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Interview: Jekalyn Carr

Because she’s a deeply humble person, Jekalyn Carr doesn’t like to boast. So, we’ll do it for her: there’s no more exciting, more passionate, more imaginative, or more accomplished young artist in contemporary gospel music. She’s been blowing the doors off churches, theaters, and arenas since she was a kid, and at twenty-five years old, she’s just getting started. Her astonishing track record speaks for itself — eight chart-topping singles, multiple Stellar Awards, a beloved inspirational book, a Grammy nomination for recent full-length Changing Your Story, and enthusiastically received performances all over America. She leads with her charisma, loves with all her heart, and directs the eyes of her listeners to heaven.

Even among gospel artists, Carr is distinguished by her commitment. She’s dedicated to her message, devoted to her belief, and she’s probably never taken a half-measure in her life. She’s also plainspoken: her writing is honest about the challenges everybody faces. “Great Christmas,” her holiday single, is glorious and welcoming, as all seasonal music should be. But it also acknowledges that circumstances will force many of us to celebrate with our friends and families through video calls. If you’ve got to use Zoom or Facetime, Jekalyn Carr wants you to know that you aren’t left out of the party — or any less loved by God.

It’s a given that Jekalyn Carr fans will embrace the song. It’s got all her hallmarks: a big, maximalist arrangement, compassionate lyrics, an instantly memorable melody, and a powerful, magnetizing, uplifting vocal performance by the star. It’s also likely to make waves well beyond the core gospel audience. If you love passionate singing, family togetherness, and the joy of the holidays, here’s a record you won’t be able to resist.

Jekalyn Carr is the centerpiece of the wonderfully wintry “Great Christmas” clip. She’s captured in performance with her band, leading her supporting players through choruses and crescendos, inspirational verses and uplifting releases. But her musicians are an eyeful, too. They’re all visions in snowy white, singing and playing with irrepressible enthusiasm, right in front of a pair of glittering Christmas trees and an inviting array of shopping bags. It’s a reminder of one of the most appealing things about gospel music: in this style, everybody from the star to the percussionist to the most distant backing singer puts their winning personality on display.

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How has your background in gospel music influenced your current creations? Why is it important to include the gospel sound and feeling in your music?

I come from a singing family and I also grew up in the church. Gospel music is so rich, soulful & encouraging. As a little girl I’ve always wanted to sing music that really gives people hope. I wanted to sing music with lyrics  & melodies that really encourages them and I feel like gospel music is that for me. I count it a joy to be able to create music that not only lifts peoples spirits, however it also makes them to feel and think that they can make it. They can accomplish their goals. It makes them more confident about  getting through life. With that being said, for me to be able to touch people, through gospel music is an honor.  

At 25 years old, with all of your experience, what has been the most important lesson you’ve learned in the music industry?

I would have to say staying true to who I am as an artist and also not forgetting the bigger picture. I believe that there are so many different great and amazing gifts and so many different styles that you come across, however I feel like if you are trying to  create a legacy for yourself and build your own lane of artistry for yourself, one of the biggest and main things you have to keep in mind, is that you have to give the people who you are. You can have inspirations. You can have people that you look up to, however at the end of the day the world needs what you have and what you carry. Also, throughout your different accomplishments and the  many great things that happens for you- If you’re not careful sometimes it can distract you. It can make you forget about the “why” which should be to help people through music and through your gifts. So,  it’s very important that you don’t forget the bigger picture. Yes, our accomplishments are amazing, however they will never become more important to me than my purpose and helping people my purpose and the gifts that God has placed in me.

Why did you choose to create the wonderful track “Great Christmas,” and what makes a great Christmas song?

“Great Christmas” was created, because a great Christmas represents the families coming together with joy, unity, love, everyone singing, praying, laughing, and “Great Christmas” embodies that message. The world has seen a whole lot within the past few years. Many people have lost things. Many people have lost loved ones and you know so many things have changed that a lot of people had to make huge adjustments to what is going on in our world- However, this song is to really encourage us as we’re coming up on the holidays to make sure that you don’t allow what has happened to affect the joy that you deserve especially during the holidays. I think that is very important that we take moments like these especially, if we haven’t done it any other time this year, to really embrace what we have. Embrace our families. Embrace our friends, our love ones, and just making sure that we have a heart of appreciation. This is the time to create new great memories.

I think what makes a great Christmas song is to make sure that you have the true meaning of Christmas wrapped in the lyrics. I think when you hear a lot of great Christmas songs and classics that has been a part of many of our playlist for years, it is because it really shares the foundation of Christmas and what it’s all about. Of course we talk about the birth of Christ that really changed our lives and in addition to that I believe that it is okay to shed some light on laughter, fun, joy and the beauty of family. That’s what I think makes a great Christmas song.

Can you describe your song writing process and explain what the most enjoyable part of the process is?

I feel like I really have an interesting writing process. A lot of my songs have come at moments that I wasn’t expecting. Whether I was on stage singing already or riding on a plane, you know just different moments that are so random. Sometimes a melody will come first and then I’ll pull out my phone to record it because if not I’m going to forget it. Then later  I go back and put the lyrics to it or vice versa. It’s a family affair for me. All of my writing is in house. I believe it’s the same way even with my dad he’s writing or my mom. So, basically, you can say most of the time, every song that I have is pretty much unexpected however we pull it together and it becomes something that is bigger than we imagined

The “Great Christmas” music video is gorgeous! Why did you choose to perform the song with your band and backup singers for the visual? 

Well, I believe that we live in a visual world now, where people not only just want to hear songs,  they actually enjoy seeing the creative process of us putting the song into a video or whichever way that creativity may work or flow. I had a vision of all white and I wanted to be joined by the band and singers because I thought it would bring it out even more. I didn’t want to do a traditional music video to the song. I thought to myself, people love my performances so let’s put the performance in the music video. The feedback from it has just been amazing.

What do you envision for the future of your music career? Do you have any plans or upcoming projects that you would like to share?

I’m definitely a woman of vision there’s always something I have a desire to do. My biggest thing is how can I reach more people and encourage more people through my music and in my career in general. Sometimes I don’t know right off the back what that may look like or what the plan may be, however I’m always positioned to do positive things to make sure more people are inspired, uplifted and encouraged.


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