Interview: Bryan Popin

Aug 24 2017

Gospel's rising star, Bryan Popin, has just released his highly-anticipated second album 'I Got Out'. LTTM caught up with the classically trained pianist turned Gospel singer to find out more about the album and the motivations he draws on.

Tell us a little bit about this new album 'I Got Out?

It's been almost 3 yrs since releasing any new music. After "I CAN MAKE IT" connected with so many & became almost a theme song for people, I started experiencing quite a lot of interesting twists & turns in my life, family, and music. I parted ways with a record label, as we weren't on the same page which led to much confusion & frustration, as a family we went thru the most difficult situation with my daughter being involved in a bullying incident that led to a physical attack on her life where we literally cried out for God to intervene on our behalf as we felt such injustice. All of this plus fears of the future, dealing with my own insecurities and negativity of remembering what people I looked up to said to me, how people I thought had my back did not have my back, how I had to in general learn to let go of all the stuff around me and let God make a way and get me out, cause only He could and He did.

Today, I look back at all he healed with my daughter, how that season is so far from our minds and He completely turned it around. I see the confusion of parting ways with a label, turn into birthing my own record label with an incredible team of music industry vets mixed with some young driven minds. We recently inked a distribution deal, my current single is the highest charting song set at #6 on Billboard's gospel chart & still climbing. I can honestly look back at laugh at allllllll God has brought me thru, and brought our family thru... I can shout it, smile when I say it, and laugh that I didn't maybe enjoy the process more... either way, I GOT OUT!

Which is your favourite track on the album and why?

It's not easy to pick 1 favorite track outta 16 LOL! Geeeeessshhhh... "STEP IN THE NAME"... it was written as a theme song to just keep on going, to not give up on your dreams, on your beliefs, on your faith, or get side tracked by what others say about you or do to you. To speak life over your situation and having done all... just, step in the name, just step in the name, step in the name! The groove, the vamp, the funky Prince guitars, the Bruno Mars/old school James Brown horns, the grit, the pocket drums... yeah that 1 right there is a good description of where I'm at musically and a theme for the diversity of my music somehow connecting and uniting the older generation and the younger generation. Step, meaning to dance, but from my perspective... praise your way thru it. Praise your way while your in it or out of it. Either way, just, STEP IN THE NAME, just STEP IN THE NAME, just STEP!

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

Wow, to actually stop & take the time to think about who I've already worked with or written with is kinda craZy. It makes me feel like I'm really old or been in this for a toooo long! Musically I've messed around with some legends like Stevie Wonder & Chaka Khan, even *NSYNC and JT... all really talented & creative people. My heart is in gospel music & I was raised in the church, so where I am right now musically I'd proabably like to write with someone that's really inspired me in that genre like Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton or Tye Tribbett. I'll say this... being around such unique and gifted people taught me more than anything that God can give you favor, favor you don't deserve, favor that just doesn't make any sense. Favor you might not have the credentials yet for, but even so, He'll place you in a room you have no business being in and more than likely, don't deserve to be in.

It taught me just how cool God is and that when you think life is going a certain way, with God, He can simply snap a thing into existence. Two days after wondering how I was going to make rent, I'm having dinner with Stevie Wonder and he's calling me the Little Boy Wonder... just crazy! I think more than co-writing with a a certain songwriter, I just really want to continue to write from the heart & be transparent with my music. That it's felt in your gut, that the message behind the music is positive, yet written from real life experiences... that it connects beyond boundaries, a race, a culture or a genre. I love how music can bring people together like nothing else. I think I'll be OK, if no big name Artist or writer wants to write with me, yeah I'll be ok... just please God keep breathing melodies of hope thru me.

Do you prefer playing live or working in the studio?

BOTH! The beauty of creating and starting with an idea or a melody that God breathes into you is moving, life changing. It seems my music is always a message of hope to encourage me thru my journey and then becomes something much bigger as it connects with others. The process of being in the studio creating, building, editing, creating, editing, muting, editing... yeah it can be draining to pull it out of what is in your mind and heart. It's a very cool process to see where a song ends up. Like a blank canvas that begins to have strokes of painted color... then you realize the foreground becomes the background and it then becomes a journey. I'm really hands on and am OK with a song taking time to come together. If it's not right, change it, if it is right... don't try to fix it or make it better.

If it feels right, but isn't perfect... let it be. Sometimes, certain songs end up so different than where they began, yet other songs seem to stay very true to the authentic simplicity from where they were birthed. BUT, nothing is more exciting than getting to also be the artist that gets to perform the brand new music you wrote was birthed thru you. To share it with the people. To see how they interpret it, how it moves them, how it encourages them and how God uses it to bring hope to the hopeless. INCREDIBLE! It inspires me, it moves me and it reminds me daily how thankful I am to do what I do. It is a gift to do music for a living and in return I am inspired and encouraged. So I guess the answer would be BOTH, yeah BOTH!

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

Not that easy, but if I was describing my own music, I'd hope it would be words like... energetic, passionate, funky, soulful, heartfelt, intense, old school mixed with new school. Take James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind & Fire, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, James Fortune, Israel & New Breed, Hillsong Worship... all of it... blend it all in a blender & maybe, you'll get some Bryan Popin music. I just like good music and music that is felt... birthed from the heart... birthed from life experiences... soul music, ummm plz leave the grit, 'cause yeah I like that!

How would you define success in your career?

Well... today success in the music industry is much different than it used to be. To me, in today's music industry world, success would be creating music that moves people and encourages someone while giving them hope when all hope was lost... ummm yeah and be able to pay your bills too LOL! Straight up, to do music full time, have a family and be able to exist! That is literally what I've been doing for almost the last 21 yrs of my life. Mix that with a lot of almost... almost went bankrupt a few times, almost lost our apartment, but didn't... then almost lost our house, but didn't. Almost lost my marriage, my family, my career, my ministry, myself. But God! But God!

I'm quite driven and you have to be in life and especially in the music world. You will hear 1k no's and maybe 1 yes. Rejection is part of the deal. You gotta do what you love and believe in the calling. I think for me, just to do what I'm called to do and love what I do, with my family at my side... maybe my idea of success is a different view than others. It's not just about $ and being happy to me. I've had $ and lost it, I've been happy, but it seems to go away quicker than it came. I've found $ is a tool. We all need it. It creates freedom & allows you to do things you need to or want to do. True happiness is a mindset, it can very quickly be moved by the circumstances of life and/or even the people around you. I so love my family. My wife, is everything to me. I don't deserve her and she is way more beautiful than I am handsome... God must have made her blind. Oh and my kids... all 5 of them... they are my joy, my peace, my world... I love em so much. The innocence, the honesty, the simplicity. To be able to do what I do with music and still have my family in my life is the greatest blessing God new was custom designed for me.

What is your favorite album of all time?

Woh, favorite album! 1 record of all time... what genre? There are so many records that have influenced me & my love for music... man these records changed my life. Gospel... God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation. But, I gotta give Kim Burrel's Everlasting Life major props. Outside of the gospel box... James Brown's Live At The Apollo, Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Michael Jackson's Thriller... that is the bloodline of music. I love it all. It isn't about just 1 genre, 1 album or 1 artist. The diversity, the culture, the soul, the honesty, the heartbeat behind the music, the life experiences that birthed the music, the production, the instrumentation... all of it. Yeah, I love it all.

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3 player. What track is it?

Hahahaha, love it! James Brown's I Feel Good.

What does the next year hold for Bryan Popin?

Traveling, getting this new music out to the people, performing live, keep doing what I love & feel called to do... learning to enjoy the process of life... My Dad is 78 & he says life goes faster than you can imagine... who knows, maybe have another baby with my wife, God willing.

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