“It was a record by Sam Cooke that really got me into music,” Johnson said. “It was his voice. There is literally no one who sounds like Sam Cooke. He can sing anything and it’ll be great. You go back and listen to some of the songs and they weren’t overly wordy, it wasn’t extremely poetic, but the way that he sang the song, it just brought the song to life. That’s what I try to do with my music.”
And it’s working out for him so far. The Tampa, Fla. native — who has been living in Oklahoma City since a stint in the Air Force landed him here in 2001 — has been ramping up a career as a much-lauded and in-demand neo-gospel singer. The video for his 2010 single “Well Done” got him considerable airplay on cable TV channel BET and “opened a lot of doors” for the 32-year-old.
But even he admits that the mainstream still has a hard time understanding exactly what neo-gospel is.
“Neo-gospel is a lot like neo-soul — think artists like D’Angelo — that type of style but with the message being the Gospel,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of people that listen to neo-soul, but the messages don’t line up with their lifestyle. I try to present this alternative with a wholesome message that can be digested by a lot of different people. It’s a style that was really missing in the Gospel genre, so I was just wanting to present it. There are not too many people who are doing this style.”
Johnson’s neo-gospel sound will be on display at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Net Church, 2200 N. Bryant Ave., to celebrate the release of his new album, Grateful. Also performing is Denver Duncan, and admission is free.
While Johnson does want to sell copies of his CD, the reason he’s doing this goes far deeper for him. He hopes listeners will feel “uplifted and encouraged” by his music.
“I hope that the people pick up on the heart of my music,” Johnson said. “This new album is really speaking from a place of temptation and things that I’ve dealt with, whether it be addictions or false preachers, people who’ve been hurt by the church or not a lot of love has been shown to them.
“I’m just praying that people are able to see the heart and the genuine light of what I’m saying. Not everybody’s a Christian, but we all go through different things, and I want people to know they’re not alone. I just want to present — through my gift of music — that God has love for everyone.”