“Scattering the Salt:” An Exclusive Interview with Jonathan McReynolds
By: Keith Crosby
One of gospel music’s hottest artists, the uber-talented singer, songwriter, and musician, Jonathan McReynolds, showed up and showed out in Detroit on Thursday, September 6th, 2018, to kick off his “Make Room” Tour. The tickets for the sold-out concert went quickly, and to many’s surprise, McReynolds purposefully chose a non-traditional locale for a gospel concert; an all ages arts venue called “El Club” on the southwest side of Detroit.
My wife and I arrived at El Club an hour before the concert start time and fans were already lined up down and around the block waiting to get in. The venue choice is in line with McReynolds belief that if Christians are the salt of the earth, then just like rock salt must come out of the bag to do its job in melting ice on a cold Detroit day, then we Christians must come out of the church to be effective.
El Club is a colorful, inviting and intimate venue, and there was not a bad spot in the main room that accommodated a standing room only crowd. Some had driven from Cleveland, Ohio and others had come from Wisconsin for the concert. In other words, these were serious Jonathan McReynolds fans who were eagerly waiting to see one of the freshest artists in gospel music today. Those who came were not disappointed. Jor’Dan Armstrong opened, followed by Koryn Hawthorne, who competed on Season 8 of NBC’s ‘The Voice.’ The present and future is bright for this 20-year old young lady from Louisiana. Hawthorne continued to set the atmosphere and tone for the evening as she ministered the song “Warriors,” and then had the crowd dancing as she sang her hit song, “Won’t He Do It,” which is currently sitting at #1 on Billboard’s ‘Hot Gospel Song’ chart and has been sitting at the top spot for several months.
McReynold’s own album, “Make Room,” is currently sitting at #7 on the Billboard ‘Top Gospel Album’ chart and has been as high as #1 since its release. It is evident when Jonathan McReynolds takes the stage that his musical talent is only exceeded by his love for the Lord. The energy is high, and the atmosphere of praise and worship is genuine as he gives us all that he has, ministering such hits as “Cycles,” “Better,” “Life Room,” “Graduate” and more. The crowd sings right along with him on most songs, and even breaks into three-part harmony on occasion, causing McReynolds to note that, “Detroit can sing!”
This young man is an outstanding singer and songwriter who allows his audience to feel his heart through his many soulful and worshipful songs. Jonathan is an artist you cannot put in a box so if I had to categorize or label his music I’d call it “life music,” which he appropriately titled his first album and is part of the name of his second. Nevertheless, he embodied the true definition of a “Music Minister” throughout the concert.
There is no doubt that Jonathan is a thoughtful and insightful artist whose future has no limits.
Listen to my exclusive interview with Jonathan McReynolds by clicking the audio button below (or read the transcript) as we sat down for a few minutes before the concert to talk about the tour, the new album, and more.
DetroitGospel.com: So tell me about the big tour starting tonight. I looked at the venues; I noticed that you’re not in some of the more traditional venues. Was that intentional or–?
Jonathan McReynolds: Yeah, you know we just wanted to make sure that, you know, we start to force some new territory for Gospel music and Christian music. The church is amazing. Of course that’s always our foundation. That’s where we love to be. It’s where it’s comfortable for us. But, you know we’ve got to scatter the salt too. You know, we want to make sure that we can go into different places and they respect the music. And when they respect the music and give it a chance I think we’ll always blow their minds, because this is the best genre in the world.
DetroitGospel.com:Yeah, alright. Amen. I’m down with that for sure. Now, tell me about “Make Room”. What’s the inspiration behind the album, “Make Room”?
Jonathan McReynolds: Yeah, you know, I’m one of those people that… I do too much. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on.
DetroitGospel.com: [laughter] Yup, we all do.
Jonathan McReynolds: Yeah, Man. Teaching school and doing this and doing that. You know I just want to make sure however, that I teach myself, train myself, to make room for God’s attention –in my day, in my thinking, and my planning. Sometimes I’ll just go and do whatever I feel like doing and I forget to make room for God. So then, when it doesn’t go well, now I’m crying. “No God, why’d you do that?” And I just feel like maybe we would cry less on Sunday if we actually made room for him throughout the week. So, that’s just all I want people to get, is just to make more room for God.
DetroitGospel.com:That’s good. Alright, so do you have a favorite song on the album?
Jonathan McReynolds: Man, you know this is my favorite album I’ve ever done—
Jonathan McReynolds:—So you know I really love all the songs. I know that’s clique but I have different reasons, different seasons for every song.
DetroitGospel.com: But one them maybe a little more special than the others? Like I mean you’ve got some great ones on there: “Cycle”—
Jonathan McReynolds: “Cycle” is one of my favorites. They’re all my favorites.
Detoitgospel.com: — “Comparison Kills”
Jonathan McReynolds: “Comparison Kills” as a song writer, that’s probably my favorite one. It’s one I can be really proud of. I got to really be a lyricist and stuff like that. So yeah, let’s go for that one today.
DetroitGospel.com: Okay. [laughter] Alright, sounds good. So tell me, I know you’re from Chicago — who’d you grow up listening to?
Jonathan McReynolds: Man, you know what; I didn’t listen to a whole lot of Gospel Music. But you know I’m a church boy. I was in church and I would play the organ every Sunday. So I knew what we sang in church and I knew what the choir director sang in church, and since I didn’t know—I was like “Woah, that’s a Commission song!” or “Oh, Hezekiah Walker, or that was a Ricky Dillard or a Kirk Franklin—“. I didn’t know that until I started doing this. Now, you know, I’d go to a tribute for Hezekiah Walker and he’s singing all of the songs that I played growing up. You know, I wasn’t cognizant of there being a “gospel industry”. It was just songs that we had to learn for the choir, and songs that I grew to love. So I would say that I knew Church, very well. I didn’t really know there was a “Gospel music” pumping in all the songs.
DetroitGospel.com: Now, maybe who today? Maybe a couple artists pumping in on your phone or back in the day maybe it would be an IPod. Who do you listen to now, if any Gospel artist?
Jonathan McReynolds:I mean I’ve always just loved my generation of music. But, I mean, I’ll be honest, the song that I first loved and I remember loving growing up because I used to listen to it all day – Every time I was in the car with my Aunt, she passed not too long ago, was “Ordinary Just Won’t Do”. Because, again, I didn’t know who that was, I didn’t think of it being an artist or anything like that—but you know all that. We grew up on all the worship CD’s and compilations, again, only adding to the fact that I don’t know who these people are—
DetroitGospel.com: Right, Right; Exactly.
Jonathan McReynolds: — I just know the songs. But even now I love listening to Tasha Cobbs and Anthony Brown. I think Anthony Brown is a musical genius. The “whys” that I’m getting for appreciation for their music; and I always wondered why they liked me so much, and now when I listen to the music—
DetroitGospel.com: Yeah, I saw a video of what you looked like at the church—
Jonathan McReynolds: Yeah they always—they went against the grains with their songs and I appreciate it, I really do.
DetroitGospel.com: Alright man, really, my last question was from my wife. For the website, we usually ask if you have some advice for young artists or artists that want to become professional artists—Say somebody’s got a band or a group and they want to take this thing to the next level. Would you have some advice for them, things maybe that you’ve learned in your career over the years? Everybody wants—people look at you and say “I want to be where he is,” so what advice would you have for them?
Jonathan McReynolds: I would say four things. One: don’t want. Because everybody who is in it will tell you that they really didn’t ask for it. Number two: practice. You know, I went to school for music and I wouldn’t tell everybody else to go to college for music, but still make sure that you are good at your craft. The thing that we don’t need any more of is mediocrity. So be really good– be really good because we have to make a statement. We have to compete against all these other genres fighting for our generation’s attention. So, let’s go in there and be good. Number three: master yourself. Master what makes you unique and what makes you effective. Why do people listen to you? Why are you compelling? It’s not just you gift. It’s your personality, your looks sometimes, your style. Master all of that because God had intention for it. And lastly: use the internet. You know, use the internet. You have so many ways to get your music out there and if it is good and compelling, it will get shared.