In 2012 singer-songwriter Quan Grant set out on a mission to take his unique style of gospel music beyond the four walls of his church and into the world. He achieved this goal with the release of his debut EP, No Walls, a collage of music that pulled influences from R&B, hip-hop, and pop music. Now, the Hamden-based singer is ready to tear the walls down again with new material titled “Loved Back to Life.” I sat down with the singer – my brother – at JoJo’s Coffee & Tea after a photo session at various locations in New Haven.
SG: How would you describe your sound?
QG: I believe as a new artist I am still developing my sound, but you can hear a lot of my influences from jazz and soul music in my records. My music is honest, from my heart and whatever I feel at the time. Sometimes it is jazzy and sometimes it’s hip-hop or praise. I like to try new things, but I can also present the traditional church sound. I’m a blend of a lot sounds.
SG: Tell us about the title “Loved Back to Life.”
QG: The title represents my life, where I am now and the healing power of love. Some songs you write and think about the direction, while others just flow right out. That song just poured out of me like a birth. I never would have thought to say “Loved Back to Life” – it just came out of me.
SG: This song first appeared on your No Walls record. What made you revisit the song for the next EP?
QG: “Loved Back to Life” is the song that people really connected to so it only felt natural to repurpose the song and style. It’s all about what touches people.
SG: Speaking of No Walls, how would you compare it to the upcoming release
QG: I have evolved as a writer and there are more harmonies, key changes, and bridges. I am working with my band to create a more full sound.
SG: What are your shows like?
QG: A Quan Grant show is fun and heartfelt. I am most comfortable on stage. I enjoy using my voice to encourage someone else.
SG: Do you think people are intimidated by the word gospel music?
QG: They shouldn’t be. The word gospel simply means the good news, and people should embrace it more because it is inspiring. It can pull you out of any situation and has a way of speaking to you unlike any other music. I think people just assume that the word gospel means old fashion church music, but there are sub-gospel genres like rock, jazz, and instrumental. Gospel is just as broad as any other type of music.
SG: You mentioned jazz. As a gospel singer what draws you to jazz music?
QG: Jazz and gospel music are very similar. I would love to play at a jazz fest one day because I am moved by that sound of music. I love the horns and the vocal riffs. As a performer I connect with anything that goes against the traditional sound of singing and jazz music is out of the box. Jazz singers never just sing straight – they ride the beat, scat, and experiment with arrangements. I like that jazz singers go against the normal musicality. It keeps you engaged.
SG: You said you would love to perform at a jazz fest someday. How do you feel when you sing outside of your church to a non-gospel audience?
QG: I’m comfortable. Singing outside of the church is my ultimate goal. I want to sing for people who normally wouldn’t listen to that genre of music. I feel like it is my purpose to have an impact on people and those are the moments I look forward to. Church is my comfort zone so getting out and singing to people who don’t necessarily go to church is what it is all about.
SG: Who are some of your influences both in and outside of gospel music?
QG: Everyone who knows me knows that I love Faith Evans. I was actually able to sing with her back in November 2012. After connecting on Twitter, she called me out of the blue to join her on stage at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. I love her tone and she sings with so much passion. You can feel every word she says and she has great work ethic, which is something I admire as a working artist. I also like Bilal, Brandy, Kierra Sheard, Tye Tribbett, and a host of others. Honestly, I love certain artists on different days.
SG: Lastly, when can we expect the new “Loved Back to Life” record?
QG: We are working on it now! You can expect the full project sometime next year and a single will be available very real soon.
By Stephen Grant, the Arts Council’s communications manager. Quan Grant is Stephen’s brother.
How do visual artists embrace spirituality? Stay tuned for the Arts Council’s “On the Spiritual in Art” exhibition opening this month at Perspectives…The Gallery at Whitney Center.