An Interview With Rachel McCutcheon

Rachel McCutcheon is quickly becoming one of my favorite current songwriters. Discovered by writer/producer Wayne Haun, she has been contributing a plethora of well-penned fresh tunes to new releases by some of southern gospel’s best artists. Recently, she graciously agreed to answer some interview questions from me. I hope you enjoy this conversation!

Continue reading “An Interview With Rachel McCutcheon”


An Interview With Mark Bishop

Mark Bishop

When I noticed Mark Bishop had a new project out, I thought it might be a good idea to run a little interview with him. After reading through a couple other interviews he’d done, I knew it would be a good idea.

As a singer-songwriter who found solo success after his family group broke up at the turn of the millenium, Mark has filled an important niche in a genre traditionally dominated by quartets, trios, and mixed ensembles. I’ll call it “the James Taylor niche.” Where they bring sweeping anthems and barn-burners crackling with energy, Mark offers pensive, carefully crafted lyrics that tell a story—never flashy, always thoughtful, and able to fit more insight than you thought possible into a 3-4-minute nutshell. David Bruce Murray said it best way back in 2008 when describing his song “I Got Here as Fast as I Could”:  “[I]t only took a few minutes for Mark Bishop to kill an entire family, reunite them in Heaven, and make a fine scriptural point.” If you ask Mark a simple question, you’re sure not to get a simple answer. But behind that philosophical bent is a keen sense of humor and a dry wit. In this interview, I ask Mark about his background and writing influences, his writing process, his favorite project, and his latest album. I also discovered a few things you might not have known about him! Enjoy. Continue reading “An Interview With Mark Bishop”

An Interview With Rebecca Peck


Apologies for not posting anything yesterday. First I thought it was April 1st, then I thought it was March 30th, then I remembered that March has 31 days in it. So, needless to say, WordPress didn’t do what I thought it was going to do. 🙂 BUT, to make up for my absent-mindedness, and instead of coming up with anything clever for April Fool’s Day, I have a special treat for all you readers—an interview with one of my favorite songwriters, Rebecca Peck! Rebecca has a huge catalogue of songs with cuts from nearly all of your favorite artists, including, but not limited to, the Booth Brothers, the Collingsworth Family, Brian Free & Assurance, Legacy Five, Triumphant Quartet, the Hoppers, Signature Sound, etc., etc., etc. In my opinion, she is gospel music’s answer to Twila Paris. My personal favorite song of hers is the Collingsworth Family’s “Blessed Be the Lamb.” I got the chance to ask her some questions about her background and her career, including her recent song “Christ Is Still the King” on Legacy Five’s latest. My thanks to Rebecca for being so insightful, down-to-earth and gracious. You can read more about her and browse her work at her website. Without further ado, here are my questions and her answers to them!

Continue reading “An Interview With Rebecca Peck”

Glorious Day: An Interview With Ernie Haase

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ernie Haase about Signature Sound’s latest project, Glorious Day. Enjoy!

1. Tell us about this new spin on “Glorious Day,” your new single and the title track.

What do you do when you’re trying to stay true to yourself and yet reach another level of musical art? EHSS has always tried to answer that question with taking a blast from the past and giving it our “Signature Sound.” Continue reading “Glorious Day: An Interview With Ernie Haase”

Behind the Song… with Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills: “Jesus is Holding My Hand”

When I “reviewed” Doug Anderson’s solo album, I said that “Jesus is Holding My Hand” was easily the best song on the project. I said that even after hearing clips of all the other tracks, and I put in a later note saying that I still maintained that position after listening to the CD in its entirety. Fortunately, somebody out there agrees with me and decided to single the song. It’s enjoyed chart success and become a staple of Signature Sound concerts as Doug takes it around the country and the world.

I asked the writers if they would be willing to let me and my readers into the process of how the song came to be, then came to be recorded. They graciously agreed.


Me: What was your initial inspiration for the song?

Wendy Wills: I came to a chapter of a Bible study I was doing that focused on Psalm 23.  I was thinking about how the Shepherd Lord is with us in both valley and pastures, and “Jesus Is Holding My Hand” popped into my head.  I remember thinking what a nice little song idea that could be, simple and hopeful, certainly true.  I do remember specifically thinking of starting from the green pastures and still waters, because that’s where I was spiritually – I was experiencing no trials or tribulations at that time.  I also was thinking that it’s these peaceful times that God wants us to recall when we’re going through the hard times because he has shown us his faithfulness.

In my mind was a picture of the mountains I hiked around when I lived in western China.  Deep, cool valleys nestled in between forbidding mountains.  But, oh, the view from the top!  That is truly a mountaintop blessing!  Life is a chain of mountains and valleys and Jesus is with us in both places, leading us to the place where he restores us, and helping us climb through trials.

Lyn Rowell: Wendy and I had a writing appointment at BMI in Nashville, and she said she had an idea — a lyrical hook with a melodic idea, so she played and sang “Jesus is holding my hand.” I immediately liked it, and we started talking about what it meant to us personally. I told her I had been realizing that both mountains and valleys can be encouraging or discouraging, based on the specifics of the circumstances and exactly where we are at the time. A valley can be restful and inviting when there are green pastures, but when the valley turns dark, the main goal is to move through it as quickly as possible! Similarly, if we stand at the base of a mountain looking up, it can be imposing and challenging. But once we’ve reached the top of the mountain, it becomes a place of victory and peace. So those different perspectives were the inspiration for the verses in the song for me, but the one idea holding it all together was that “Jesus is holding my hand,” no matter what happens.

Me:  How did lyrics and music come together? Did one of you write music and the other lyrics, or were both a joint effort?

WW: I came to the appointment with a melodic and lyrical hook.  But after that, it was definitely a collaborative effort.

LR: Since Wendy had the initial melodic hook on the guitar, she took the lead musically. It did take more than one writing appointment, but the music and lyrics came together at the same time as we worked through what we wanted to say.

Me: How did Doug come to record it?

WW: Lyn was more involved in that process.

LR: Ray “Chip” Davis did a great demo for us, and we began to pitch the song. Then in June of 2010, Wayne Haun (who was producing the project with Ernie Haase) texted me to ask if “Jesus Is Holding My Hand” had been cut yet. I texted back that it hadn’t been and asked why. He said they were listening for Doug Anderson’s solo CD and loved the song.

Me: Did you expect it to find the kind of success that it’s had?

LR: I was surprised, but excited to hear that it would be the first radio single from Doug’s project. When they first put the song on hold, they said it had the classic sound they were hoping to find, so that may be one reason why it’s been so well-received in live concerts all over the US and in other countries they’ve visited recently. Doug’s YouTube videos show that he always makes that song a rich moment during the Ernie Haase & Signature Sound concerts. He has the perfect voice to bring the song to life, and he communicates the message beautifully.

WW:  I really had no idea what to expect!  Lyn really kept me in the loop. It went from:  “Wayne loves it,” to “He played it for Doug,” to “Doug loves it,” to “It’s going to be the first single!”  I saw Doug sing it live at his CD release concert in his hometown of Lapel, IN, in April.  He was awesome.  People were singing along . . . it was a sweet moment.


Thank you ladies so much! This is a great song, and I’m just pleased as punch that it’s getting such good exposure. When you put two gifted writers in the same room, good things are bound to happen.

Behind the Song…with Dianne Wilkinson: “Where’s John?”

Last week, a lot of us got a good laugh at “Camping and crew” over the fact that they predicted the Second Coming on May 21st, and of course nothing happened on May 21st. But at the same time, we should recognize the sadness of what was going on there. Not only were many poor people fooled into giving up their livelihoods, Camping and his followers only gave more fuel to the fire of those who mock the idea of a Second Coming entirely. While it’s certainly true that no man can presume to know the day or the hour, we should still be sober and vigilant, knowing that Jesus surely will come.

Dianne Wilkinson recently penned a song on this very topic, and she was gracious enough to answer some questions about it for the blog.  It’s called “Where’s John?” and it has generated very positive critical reactions despite its chilling subject matter: The song is written in the first person from the perspective of a man who’s been left behind in the last days, searching for a brother named John who (we realize) has been carried away in the Rapture. The speaker says John was always warning him that one day Jesus would return, but he only laughed in his brother’s face. Now there are “open graves everywhere,” John is missing, and the speaker is slowly realizing the horrible truth of what awaits him. Most southern gospel songs leave the listener with some sort of pleasant feeling inside, but this is one fascinating exception!

Besides being interested in the song itself, I was curious about the fact that Arthur Rice had recorded the demo, since Terry Franklin always does Dianne’s demos. Read on for her intriguing answer to that question as well.

yankeegospelgirl: How did you come up with this fresh lyrical idea for a southern gospel song? Was there any specific inspiration?

Dianne: I wasn’t even thinking about writing…this song started coming to me, as many do, lyrics and music.  It only took about 20 minutes to finish, and I made no changes.

yankeegospelgirl: How did the music evolve? Did it come right along with the lyrics?

Dianne: The melody started in the minor key, and it seemed right just to keep it there, given the way the song turned out.

yankeegospelgirl: How did the Kingdom Heirs come to record it? I understand that Arthur picked it up after doing the demo.

Dianne: That is really a God thing. The young man who did the track on this suggested to my publisher that they send it to Arthur for the demo, and Arthur has never demo’d one of my songs before or since. When he sent it in, that’s when I realized Jeff was singing the bass feature (Arthur was doing all the other vocals). Well, I didn’t think the Kingdom Heirs would ever do this song, but I sent it to Steve French so he could hear what a great job Arthur and Jeff did. He contacted me immediately to put the song on hold, and was very excited about it. He thought it had a message the world needs to hear. Of course, I did, too…but I thought it would be difficult to get it recorded. I’m so glad the Kingdom Heirs did.

yankeegospelgirl: This has been described as “one of the creepiest songs in SG,” but in an approving way. What’s your reaction?

Dianne: Well, it’s certainly different.  It’s dark, and imagery is one of a young man’s growing terror after being left behind at the Rapture…separated from his brother.  So I expected people to react to it differently than probably anything I’ve ever written before.  It will be interesting to see how it’s received before live audiences.  My prayer is that it will find lodging in the hearts of lost people who come to a concert, or go into the Kingdom Heirs theater at Dollywood, and cause them to come to Christ before it’s TOO LATE.

yankeegospelgirl: Thank you very much!

I hope this will not be the last “behind the song” feature I get to do on this blog. Thanks to Dianne for taking the time to let us in on the song-writing process here!

The Garms Kids interview Michael Booth

I had to put in a plug for this interview because it’s just too darn cute. Michael Booth is interviewed by some of his youngest fans, amidst much hilarity and profound insight! The Garms family promises to be a valuable addition to Their contributions have already been highlights. This interview is probably their best so far. Be sure to watch the whole thing. [Update: The video has been removed from Youtube, so I have removed the embed. However, it can be viewed in high quality at the link above or at the Garms family’s blog.] Here is a transcript:

Jayme: We are at Lakewood Temple, Mainwood, Minnesota.

Sam: Interviewing Mr. Michael Booth of the Booth Brothers.

Caleb: Hey Mr. Booth [couldn’t quite make out the rest of what Caleb said here.]

Michael: I’m happy to be interviewed. Thank you. Thank you. [Channels Elvis.] Thankuvermuch.

Caleb: All right. All three of us have questions for you.

Michael: All right!

Caleb: First: What is your favorite song you’ve ever sung on stage?

Michael: What is my favorite song I’ve ever sung on stage? Uh, believe it or not, probably “His Grace is Sufficient.” Probably “His Grace is Sufficient” is my  favorite song, because I think it covers…I think it covers everybody’s need at the same time.

Caleb: Oh thank you.

Michael: You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

Jayme: What was it like singing on the NQC stage for the first time?

Michael: It, it was a lot of fun but it was, I learned that it was hard to sing if you can’t breathe. Because I was so nervous and overwhelmed. I’m thinking, “Wow this is the same stage that George Younce was on and the Happy Goodmans and the Kingsmen and all that, so I was very much overwhelmed. But I’ll say it went quick because our first couple years at the quartet convention we had eleven minutes to sing. And also we lost Horizon Group three times. That’s the limit. [Laughter]

Sam: Mr. Booth.

Michael: Yeah!

Sam: How do you prepare yourself for a concert spiritually and mentally?

Michael: How do I prepare myself spiritually and mentally for a concert? I was asked this last night by an evangelist. It’s, the best way to answer is it’s a lifestyle. It’s not something you do one day or just a few minutes before you go on stage and sing. It’s a lifestyle. And honestly a gospel singer’s lifestyle should be no different than any other Christian’s lifestyle. So basically my job is not to grieve the Holy Spirit so that he can work through me when we’re singing. And I do a lot of reading. Read the Bible, read some other writers: John Piper, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, you know on and on and on, you know, lot of reading. And I watch, believe it or not I watch a lot of sermons on Youtube. I think that’s a very, very valuable thing if a person can handle going on there. That helps me a lot.

Sam: All right. Interesting!

Caleb: Here’s another question. You’ve recently become very involved as a preacher. And you’ve been excelling at presenting a clear gospel message. This has been greatly appreciated by our family and many others. Now tell us, who has influenced you most in this area?

Michael: Thank you. Who influenced me the most? That’s a huge question…um, how much tape you got there?

Dad: Plenty. [Laughter]

Michael: Long story short is a friend of mine of the family’s, his name is Darrel Toney, from the Toney family, Toney Brothers, he you know in a very loving, compassionate way gave me a good godly rebuke, if you will, of my, what he recognized as my ignorance of the Scripture. Because he could tell one night I might make a point but next night I wouldn’t. And it was hit and miss and very inconsistent on the platform. So when I realized and I was convicted over that, it didn’t make me angry, it didn’t hurt, and I realized I had to do something about it. So I started studying, studying the Scripture, and I started with the gospels. Well one day I typed in “preacher,” and somehow on Youtube it came up with a guy by the name of Paul Washer and a sermon called “The Shocking Message” came up. And it stunned me, absolutely stunned me. And it’s the same message now that I present of making sure that our salvation is in faith in Christ and not in a prayer that we prayed, basically. And so you know there’s confession and repentance, and all those things are involved, but it’s not just walking in and out. So a lot of his preaching influenced me, and then as I studied, it’s an amazing thing how the Spirit brings back words that I heard from former messages from my former pastor Ledoux Strong, out of Brandon Fellowship Baptist Church, and David Rakes from First Baptist Temple, Parrish, Florida, and on and on and on, Gene Sorenson, and my current pastor Mike Stalnaker. So when you read the word and you’ve heard the word, the Spirit puts it together and just seals it in your mind. So that’s kind of how all that came about. So now we just feel… [camera shifts over to the kids, Michael moves in front of them] Now we just…over here. I’m right here. [Laughter] Sorry. Now we just feel it’s a great opportunity every night to take 10, literally 10 minutes and present a clear presentation of the gospel, ‘cuz we don’t know if everybody’s, everybody’s born again. And I think it’s, I’ve enjoyed doing that.

Caleb: Wow. I’ll take that to heart.

Michael: Thank you.

Jayme: You have been involved in the southern gospel music industry for over 20 years [Michael looks sad], traveled countless miles, met lots of people and visited many different places. Looking back, if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Michael: I know exactly what I would do differently: I would enjoy things more. Specifically when we were singing to 20 or 30 people. Because now I realize I’ve learned to enjoy myself by being fulfilled in being effective, and not because of the size of the audience. Let me say that again: Learn to be content. I wish I had been content and enjoyed singing to 30 people because I’m being effective for the kingdom, not because of the size of the crowd. Because I had a huge awakening, if you will, one time when we were with the Gaithers and I was sitting between Guy Penrod and Jake Hess, and there were 15,000 people, literally, out in front of me. And I thought, “This is it. This is the biggest Christian tour, biggest crowd I’m ever gonna sing to. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.” And it was one of the lowest points of my life, because I realized I had…I tried to find joy in being part of a big thing, not in part of a big message. So, I thank God for delivering me from that. So those of you who are singing to 20 and 30 people, you’re still representing the King of kings and Lord of lords. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. Nothing is bigger than you singing about Christ.

Sam: All right. When you sang here at Lakewood Temple last year, you mentioned from the stage that you have chosen not to watch television on the bus. This spoke volumes to our family, for we also do not watch TV. Would you explain how and why you came to this decision?

Michael: Did I say that?? [Laughter] What is critically important is what goes into our mind. And in our society today it’s very easy for one TV show to turn into two, to turn into three, to turn into six hours. And the next thing you know, you’ve got six hours of who knows what influencing your mind. What is most important is that even if you’re going to watch television, you’ve got to offset the junk that has gone in. Junk in, junk out. So good in, good out…I think a person’s gotta know when they’re caught up into something. And bottom line, if you find yourself caught up in something, you gotta try to break away from it. So that’s what I tried to do, is just break away from it. And rather than spend time watching TV, either listening to sermons, even playing games, giving your mind a break. Anyway, just fill in the blank, you say the rest.

Off-the-wall questions…

Caleb: [Pulls question off the wall.] First off-the-wall question.

Michael: The first off-the-wall question.

Caleb: Here is mine. Just wanted to know what was your first impression of Scott Fowler? How did you meet?

Michael: Oh! My first impression of Scott Fowler was [looks down] “Well, he’s a little guy.” [Laughter.] “Thought he was bigger on stage.” No, honestly, Scott Fowler is one of my dearest friends. And I’ve always had a love for simple people [laughter]. I just, no, Scott’s one of my best friends. We go to Cracker Barrel all the time. I did find out this: When the check is put on the table, don’t go “I’ll get that,” because he’ll say, “Okay.” And then you end up paying for it. He don’t ever pay for nothing. Matter of fact, at quartet convention this year, he went all six days without buying lunch one time. Yeah. He manipulates people, he does. That’s what I think of Scott. [Laughter]

Jayme: Here’s the second off-the-wall question [goes and pulls it off…] Are there any questions you have never been asked but are dying to  answer?

Michael: Wow. Yes, October 8th is my birthday. What would I like for a gift? [Laughter] You know what, just send a Visa gift card. That would be fine, and then I can just, you know, pray about it and get whatever I need at the time. That would be, that’s something I’ve never been asked. Anybody like to ask me? What would you like for your birthday? Visa gift card.

Jayme: Interesting.

Michael: Your turn? [Hands mic to Sam.]

Sam: As for the third and final off-the-wall question…which is, what is the most unusual thing that has happened at a concert?

Michael: [Laughs] Um, one time I was singing and Scott Fowler was there. [Laughter] I’m kidding. Most unusual that’s ever happened at a concert… Well I don’t know how to des…no, I can’t, I can’t tell that one. [Laughter.] Um, wow, see there are a lot of things that have happened. I’m just trying to think which one I can put on the internet. I’m drawing a blank man, there’ve been…I remember one time the electricity went out. So we’re a track group and all the tracks are gone. So we do what we can and we start singing acapella. And an old guy, I’m guessing 80, 90, 400 years old, whatever it was, old guy…he stood up several rows back and he said, “That, that’s good singing right there! You don’t need all that RACKET!” That’s a true story, true story. That’s one thing that happened, and there have been a lot of things happened to me. Get back to me on that one and I’ll try to think of ’em, bring ’em to memory. Some of them I’ve sponged from my memory.

Li’l Adventurers Together: This is Sam, Jayme, and Caleb Garms. Reporting for southerngospelblog. Dot com. Bye!


Thanks kids for giving me some more great reminders of why I like Michael Booth so much. Keep the great interviews coming!

Catching Up With Ian Owens

I thought my readers might enjoy the little conversation I had with fresh bass singer Ian Owens this past Saturday. He was very generous with his time, and I can now speak from experience that he is a great guy as well as a great singer. Enjoy!

"I have a heart of gold"


Me: How did “The Old Rugged Cross” become a sugar stick for you—how did that happen?

Ian: Basically, it’s one of Ernie’s favorite hymns, and he said that he enjoyed my heart and my delivery in a song, and he asked me to do it. And I think he was pleased with what I did, and now it’s just kinda an every night thing.

Me: That’s awesome. So how are you doing keeping up with “the steps?”

Ian: [Laughs] Oh that, you know that’s the hardest thing for me, because I am not coordinated. I have rhythm, but I am not coordinated. Not at all.

Me: Can you play basketball?

Ian: No. I can be the ball. They can play basketball, I’ll be the ball. Or I can play basketball if it has a joystick. But the steps are really the hardest part for me.

Me: So where do you see yourself going now as far as sort of refining your craft and becoming an even better bass singer?

Ian: You know, I have the same mentality today that I did when I started. And the reason George Younce is my hero is because for him it was always about singing first. He just happened to have a low voice. And for me, I want to work on my singing. I don’t want to work on the lows, I don’t want to work on the depth. That comes, it comes with age, they say you’re not even a real bass singer til you’re 45…I got 15 years to be a real bass singer! [Laughs] And so, you know, I’m working on the singing.

Me: I want you to keep that. I want you to keep that upper register, ‘cuz that’s where you really, that fruity, rich tone—keep that, don’t lose that, okay?

Ian: Yeah, thank you very much.

Me: Do you foresee any Imperials covers in the group’s future now that you’re on board?

Ian: I would hope so, because you know some of the older Imperials stuff from the 70s, the Terry Blackwood, Jim Murray, Sherman Andrus, Armond Morales, those days, that harmony was impeccable, it was wonderful…

[I share my own early memories of the Imperials…]

Ian: You need to tell Ernie we need some Imperials covers.

[I assure him that I have suggestions…]

Ian: Well “I Believe” is an Imperials cover, and that’s you know, Armond hired me to take his place.

Me: You know what you should do, you should do “My Mind Forgets a Million Things.”

Ian: Oh, I love that song.

Me: You have to sing that.

Ian: The only reason I didn’t with the Imperials is because I felt like I wasn’t really old enough for that song to seem relevant.

Me: Well I know, but you have to do it. I mean, you’re the only bass who can really…I thought nobody could top Armond on that one, but now you’re here, you can do it.

Ian: Oh thank you, thank you. I love you. [Looks over at bystanding old ladies.] I love her. Insert, “This is where I hug her.”

[This is where he hugs me.]


Catching Up With Doug Anderson

This past Saturday, I caught up with Doug Anderson in Grand Rapids. I also caught up with Ian Owens (look for that interview later!) Doug shared a little bit about his upcoming solo record, which I thought might interest my readers. (By the way, this sweet sepia shot is just one of many great shots I took from the concert. Look for a slideshow of those later—there are 60-some of them. [Update: See slideshow and concert review here.]  Some of my favorites happened to be of Doug—go figure!) Anyway, without further ado, here is my mini-interview with Doug Anderson.


Me: So I understand your debut solo project hits on May 3rd?

Doug: Comes out on May 3rd in all the stores and on all the tables—we’ll sell it at our concerts.

Me: That’s great. Can you tell us a little about that, like how long it’s been in the works, how you went about choosing songs and what we can expect it to sound like?

Doug: Well Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase are the producers on the project. We sat down in Chicago one weekend and played about a hundred songs, and we came up with ten that we really liked. Great messages, the style of it is pretty eclectic. There’s all different styles. And I’m excited about it. There’s a song out right now called “Jesus Is Holding My Hand…”

Me: I’ve heard it. It’s beautiful!

Doug: It’s on the radio right now, so…

Me: Now who is the writer?

Doug: Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills—“Jesus is Holding My Hand.”

Me: That’s great. And that’s got a little bit of a country sound to it.

Doug: Yeah, and a lot of my stuff is more country sounding ‘cuz I love country music. But we did it with a gospel flare, with a good message.

Me: Yeah, you know when I heard it, I thought “That sounds like something from one of Gordon Mote’s solo projects.”

Doug: Yeah! Well I’ve always been a big fan of Gordon.

Me: He’s awesome. What can you say?

Doug: Of course, I mean yeah, Gordon’s a great talent, I love him… But we’ve got some great songs on this project, and hopefully the people will come out and buy it and support it!

Me: I sure will.

Doug: Well, thank you very much.