In a gospel scene dominated by hip hop and urban artists, singer Rachel Kerr stands out like a shining star. This young, soulful singer, whose debut EP, Back To Music, was released in January, has ended the year on a high, after winning a MOBO award in the gospel music category at this year’s ceremony.
2012 has been a great year for Rachel, who is unashamed of her Christian faith and roots. She has travelled the world performing; has sung in front of former US President Bill Clinton; headlined her own concerts; carried out a host of media interviews works, and her most well-known video song, Hold My Hand, has had over 112,000 views on YouTube.
Rachel Kerr spoke to Keep The Faith about her MOBO win, her faith, her plans for 2013, and how her plans for Christmas are going.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): Congratulations on winning your MOBO award. How did you feel when your name was announced?
RACHEL KERR (RK): Thank you. I had a great time of praise and worship by myself in my hotel room before the MOBO ceremony. This was because I had settled in my heart that, regardless as to whether I won or not, God is still God, and worthy of all my thanks and praise for that fact alone. So when it was finalised, I was so grateful that He’d seen fit to acknowledge and honour me in this way.
KTF: Unusually, you started singing before you gave your acceptance speech. That was different to say the least. What inspired you to do that?
RK: I’m a singer, but not just by profession. Everyone close to me will tell you that. When I’m happy I sing, when I’m down I sing, when I’m bored I sing, so I just stood there and sang from my heart to my Father. Indeed I’m nothing without Him.
KTF: You went to church the day after winning your award. How did your church respond to you?
RK: I’m blessed to be part of a church that doesn’t just support in prayers, but also practically. There were so many people who aren’t technologically savvy who went out of their way to vote for me, so it felt like everyone’s victory. They gave me a standing ovation. I gave a public testimony that day, which I haven’t done before, just reminding people how faithful God is. Many see the successes and victories, but have no clue of the story behind it. For the first time, I publicly shared it. I was really blessed to know via Twitter that people gave their lives that Sunday, and attributed it to my testimony.
KTF: What was your view on the controversy surrounding the awards, particularly regarding the comments that some of the nominees in the gospel category were unknown?
RK: I had no idea there was controversy around the MOBOs. I hardly read blogs; I only do Twitter and Facebook to communicate with all my supporters and family. What’s great is that I have a great team of people around me, who keep me focused on what’s important, so any controversy and debate outside of that, I can honestly say I’m oblivious or very naïve to. I like it that way.
KTF: 2012 has been a very busy and successful year for you. What have been your highlights?
RK: There have been so many highlights. God hasn’t ceased to blow my mind this year! My tour of the Caribbean was an incredible blessing; touring the US; doing BET Music Matters, and featuring on WorldStarHipHop.com was so bizarre but a nice surprise; my birthday party, which my incredible manager and family threw for me and, of course, the MOBOs. There have been so many, I’m so grateful.
KTF: You sang in front of former US President Bill Clinton. What was it like performing in front of him?
RK: Bill Clinton is a lovely man. He has a genuine sincerity about him that puts you at ease. He told me when he heard me sing that it distracted him from the conversation he was having. He said, “I had to stop my conversation and ask, ‘Who is that girl?’ You’re incredible.” He really didn’t have to say that; I was really humbled.
KTF: How do you feel about being a role model for a lot of young Christians, and young women in particular?
RK: I don’t shy away from being a role model. We have so few out there, that if I can help inspire or motivate somebody in the right way then I’m glad my life is of use.
This, of course, means that my decisions and choices are going to be under inspection a little more closely because I am a supposed ‘role model’, but as long as people also remember that I’m human, then we’re all good.
KTF: Can you share a little bit about your background; where you were born; your parents, etc, and what role faith and music played in your upbringing?
RK: I was born in Walsall, West Midlands, to two incredible parents who were loving, as well as strongly steeped in Christianity. I’m from the old school Pentecostal church which, I believe, accounts for my spiritual maturity. I learnt how to pray and operate in the Spirit under the careful instruction of my grandmother, mother and aunties – all women and ordained ministers, incredibly on fire for God. From birth, God has been my everything. As I grew older, my knowledge and intimacy with Him intensified. I never left church and have no intentions of doing so; a fish can’t operate outside of water. My parents were told they couldn’t have children, but prayer and faith are why I’m here and why I sustain.
My Dad, Dalton Kerr (gospel artist and founder of Praise and Worship group, Re:Mission) and entire family are musical! As in EVERYBODY! My Mum held a thanksgiving celebration event back home with my family yesterday, and whenever someone broke out into song, two seconds later there would be a full seven-part harmony. It’s in my blood; there was no escaping music.
KTF: What inspired you to pursue a career in singing?
RK: God began to open some incredible doors, like touring with legends such as Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond and even in the mainstream arena, with Donell Jones, Musiq Soulchild and others. The opportunities seemed to speak for themselves, and I realised how much people claimed my music helped them. It would have been a sin not to pursue music with my all.
KTF: What do you enjoy most about being a music artist, and what are your aspirations for your music career?
RK: I enjoy lots of things about music, travelling, doing what I love, but most of all it gives me life when I go to countries like Martinique, where people don’t speak a word of English but know my songs word for word, as the spirit within the music resonates with them.
I’m not a traditional gospel artist, and I think this has helped my music reach people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard my message. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung one of my songs at a mainstream/secular venue, and have had people come up to me after my set IN TEARS and say, “There’s something about the way you sing your songs. Who was that to; what was that song about?” In those situations, I never shy away from talking about God’s goodness. It’s not unusual for me to see those people at my church the following Sunday!
As for my aspirations, I really just want to achieve everything God has planned for me. I want no stone to be left unturned and no territory to go unconquered, just that His perfect will be done.
KTF: Christmas is approaching. What do you like most about Christmas, and what present would you most like to receive?
RK: I love being with my family at Christmas. We are all so similar: we love to eat, laugh and sing, so Christmases are very eventful. You know what, I have every material thing I need right now – thank God – but it would be incredible to spend Christmas with my Grandparents, who are in Jamaica.
KTF: How will you be spending the Christmas season?
RK: I’ll definitely be with my family, thanking God for another year and all His mercies and compassion, and praising Him in advance for what is to come. And if I do that, while nyaming a turkey leg or two, don’t judge me!
KTF: What should we expect from Rachel Kerr in 2013?
RK: I was asked a similar question in 2011 about 2012, and I’ll say something similar to what I said then! I have no idea, but when God is in it, there are NO limits.