A piano protégé by his early teens, legendary singer Stevie Wonder gave him the nickname, “Little Boy Wonder.” Years later his songwriting, keyboard skills and vocal flow are still in demand. Appearing with Bishop TD Jakes numerous times and featured at both MegaFest and Bishop Jakes’ Pastors & Leader’s Conference.
With his new sophomore release, I Got Out, the classically trained pianist turned Gospel singer releases a body of work that took almost three years to complete. I Got Out was born of Popin’s reflection on “next steps” after going through a series of difficult and unexpected life challenges that could have shaken his faith.
We talk about those ups and downs, social stigmas of being a white gospel artist and the balancing act of family, ministry and faith.
Q: Congratulations on your single “I Got Out” peaking at top 10 on the Billboard charts. What does that mean for you personally and professionally?
Bryan: Well it means a lot, I don’t want to be moved so much by the charts because it fluctuates. At least it tells me that God has my back. That all I’ve been through, that all I’ve seen, I’ll I went through when I could have tanked and could have gone bankrupt and gone under. That he’s still with me and there were times where I questioned even if I was supposed to keep on going on, and this just kind of solidifies his plan for my life and that he is using the music and the message behind the music to encourage people. Which to me is what it’s all about.
Q: At what age did you give your life to Christ?
Bryan: I was 10- years- old. My mom was a choir director and I remember when I was little I would fall asleep on the pew and wake up on the pew and she’d still be directing the choir and playing piano. So I was naturally next in line to learn piano and also I remember when I was about 10 years old, I knew what God was and just had a life-changing experience and to gave my life to him.
Q: What created the shift from pianist to gospel artist?
Bryan: My mom was real traditional, so she taught me piano in the beginning she taught me old school church music old school spiritual hymns and old hymnal that’s what she taught me. I studied classical as tradition as well, which is what she wanted to teach me. But my dad loved soul music and so he played vinyl records and he would play, Earth Wind & Fire, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye so I always loved music that literally hit you right in your heart. Especially music about the struggles and experiences that people go through. For a while I was a concert pianist when I was in my teenage years that’s how I met Bishop Jakes, did some events with him because he loves piano music. I went through so much stuff in my life, so many ups and downs so many broken promises, so much rejection, so many situations where I didn’t think I was going to get out. So I knew God had something to say through me, to encourage other people. So I promised I’d be transparent and honest with the music and with the heart behind the music to help encourage others along the journey that are probably going through some of the same stuff.
Q: How has the process been this time around working on your sophomore album, does it feel like you’re staring all over?
Bryan: With my first album, I had already had somewhat of a successful song with “I Can Make It” at Radio. For the last three years, it’s not so much starting over… I didn’t understand what God was doing. I was frustrated and confused, parted ways with E One. I didn’t understand why that happened, or really what was going on with that. I kept looking to maybe secure another deal when after all God was saying, no you’re going to start your own label and start this thing! I really had to become broken, because I saw in so many ways I was selfish.
I really had to become broken, because I saw in so many ways I was selfish.
I was always thinking about me, “God how are you going to take care of me”? “How are you going to take care of my ministry”? How are we going to fix this and that? “It was me me me”, I just fell on my knees and cried out “God make a way”. In fact you know what, I said I don’t even need you to make a way, I just want you to know that I’m committed to whatever you do. I had to let go, that was really the biggest thing of all of that and to trust. The more I started to serve, I even joined the worship team at my local church. I just started to plan and serve, the more I did that God just started providing; the people, the Investor’s, the finances. Doors started opening, people started lining up, and the song started being birth. I knew God was behind something new and different and something was birthing. Through that process, I said God if you let me keep doing this, because there was a time where I could have easily claimed bankruptcy and just tanked and gave up.
Q: What do you think you would have done if you gave up?
Bryan: (laughs) I don’t know, I have no idea what I would do, that’s the whole thing. I would even argue with God sometimes, and say God this is all I’ve ever done. It’s all you’ve ever allowed me to do, I don’t get what else I could do. I don’t have a college education, I studied private with a Juilliard professor in New Jersey, but it was music. I don’t know what else to do. “Do you want me to go to college now?” Those were the questions, going on in my head. So there was a lot of confusion and frustration I didn’t really know what my next move was.
But God did it, and he didn’t give up on me and I never gave up on him.
It was all in his plan, working on me and changing my heart. He gave me a heart for people, for worship and getting my mindset right. Then little by little the dots started connecting.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face being a white gospel artist?
Bryan: Every time I meet someone, usually they’re caught off guard because most love my music, and they know of my music, but they don’t know me. I’m all about relationships, so in the end I win when I meet people because they see my heart. I get that there’s a stigma, I get that I may not look or fit the part. But it was the same thing with Jesus, they were expecting him to come a different way. He didn’t look or fit the part, I think in life we can deal with that.
I’m thankful God still uses me, if he’ll use me for one or ten thousand I’m still going to keep pursuing and pushing and letting him work.
Q: The new album has 16 tracks, what are some of your personal favorites on there?
Bryan: Hands down this is some of the best music of ever been around, I worked with AyRon Lewis on the entire project. We formed an incredible team, and a closer bond as brothers. There’s a song on the album that always ministers to me, called You’re Going To Live Again, my daughter went through a very difficult bullying situation, which actually turned into a fight. We had no voice in the situation, the school made everything very private. We couldn’t talk about it or speak about it. It was one of the hardest things to ever go through. It broke us, it broke my daughter and broke her spirit and God birthed that song You’re Going To Live Again through it. I knew that song would connect with a lot of people. More than anything, I see my daughter today and she’s going to an incredible University, that did not stop her future.
Even though it was a bad season, God still got the glory from it and worked it out.
I Got Out– Obviously I’m a church boy, and my mom is proud of that one, because it’s old school choir. It’s not just a testimony song of looking back and seeing what you got out of. But it’s also a reminder that there’s never going to be a time where everything is perfect in life. Because life is not perfect. So you’re always going to have dilemmas, problems, situations, and struggles. It’s more of the mentality of saying, God’s got me. I’m out of it, I don’t care if he works it out, or doesn’t work it out. I still know he’s God. I still know he can do it.
Q: Whats the mission of your music?
Bryan: I’m figuring things out as I go on this journey, what I’ve seen in my life and what I continue to see are walls being broken down. I’m seeing in today’s culture, there’s a lot of confusion because we don’t understand the things that are changing. Here’s an example; I’ll go and I’ll work with a choir that knows my song I Got Out but when I walk up and I arrive and we’re about to do a rehearsal. They see me for the first time and all of the choir goes: (gasps) and says “What?” because they never expected me I guess to come in that shape and form. But I still love them and you know my heart shines through and we hug it out and then we just do what we do, which is worship. Heaven wont have separate rooms, so we either figure it out now, and love through it when it hurts, pray for each other when we don’t understand each other. Spend time with each other when we may be different, and just love. That was Christ like. So for me, if we can break down walls and break down barriers, and unite through love, Christ love. That to me, is just the epitome of this journey. we’re going to help people along the way, but if we can also join hands, I really see that is a much bigger purpose.
Q. How do you balance family life and work life?
Bryan: Balance is important, because when life is out of balance, things are out of order. I’m half artsy as a musician and songwriter and my dad also raised me to be business-minded.
There was a time where I almost lost my marriage. Almost lost my wife, that I pursued so strongly to marry and I love her more than anything.
She’s given me, five beautiful children, so even though I’m in love life just has a way of throwing its curves and twist. Praying together is a big deal, family time with me is a number one priority. I travel almost every weekend, but when I’m home as much as I can. Tuesday through Friday I just devote it all to my family. It’s really important to me. Spending one-on-one time with each kid, even if it’s taking one of them on a trip with me at a time. That’s really special to us. I used to put my ministry first, but now it’s a little further down on the list. After my wife, my family and my relationship with God.
Q: Anything else you want to share that I didn’t already ask?
Bryan: Support music, support kingdom music, I think this record is going to help you through your journey too. If you need some praise music, or if you’re feeling down and out and need something to help you get through it. Then put on “Step” and you just (he sings) “Step in the name”. If you want a praise moment, put on “I Got Out” if you need some encouragement, then listen to “You’re Going To Live Again”. It’s going to speak life into your spirit, into your soul and heart. Wherever you go to get music, go out and get it then let God do what he does.
I Got Out Deluxe Edition is now available for Pre-Sale on all digital outlets including iTunes and Amazon Music and releases everywhere on July 21, 2017.