He was just recently honored as a BMI Trailblazer and took home the 2013 James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Honor during the Stellar Awards. Now, he’s back with another smash CD entitled “Bless This House” which debuted at the top of Billboard’s chart. Hailing from Hartford, Connecticut, Kurt Carr has spent more than 20 years in the music industry and developed into one of the most celebrated singers, songwriters and producers in Gospel music. Not only has he dominated the charts with his own performances, but he is the mastermind behind some of the most well-known Gospel hits for numerous artists.
Starting out, he served as Andrae Crouch’s accompanist and went on to play for the late Rev. James Cleveland, then became director for the West Los Angeles Church of God In Christ Choir. He eventually formed his own group known today as the Kurt Carr Singers and he continues to pen chart-topping tunes. His hits include “I Never Lost My Praise” by Tramaine Hawkins, “I’m Still Standing” by Bishop Paul Morton, and his latest contributions are found on Pastor Shirley Caesar’s newest CD entitled “Good God”.
Kurt took time from his busy schedule to give Frequency Inspirational a glimpse into the man behind the music as he shares how he evolved into the Maestro he is today.
YOUR BIG BREAK WAS WITH REV. JAMES CLEVELAND. HOW DID YOU MEET HIM?
I was with my friend, Richard “Mr. Clean” White and we were at a restaurant across the street from where the GMWA was going on. In walks Rev. Cleveland. He literally came and sat at our table and I was like, “Oh, my Lord.” Mr. White said to Rev. Cleveland, `”This boy can really play. This boy’s awesome.” So, we finished lunch and went back over to the convention and Rev. Cleveland said, “Let me hear you play something – if your feet can reach the organ pedal [laughs].” That’s when I knew he had a great sense of humor. Little did I know, his music director had just resigned, so Rev. Cleveland was looking for a keyboard player. That was in August and by January I had relocated to California and Rev. Cleveland hired me.
He was totally spirit led in terms of what he sang in his concerts. He was also very professional in terms of being prompt and being honest about doing the job you are paid to do. I see so many of my peers don’t have that kind of ethic. The other thing I learned was that the same passion should be exuded for a show of 100 attendees as if it were 30,000 people there.
I UNDERSTAND RICHARD SMALLWOOD WAS ALSO AN INFLUENCE?
His influence was different in that we had a lot more similarities because I had studied classical music and Richard had studied classical music. The sound of his music really inspired me from a technical element. Really that’s what I’ve done is taken the traditional flavor of James Cleveland and mixed it with the excellence of a Richard Smallwood along with the songwriting of persons like Andrae Crouch and Walter Hawkins. I’m like a big musical gumbo of a lot of different things.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST RECORD DEAL?
Charlie Larry, who was married to one of the ladies that used to sing with me, came into some money and gave us a couple of thousand dollars. We recorded a single of the hymn “Holy Holy Holy” and it just blew everyone away because it was so intricate. That was my first thing on wax. It garnered so much attention that one day I was at home and I got a call from Ralph Carmichael who founded Light Records. I went out there and he said, “that chair you’re sitting in – Walter Hawkins signed his first deal in that chair. Andrae Crouch signed a deal in that chair, Tramaine Hawkins, Marvin Winans signed deals in that chair and he went down the list and said, “I believe you’re destined to be on the level with these great Gospel artists.” That’s how it started….I signed my first deal with them.