LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shirley Caesar used to refuse to infuse contemporary styles with her traditional gospel sound, but now the 11-time Grammy winner and pastor has changed her stance.
Caesar, who is known as the “Queen of Gospel,” is singing to a different tune on her new solo album, “Good God,” released last week. It’s been four years since she dropped an album, giving her time to embrace a new musical approach.
The 74-year-old brought on up-and-comers such as Kurt Carr and James Fortune as producers to weave a modern, radio-friendly style into her sound.
Caesar sat down with The Associated Press recently to talk about her resurgence in gospel, how she bounced back after a slumping economy and her thoughts on the direction of gospel music.
AP: You have recorded more than 40 albums and have had a traditional sound on all of them. What compelled you to switch up the vibe on your new album?
Caesar: Songs that made me popular like ‘Hold My Mule’ and ‘Drive Your Mama Away’ — they were good for me in that season. I still sing them today, but that’s not the kind of gospel that radio is pushing now. I had to listen to what’s going on now, and pick up on it.
AP: How were you able to stay current?
Caesar: I finally started to watch what everybody else is doing, what they are playing and not playing. Then I had to try my best to be right down the middle of the road. ... I had to start singing with younger singers, having young producers like Kurt Carr and a writer like James Fortune. Because of it, I’m able to stay current.
AP: You’ve said in the past that you didn’t understand the contemporary gospel style. Since you have worked with newbie gospel artists, what do you think of the genre’s direction now?