way to implement it and I want to see more of us be who we are and not chase what we think is popular or the norm. We need to embrace it, concert promoters need to embrace it. I need the TV networks to embrace it and realize that we’re not all going to be Kirk and we don’t need another Kirk, because Kirk does enough of that stuff for everybody. Donald does enough of his thing for everybody. The Clark Sisters do enough of what they do for the rest of us. We don’t need three of those, we just need one. Be who you are. I remember the era where you had greats like Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan. These artists all had their unique style and that’s what allowed them to keep going and going and of course Whitney Houston. Even though Mariah (Carey) came after her, people wanted to compare the two but Mariah had a different approach to things than she did.
I always wanted to be J. Although I can sing like a Marvin Sapp, like a Smokie, although I can do what Kirk does. I know that God has given this way of presentation to me and I just try to utilize that. I just want gospel to really, really be aware of that, so we don’t become just a real mundane genre that nobody’s gonna be interested in. If you get one, you got ’em alll. I want people to enjoy Mary Mary different from james Fortune, from Tye Tribbett, KiKi different from myself. I want them to get something different in every artist and that’s what will keep us flourishing and keep us interesting and ulitmately at the very core, keep us effective.”
So do you think some of that is driven by what the market industry is saying that it wants or is it because folks just want to follow the crowd?
“Folks just want to follow the crowd. If that was the case you would look at what V4 did. V4 is a great example of going against the grain and people saying ‘yep this is what we want from J Moss. We don’t want Israel from J Moss, We don’t want Kirk Franklin from J Moss, we want J to be J we don’t want J to try to be William McDowell even though that works.’ We can’t be afraid of being us. I think we have just created this standard that it’s okay if you follow this formula, your records will be played and will sell. I think that’s doing yourself and your artistry, your ministry, a huge disservice because God gave you something unique that’s beautiful and you need to express that in your way and if you do that you’ll get it.”
You are part of the Moss dynasty. What was instilled in you musically along the way?
“I cherish that. My dad Bill Moss Sr. and his sister Mattie Moss-Clark instilled into us a long bloodline of greatness. It goes back to grandads and grandmoms. My dad took me and my brother and made us who we are. It was because of that selflessness and the passion for artistry that really helped mold and shape us. Growing up in this family and being a part of it and of course seeing the greatness in my cousins the Clark Sisters, in my brother, in my mom and dad, Bill and Essie Moss. It was just a great pool of resourcest o pull from. I always tell people J Moss is nothing but a melting pot of Karen, Dorinda, Bill Moss Sr., Bill Moss, Jr., Essie Moss, Mattie Moss-Clark, all rolled up into one.”
Any collaborations coming up?
“Yes, we have some stuff up our sleeve. I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet, but we are working with some people, some major artists on board and on deck. If I can just get through the V4 process, I can get back in the lab and get started. I think it’s really something when you can take your talent and your gift and share them with other people, other peoples’ ministries, other people’s ideas and really just mesh them together and make it happen. There are so many people that just save it all for themselves. God didn’t call me to that. He called me to share. That’s what I pride myself on, is being able to give and share. All this talent, this anointing, I want to bless as many people as possible. I’m always open to any collaborations. Hopefully you’ll be hearing about it soon.”
© 2012 Sarah Hearn