More than 7 years after the release of their initial self-titled project, the McClurkin family has reunited in bringing out one of Gospel musicís most anticipated releases of the year, We Praise You. Read about the amazing work of God in creating the groupís sophomore release in this weekís BREATHEcast interview with sisters Olivia and Cheryl McClurkin.
To start things off, [We Praise You] has obviously been a long awaited project for everyone since the release of your first record. Can you tell us a little about the road leading up to the release?
Olivia: Cheryl do you want to go first?
Cheryl: You go ahead.
Olivia: Well, since the last project, weíve had our own private things that we were doing, such as being mothers and all sorts of things, children and what not. But we were able to get together about two years ago (the project was actually recorded two years ago in April) and we came together and just started taking about getting busy again. Donnie was doing the church and everything, and we had all joined him and helped with his vision in different things, and we just decided, ďOk, now itís time to record again.Ē And it was a long road dealing with all these people and all their personal things coming together and it was just that two years ago, we were all at the right place at the right time. Especially for me with the cancer up and down, I had several operations and I wasnít able to participate in all the things that they were doing all the time. But now Iím praising God that Iím able to get back up to be part of this project according to what Godís plan was. It may have seemed long to other people, but we had to wait for Godís hand to move before we did it ourselves. So many times we just do things on our own strength, just because itís a good idea. But we waited on the Lord, and we were all together at the same place at the same time and it was time to do that.
Praise God, I can definitely feel that. Just from listening to the CD, I could sense His anointing and work through what you guys were doing that night.
How is promotion for the project coming now that itís released? Iím sure that many people are looking forward to having the McClurkin experience in their hometown.
Cheryl: We just did a ten day tour, a promo tour, in Philly, Washington, New York and New Jersey, but thatís all so far.
Do you guys have anything planned for more extensive touring?
Olivia: Well, I donít know if there are things already in the works, but weíre believing in great things to come. We get different calls and different bites at things as time progresses, and the more people hear about the project and listen to it, Iím sure more things will come, but there is nothing set at this point.
I noticed on the record that there are a lot of songs written by different members of the family. Olivia, even your daughter had a contribution on there with ďYou Are An Awesome God.Ē Was the writing for the album done in light of doing the project together, or was it more of a compilation of what was already being done?
Olivia: Well for me, Iíve been writing ever since I could sing, and I have a whole repetoire of songs, and my daughters often will sing with me and work with me on different occasions in the studio work. Music is always going on in our household. And so when it came time to do the project and we had decided that it was going to be a participation and everyone throw in some songs, ďYou Are An Awesome GodĒ was a song that was already on my daughters heart, and she and I just sat down and worked it out and prayed about it, and that was the outcome of that. But we always have songs ready to roll, always.
Are you a full time solo artist, Olivia?
Olivia: I guess I could say that, yes. I do lots of things on my own and thatís what I meant to say in the beginning, in pulling this all together, everyone getting pulled different ways, and six or seven different people doing things. Weíre all in ministry to some capacity. Although right now, Iím just staying still, because of different things that I had to go through in order to be healed. So Iím kind of sitting still right now, but yes I do lots of solo things.
I know that Andrea is leading praise and worship at Perfecting. How about yourself, Cheryl?
Cheryl: Oh no, Iím just doing ministry, Godís ministry with the group. For me, Iím really just enjoying watching God bring me to somewhere I could have never imagined, in being a part of His ministry by ministering to others - speaking the Gospel through song. I would have never dreamed in the world that I would be a part of it. So Iím really just enjoying the walk and the direction that Heís leading me in.
Amen, and weíre blessed to have you as a part of it, Cheryl.
Going back to We Praise You, one thing that I noticed about the record is that there are so many different sounds coming out and different kinds of songs. You guys even did a cover of the Hillsong ďNeed You Here.Ē I know that on the release for We Praise You you talked about broadening the audience for Gospel music, and I was wondering if the song selection and production on the record was heading in that direction
Olivia: Well, when weíre doing praise and worship and weíre together and praying, a lot of songs come into you. And we may not necessarily record that particular song, but the Spirit moves really strong, and weíre just singing anything, it could be ďOh Mary Donít You Weep,Ē and itís just something that will prick the heart, and we want that to come across in the music. So our decision in song selection is that we want to choose these songs to minister to the people. It doesnít matter if itís Hillsong or whoever it is, our songs are really for the heart and the soul moreso than for the listening pleasure.
Regarding the overall McClurkin sound, if there are viewers that are reading this and are curious on what to expect from the McClurkin Project, how would you in your own words describe your sound?
Olivia: The only thing I can say is that every experience that weíve had in our life, whether it be joy or pain, someone out there is experiencing that same thing. And the greatest thing, when youíre ministering with people is that they can identify with you, and say ďHey, Iím just like you.Ē Sometimes people look at artists, and feel ďOh my God theyíre so grand and theyíre so this and so that,Ē and they have no idea what weíve gone through as a person. We just want to minister the Word through song to individuals that are hurt, lost, dying, whatever. Especially for me, my hearts desire is to work in the healing capacity, and so if I can just say something and touch somebody, and let them know that God is a healer, and Heís a miracle working God and a loving God, and let it be through song - I just want to share my heart with people all over the world. For us, itís not just about the bass and the drum and the dancing and the singing, but itís about the fact that we serve a loving God, and that He is coming soon, and we must prepare ourselves, our hearts and our minds, to just receive what it is He has for us in these last days.
The power of God, how misplaced it is sometimes - we go in our rituals of going to church all the time, and just going and going and going, but what relationship we have with the Father, I want to get that all across in song. Because itís not all the time that you can catch people in the service, but if you can just pop that CD into your car and ministry can happen to you in that car, when you can hear and feel the Word and the power of the Lord, thatís what we want. Itís not about a Grammy, itís not about accolades, itís about ministry, through music, and reaching people.
Cheryl: Yes, thatís what I think weíre mostly about. What we want the audience to know, the whole world to know, basically, is that weíre not entertainers. Weíre not here to entertain anyone, weíre doing ministry. And for the music that we do, itís going to minister to each and every person differently, according to what theyíre going through. And it doesnít have to only be for sad times, there are many songs on there for when youíre just going through the good times as well. But itís just ministry - weíre not entertainers, but weíre working for God.
Olivia: Weíre worshippers.
Amen, thatís an awesome testimony. And it's prevalent in the fruit thatís come from your ministry with We Praise You. Really, thinking about the history of your family in doing this kind of ministry, it seems almost like itís a once in a decade kind of thing, going from the New York Restoration Choir, your 2000 project and now this one. And although itís difficult to get everyone together, as you said, but when you guys do get together itís an amazing experience. Are there future projects in sight for the McClurkins?
Olivia: Definitely. And not only us, but weíve got a generation underneath us thatís going to be joining in soon.
Cheryl: Yes, definitely, this is something that will always be. As long as God says, it will always be there.
Donnieís been talking about retiring from the Gospel music scene to focus on his pastoral ministry. Do you guys see yourself doing this without him?
Olivia: To say without him it feels a little funny, but I would say yes, and only because God has placed us with ministry as individuals. We must do what God has called us as individuals to do, and Donnie has been called to minister in a preaching capacity as well as through music, and there will be times that he cannot make it, there will be times where he has other work that he has to do. And the same with us, myself included, there will be lots of opportunities for us to do many things apart. But we will certainly try to do things together as much as possible. There will be times where we wonít be together, but itís not like weíll just go solo without him, weíll never be without each other, never.
Cheryl: Weíve done a lot of traveling even with the first project without Donnie, and with him, he likes to pop up sometimes, and we have a ball when he just appears when he gets a chance to. But all in all, heíll never leave us and weíll never leave him. Weíll always be together.
Amen. Thatís all the questions Iíve got, thank you ladies so much for taking out some time. Iím feeling Godís grace through this interview, and I hope that a lot of viewers on BREATHEcast will be able to feel the same thing and receive that ministry from you guys. Itís such a blessing to see people so focused on Godís calling and the ministry that He has given to them.
Olivia: The ministry is second to our love for worship. The art of music, entertainment, in the end itís not important to us, but itís the worship and giving God the praise. And really, youíve got to be careful how you say things, people that say, ďIím a ChristianĒ - so many people say Iím Christian, and they do some of the most unbelievable things.
Olivia: But for me, Iím more than a Christian, Iím a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ, my Father in heaven, who sits and watches me and takes care of me every day. Iím in love, I have a relationship.
Cheryl: Yes, Lord.
Olivia: I have a relationship with a loving God. And itís more than just a song, it is a lifestyle. Because if it werenít for Jesus going up on the cross, I would be dead. I would be dead, right now. They told me in Ď99 that I wouldnít live 30 days, I told them that was a lie, and Iím still here 6 years later, here, ministering to you. They told me I was going to die a couple weekends ago, and I said that God said it was not so. They told me I was going to die last July, I said God said it was not so. Just a couple months ago, they had to go inside my head, in my brain, and I said Lord, ďYou are my Father, the love of my life, thereís no one but you and Iíll hold onto your Word,Ē and right now, I sit here talking to you with 60 staples in my head, and I still say God is a healer. And they cannot understand how one body can still stay alive after all Iíve gone through physically, and since then, Iíve said that I will live to just tell everybody the works of the Lord, and thatís what Iím about. Thatís what Iím about. Itís not a song or a dance, but itís a relationship that we want to share with the people.
Praise God, thatís powerful, powerful testimony. Thank you for sharing that, Olivia. I'm grateful for this opportunity to hear about the works of the Lord in your life and the life of your family, and I look forward to giving the viewers on BREATHEcast that same opportunity. Thank you again, and I hope we will have more opportunities to speak in the near future.
Olivia: Yes, me too, thank you. May Godís blessing be on you and your ministry and your family. Thank you so much.
Cheryl: Thank you and God bless you. Keep us in your prayers.