By Sheilah Belle
TBR Exclusive — (July 6, 2014) Ask anyone about the Award Winning, Songwriter, Producer, Composer and Music/Choir Director Donald Lawrence and usually the words brilliant, talented and musical genius comes up. This may have a lot to do with how he sees music and his vision behind creating so many hits.
During an exclusive interview with The Belle Report, we caught up with the maestro to find out what is next on the creative icons “To do List”.
Lawrence talked about music, his goals, a few creative ideas and the basics when it comes to teaching music.
The Belle: Is it difficult teaching groups or choirs new songs or is there more to it, that we just don’t see?
Lawrence: Learning the parts is 101, however I come in when its time to learn the dynamics, the feel, the placement, the blend and the overall…like how we are saying this word, where we are cutting off and to me that’s what makes the song work, not just the parts.
The Belle: Most people don’t have the vision to do that, how do you?
Lawrence: Well because I studied vocals so long and so hard and so many Vocal Taskmasters, when it comes to background vocal arranging, I guess we are in a time where people just didn’t study vocals like that. Like they don’t have that educational background around it and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I guess it was simply a different time. But I grew up in a time when people actually studied Vocal arranging, as well as studied Choral Directing, and understanding Choral Directing from an educational perspective and a raw talent perspective. Like Thomas Whitfield and I am highly influenced by Andrae Crouch and Luther Vandross, but definitely the Whitfield Company and also Vision & Love Center and a number of choirs that really inspired me.
The Belle: When you explain it like that and the Basic 101 that does explain a lot.
Lawrence: Right! That’s one on one, when it comes to a professional group and the parts, but the work comes in with the rest of the song.
The Belle: Because of your depth of understanding so many layers to making a hit song, or simply a quality song like you have done over and over again, that is why people call you a musical genius.
Lawrence: Awww, but I know some geniuses and I don’t know if I am that, but I accept that humbly.
The Belle: Tell us about the DL 20 and your musical journey?
Lawrence: It was great and I made it like a celebration. One of the things I have said during the course of my career, I was so busy working in it that I didn’t get to enjoy it. I wanted to make sure that everything was right and as long as I can remember, I was always the leader. When you’re the leader, you want to make sure that everything is dotted and crossed, but you also don’t get to enjoy certain things, because you are making sure that everything is great and everything is straight. So I said I was going to take a breath during DL 20 and even though I want it to be right I wanted to also actually remember it. But it was a great celebration and I had a good time with a lot of friends like Kelly (Price), Faith (Evans), Karen Clarke Sheard, Hezekiah Walker, Ted and Sherri and because we had all worked together before it was easy. And yes, it was a lot of work, but it ran smoothly. I think even on our tech day and after a run though, we were ahead of schedule.
The Belle: What was so amazing when you put the word out about your recording, was how fast the word traveled.
Lawrence: Yeah, the industry really came out and showed me a lot of love. So yeah, it was a really good night. I wanted it to be easy and make it a celebration and that’s what we did.
The Belle: Tell us about your current hit, “There Remaineth a Rest” with Tri City?
Lawrence: It was actually inspired by two sermons. One of them included a sermon by Creflo Dollar, called, “Obtaining Rest through Faith.” I listen to his teachings and I like to be the musical soundtrack to great revelational preachers and spiritual teachers who teach in depth and give us something we haven’t had before and teach us how to apply it to everyday life. So he was teaching on obtaining rest through Faith and he spoke about this Rest. I love the scripture that says, “There Remaineth a Rest for the People of God” and I like the way it sings. So just hearing that, I could hear the music to it and as I listened to the teaching it gave me all I needed to write this song.
The Belle: What was the concept behind the scene of the video, There Remaineth A Rest?
Lawrence: Well honestly we weren’t trying to do a video, because over the years, people often said ‘I would just love to be in one of your rehearsals, to see how you teach them, so it was really just watching us work with some B Roll of us singing and getting back together just to do this song. So it was no real concept and besides, we had not really gotten together in the studio in about seven years but the sound just popped right back together.
The Belle: So what’s happening with some of the Tri-City Singers?
Lawrence: Well you have DeWayne Woods, Sherri Jones Moffett, The Murrells, LeJuene Thompson and with Donald Lawrence and Company you have Jason Nelson, Anita Wilson and Tobbi & Tommi who are also trying to do their thing. I’ve always had a great stable of great talented people who were artists and they are still like my musical family. I check up on them like a Dad all the time and if I see something going wrong I tap them on the shoulder and say look out for this or don’t do that, like that, but consider doing this. It’s like having certain people assigned to me for a certain amount of time and I endorse it, however they also know I am not trying to keep them in the background, but I want them to soar, because I think when you have people connected to you, you see their potential, and you have the ability to speak to their potential to make it show up and when it shows up, you expect them to get out and be great.
The Belle: Where do you go from here?
Lawrence: Well there are some things, I really want to do. I’ve been talking about going back to school for psycho-therapy and I have an idea of putting psycho-therapy and music together and I would call it Music Psycho-therapy. What it would do, it would actually help people through music with their everyday challenges…like people who are depressed, those with low self esteem and even mental challenges. I’ve also been developing several TV Treatments, so we’ll see where that goes?
The Belle: TV Treatments for what?
Lawrence: Well my Major was Theater, so I have always had a lot of ideas for shows, Scripted and Unscripted and even some Docu-Series.
The Belle: So is there a goal here?
Lawrence: Yeah! My goal is to really become a Musical Psycho-therapist which means, when you listen to my music, it will help you Spiritually but it will also help you Psychologically. It would be like almost having a session with me, but I heal you through music and what God has placed inside of me.
The Belle: This actually takes us back to the opening statement, “You are a Musical Genius.”
Lawrence: Thank You, I really appreciate that. I think its all about helping people and when you see people broken, you really want to see them whole and that’s where I get joy.
For more information about Donald Lawrence go to http://www.DonaldLawrence.com or go to; Twitter@DonaldLawrence Instagram@DonaldLawrnece Facebook@DonaldLawrence .