Over the past decade, the face and sound of Gospel music has changed dramatically. Gospel greats like Kirk Franklin have transformed the genre from its traditional appearance to a trendy, multi-faceted collage of sound. Up and coming inspirational artist Dominique Howard combines Jazz, Neo Soul and Gospel elements as she proves that she holds the torch of Gospel’s next generation. We had a chance to talk to Ms. Howard about her struggles, triumphs and her debut album, “Chapters”.
Let’s start off by telling everyone where you’re from.
DH: I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana
How long have you been singing?
DH: I have been singing since I was about four years old.
Your voice is such a beautiful gift for your listeners and we appreciate your talents. You have the ability to effortlessly inflect your voice through various octaves, displaying the power and potential that you possess. Who was the driving force behind your vocal development?
DH: I would have to say my dad. My dad pushed me to do vocal exercises to strengthen my voice. He would show me various techniques on how to breathe and hold a steady note, which enabled me to have more control over what I wanted my voice to do.
When did you realize that singing was the profession that you intended to pursue?
DH: Wow, I realized this when I sung in the mirror in the bathroom and I sounded pretty good. I would just sing in the bathroom just to hear myself. I loved what I heard and it felt so good when I would have my own little bathroom concerts. It was a love that I really can’t explain. When I sing it is like a feeling in the pit of my soul that is satisfied when I open my mouth and I want that feeling to last forever.
From where do you draw your musical inspiration?
DH: Definitely Whitney Houston. When I seen her very first video, “Good Love” I fell in love with her vocal ability. From that point on, I wanted to do everything that she did vocally.
Has gospel always been your main musical focus or have you previously tried your hand at other genres of music?
DH: No, gospel wasn’t always my main focus. I used to sing R&B and anything else that sounded good to me, but I went through some tough times in my life, and God brought me through those times and now I honor God through my music. Once I dedicated my life back to the Lord, I vowed that I would live for him and my gifts and talents would glorify him.
It’s said that “Art imitates life, and life imitates art.” What life experiences have you been through that have helped develop your songwriting skills?
DH: Wow, I have been down some painful roads of life that inspire my writing. I once was suicidal because of past mistakes and disappointments. That alone inspires me to write songs that focus on the joy of life and how the Lord delivered me from a state of suicide to wanting to live and be thankful. I was promiscuous, addicted to prescription medication; I was involved in abusive relationships. All of these negative forces are my inspiration for song writing. I believe my writing ability gets stronger and stronger when I think about my life because I find creative ways to tell the story.
The sound of Gospel has changed dramatically within the past decade. Artists are creating new styles but have managed to keep the content identical to traditional Gospel music. How does your style of music differ from such artists?
DH: I would say that my style differs 1, because I am an independent artist and I am totally free to express myself lyrically without anyone dictating what I should say and do. And 2, my style of gospel is totally raw and uncut. I sing about my life, and no matter how ugly it is, it is the truth without a lot of the candy coating. I find creative ways to speak the truth without the politics.
Thank you for serving our country. You’ve spent some time in the military, so I’m sure you’ve been all around the globe and have met people from all walks of life. How has serving in the military influenced your songwriting capabilities?
DH: Being in the military has definitely influenced my writing by allowing me to understand the perspectives of various people. When I write a certain way, I may touch a certain group of people whereas when I write another way I may not. I try to write songs that everyone can relate to, because we have all been through something. Being in the military I have seen firsthand a lot of the issues that I have dealt with through other people. The military exposed me to people from all different backgrounds and we all had something in common.
Have you had the opportunity to participate in any musical activities during your tenure in the Army?
DH: Yes, I was afforded the opportunity to sing the national anthem at various military events. When I was deployed to Bosnia I sang the national anthem for changing commander’s ceremonies, and while stationed in Germany I traveled to various places for military functions to sing. While not on duty I was also involved in music around the community.
Your current single “Keepin On” is very inspiring. The smooth Neo-Soul vibe compliments your voice perfectly. You get your point across without an overabundance of spiritual references. How are you able to simultaneously stay true to your inspirational roots and maintain a firm grasp on the audience’s attention?
DH: Honestly, I allow the Lord to lead me. I sing about what’s real, a real struggle, and real obstacles being overcome. The audience can relate to realness, so I just keep it real.
When can your fans expect a full-length album from you?
DH: My debut CD entitled, “Chapters” will be released on June 16. It can also be pre-ordered at the Tate Music Group store at: www.tatemusicgroup.com
Who are some of the artists and producers that will be featured on your LP?
DH: I worked with Ty Macklin and Leonard Hayward on the production of the LP. And I have LaNesha Renee’ singing background on one of the tracks.
What artists have you worked with?
DH: The only artist that I have actually worked with is LaNesha Renee’ and she is an up and coming artist as well.
What artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
DH: I would love to work with T-pain on a gospel track. He has a very unique way of captivating his audience and I would love to have his insight on gospel collaboration.
What’s next for Dominique Howard?
DH: Well, I will be working on my book which encourages people who have gone down the wrong roads in life, and I also plan to do more speaking engagements to empower men, women, and young adults about unhealthy relationships and overcoming a wayward lifestyle.
How can your fans or other artists looking to collaborate with you get at you?
DH: I can always be reached through MySpace at: www.myspace.com/dominiquestapleshoward
What advice do you have for your fellow artists who are trying to break into the music business?
DH: My advice is walk in your calling. If music is what you are called to do then do it. Don’t allow other people to speak death to your dream. Don’t put your career in the palms of anyone else’s hands by asking them about your future success. Pray about it, get your supplies together to make your dream a reality and just do it!
If you could describe your style in one word, what would it be?