Faithful Praise is a new group with seasoned Christian artists and a sound that blends Southern with Praise and a hint of jazz. Often when we showcase new artists, they are just beginning their career in Christian music, however, each member of Faithful Praise has years of experience and a lifetime of testimony to share with their audience. This newly formed trio is based out of Virginia, with members LaDena Hall, Tommy Fortune, and Shari DeLange creating a blend that is as close to family harmony that non-relatives can achieve.
Faithful Praise recently talked with SGMRadio about their inception as a group, releasing their first album with Crossroads Music and having faith to walk through newly opened doors. We invite you to get to know this trio and visit their website to hear their particular take on Southern Gospel.
SGMRadio: How did Faithful Praise begin?
Shari DeLange: Let me start by telling you how we met and started singing together. LaDena Hall and I sang for about eight years in a ladies quartet in the church we attended. In 2003, my husband and I moved on to serve in another church in the area, and I actually lost contact with LaDena for about five years. If you knew our small town of Waynesboro, Virginia, you would find that hard to believe!
In our new church, my husband and I found ourselves in areas of ministry that were very different from our previous church. We had been heavily involved in music and now we found ourselves without music playing any part in our ministry. Iâ€™ll never forget the night we sat and talked in my husbandâ€™s office and I told him that out of everything I used to do in church, the thing I missed most was singing with LaDena. He suggested that I call her. I didnâ€™t, but within one week of that conversation, guess who walks into my workplace: LaDena!
We talked for a while and the longer we talked the more we realized we were both feeling the same way. After sharing our hearts, we decided that to make this work we would need someone to sing that third part. She immediately said, â€œI have the perfect person: Tommy Fortune.â€ She and Tommy had met at church and had been singing together for several years on their praise team and in the choir.
Since the holidays were coming, we decided the three of us would work up a few Christmas songs to see how we sounded together. At that first rehearsal, it was very clear to all of us that there was something special about our blend. Thus, the journey began.
We sang those few Christmas songs at church and then began learning new ones. It took us a full year ofÂ practisingÂ to learn enough songs before ever doing our very first full concert. You talk about nervous! We were wrecks.
To help us move our ministry forward, we hired a booking agent and started singing many weekends in Virginia as well as North Carolina and West Virginia. We are currently without an agent and are booking ourselves. We feel so blessed when we think about all that God has done!
SGMRadio: Tell us about your current recording. What are your favorite songs on this album?
Tommy Fortune: Our current recording is entitled For His Glory, which, by the way, is our first one with Crossroads Music. We have two previous albums, produced at a local studio that Shariâ€™s husband owns, which are available on our website.
We had the privilege of signing with Crossroads in October of 2012 under their Skyland Label. This new CD will have several original songs, which is a first for us and is scheduled to be released in March of this year. [The groupâ€™s first release from this album is â€œWould You Wake Up.â€]
We really enjoyed working with Jeff Collins, our producer for this project. He made us feel so comfortable and at ease. Going into a studio with the reputation of Crossroads Music in itself could be quite intimidating but he made us feel welcome and right at home.
As far as my favorite song, it is hard to pick a favorite because I love them all. But if I had to choose, I would probably choose â€œSecret Place,â€ sung originally by Jason Crabb. This song speaks and touches all of our hearts because we all have had, at some point in our lives, a â€œsecret place.â€
Shari DeLange: I guess my favorite song that we do is â€œFor My Good and For His Glory.â€ When Tommy first brought that song to our group as a possibility, I remember being overwhelmed as I listened to the words. It speaks on so many levels to my heart. What a comfort it is to know that while we donâ€™t understand why God allows us to go through painful experiences, we do know that we have Him to cling to and that, as the song says, He sees â€œthe bigger picture.â€
LaDena Hall: I really donâ€™t have a favorite song that we do. I love them all!
SGMRadio:Â How did you become connected with Crossroads? Who do you enjoy working with there?
Tommy: On our first two cds, we purchased quite a few performance tracks from Crossroads. We really thought Crossroads had excellent quality tracks and we loved how they were recorded. We got this crazy idea that instead of recording everyone elseâ€™s songs, we would like to have an original of our own. So, I called Crossroads one day to inquire how we went about having an original song.
Unknown to me, I was talking to Jeff Collins, co-owner and producer of Crossroads Music. I asked him how we would go about recording one original song, and he said, â€œTommy, what will you be able to do with just one song?â€
I didnâ€™t know how to answer him because I had not thought that far ahead. At that point he asked me some questions about our group and told me that they were in the business of helping gospel groups further their music ministry.
He then asked if we had any CDs I could send him so he could hear the group. I sent them to him and about a month later we reconnected. At that point he said that instead of doing one song, he could offer us a recording contract with their Skyland Label for â€œup and comingâ€ artists.
After I picked myself up off the ground, I said, â€œWhat did you say?â€ He repeated what he said and the rest has just fallen into place.
SGMRadio: You’ve all been involved in music for a long time before joining forces. Do each of you have a fun road story that you could share with us?
Tommy: This happened when I was on the road for a while with my double first cousin, Jimmy Fortune, formerly of the Statler Brothers. This was back when the Statler Brothers has just retired but Jimmy continued to work. He had just put together a band that I was a part of. He then proceeded to buy a camper to haul us all in so we could get up and down the highway.
This camper was an old used camper in pretty good shape, but had been sitting on a lot for quite a while. I went with Jimmy to look at it and Jimmy was all excited about getting this new camper and all of us getting up in it and hittinâ€™ the road.
So, the guy comes out and gives Jimmy the key and told him to fire it up and take it out for a spin. So, Jimmy climbed up in that thing and I climbed up in behind him. He went to start it up and they had to come out and work on it to get it to start.
Finally, she started and we pulled out of the parking lot onto the highway, went down the road a ways and took it out on the interstate. We were going down the interstate and we looked over at one another and Jimmy said, â€œWeâ€™re going to see some country now.â€
Right after he said that, the camper started â€œbuck jumpinâ€™!â€ Good thing we were close to an exit. We coasted up the exit, and the camper rolled to a dead stop. It quit! I looked at Jimmy, and I said, â€œWe really saw some country, didnâ€™t we, Jim-Bo?â€
So, he called for help. Help came and towed us back to the camper salesâ€¦. and he bought it anyway!
Shari: Traveling two summers for a college tour group, it was always an extra special treat when a church would decide to put us up in a hotel instead of staying in peopleâ€™s homes. The summer of my sophomore year, my groupâ€™s area of the country to travel led us into the state of Texas. Iâ€™ll never forget how delighted I was one night to find out we were staying in a hotel.
Since I was the pianist for an all menâ€™s group, I would get a room by myself. I had no clue what I was in for that night. Evidently, the hotel had not been exterminated in a long time. And I was terrified. Spiders, centipedes, mosquitoes, insects I didnâ€™t even recognize and cockroaches the size of mice were everywhere!
There were so many pests that I literally sat in the middle of my bed the entire night and kept a log of how many of each insect I saw! When I met the group the next morning, I expected all the guys to be complaining about their restless night. But no, they all looked so well rested!
LaDena: When I was twelve or so, I was singing regularly at churches on my own. My father did my sound for me. There was an instance one Sunday evening that I had come down with a severe cold and needed some medication. I did not want to cancel my singing engagement so I took some Dimetapp. However, not knowing that I did this, my father suggested I take more.
The effects were quite memorable. I could barely stand and I could barely stay awake. I was a walking zombie. I am surprised that I could remember any words whatsoever.
Looking back on it, it was one of the most memorable experiences with my dad that I have. We still laugh about it to this day!
SGMRadio: Who is your favorite person in Gospel music? Who has given you the best advice?
Tommy: Jason Crabb and Lee Williams are my favorite gospel singers. The person that has given me the best advice is Gary Casto of the Tribute Quartet. He took the time after one of their concerts to talk with me about signing a record contract with Crossroads. His advice was that when you know God is opening a door, you must go through it and trust Him.
Shari: I will never forget something that Norman Wilson of the Primitive Quartet told us. We had the awesome opportunity to open for them at one of their concerts. Backstage, we were expressing our concern to him that we are different and have a different sound than a lot of gospel music groups. He told us: â€œThere is only one you. Nobody can do exactly what you do. Therefore, you are unique.â€ For our group that night, he helped us put what we do into proper perspective.
LaDena: My favorite artist right now would have to be Taranda Greene. Also, I have always loved Sandi Patti.
The best advice I have heard was from the Primitive Quartet advising that â€œno one can do what you do.â€ Remember the Lord has given each of us a unique job for Him. Each of us is special.
SGMRadio: Tommy, how is singing Gospel music different from the bluegrass/country music you played for so long?
Tommy: First of all, when you are out there singing other types of music, all you are to your listeners is a mechanism where you are providing a noise where they can get out and dance and so on. You really arenâ€™t respected for what you do.
All of the 40+ years I sang and played that type of music, I knew that God was the one that had given me the talent to do it. And all along, I felt like the ability He had given me was being misused. I never had the right feeling all of those years. I always wanted to give back in some way to Him.
I canâ€™t put into words the difference that I feel when I know God is using my talents to praise Him and help others do the same.Â
SGMRadio: What are some ways that Southern Gospel media could be more helpful to new groups getting out on the road?
Faithful Praise: Gospel music media can help groups like ours by doing exactly what you are doing with this interview. This allows people to know who we are. They get to know us personally and hear our hearts for ministry through our music. Also, it gives us an avenue to be heard by a broad spectrum of people in the gospel music realm.
SGMRadio: What are your goals for Faithful Praise in 2013?Â
Faithful Praise: Our main goal is to be as busy as possible singing for the Lord. We are praying that God opens doors for us to branch out to other areas of the country. We are also hoping and praying that God leads us to the right person who can fill the role of agent.
SGMRadio: What has God been speaking to you about lately?
Tommy: Going back to Gary Castoâ€™s advice, I am going through that door of opportunity that God has opened. I am excited about the journey ahead, knowing that this is what He has always intended for me to do. I am finally following His lead and turning my life over to Him. He will show me the way as long as I continue to trust Him.Â
Shari: God has been reinforcing to me that I must let go and let Him have total control. His timing is perfect; I must learn to be patient! Even when things I have planned do not turn out how I thought they should, I must remember that He has already gone before me and has paved the way for His plan. One of my most favorite verses of scripture and one I have clung to so many times is Jeremiah 29:11: â€œFor I know that plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.â€
LaDena: God has been speaking to me in a way that faith is coming into play. Without faith I wouldnâ€™t need my Lord Jesus. Iâ€™m having to walk by faith more this year than ever.
Thanks so much to Faithful Praise for sharing their story and their heart with SGMRadio. Please take a moment to visit their website to hear their music and call your radio station today to request â€œWould You Wake Upâ€ from their new Crossroads release.
Faithful Praise on the web: http://www.faithfulpraise.com/
Faithful Praise on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FaithfulPraise
Questions? Comments? Know of a new/upcoming artist you would like to have presented on SGMRadio? Email me at email@example.com