Fred Hammond has been one of the most innovative figures in Gospel for the past two decades. True to form, he continues to push the envelope by reaching across the musical divide and bridging the gap with his new group, United Tenors featuring R&B singers Dave Hollister, Eric Roberson, and gospel singer Brian Courtney Wilson. All accomplished in their own right, the four singers have united to re-imbue the male ensemble sound and inspire men to worship God, says Hammond. We caught up with the Grammy winner to talk about forming United Tenors, blending R&B with Gospel and what listeners should expect to hear on United Tenors' new album.
ESSENCE.com: How did United Tenors come together as a group?
FRED HAMMOND: I felt like it was time to bring the sound of men worshipping back to the forefront in the music world. Groups like The Winans and Commissioned are absent from today’s pool of Gospel music artists. We all felt that this was a great time for us to come together and offer that missing link. We sing inspirational songs, songs of praise and worship, and about how good and how big God is. We are magnifying the Lord.
ESSENCE.com: There are some vocal heavy hitters here. What was it like working together?
HAMMOND: This is one of the best albums I’ve ever worked on. There was such a sense of camaraderie between us. We would sing, laugh, and just hang out. We needed each other as brothers during this time. Everyone brought their unique musical style to the project and I believe that we created a great blend. There is a great mixture of sounds. We all have a unique approach to singing. Dave and Eric bring that R&B flavor. Brian brings that contemporary Gospel sound and I bring a Gospel and R&B feel. Our styles blend well together.
ESSENCE.com: What's the core message of the group?
HAMMOND: Our goal is to get men together to sings songs of worship. There’s a beautiful signature female sound that resounds in Gospel music, but I believe that it’s time for men to step up and have more of a presence. Women have carried the Gospel sound for many years and we want to support them and present a strong collective of male voices. Women are a key part of the sound of the groups that accompany male singers like Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton, and myself. We want to offer a sound that will compliment this standard.
ESSENCE.com: Do you have any favorite cuts on the project?
HAMMOND: “I’m Reminded" is favorite. I love the song because the emphasis is on remembering that Christ went to Calvary for us. It’s an uptempo intricate song. There’s a key line towards the end of the song that came from an experience I had when I was eight years old. My uncle was developing dementia and he would call some of us kids to come down to talk to him, he could not always remember our names, but one day he said “I may not know, but He knows”. There’s a line in the song that says, “If I forget my name, let me remember Calvary." It’s important to remember who God is and what He has done for us. This song is dear to me.
ESSENCE.com: What’s in store for the United Tenors?
HAMMOND: We are looking to roll out the best presentation of this music to listeners. So whether that’s in the form of a tour, a stage play, or an indie movie, we are thin king of different ways to use all of our talents. Myself, Eric Roberson, and Dave Hollister have been in stage plays. Eric attended Howard University and majored in musical theatre. We are all extremely proud of this project. We have built a special brotherhood, and we’re just glad that the album will be out for everyone to experience it. We hope to inspire, encourage, remind people that God is great, and show our love for each as brothers.