Brian Courtney Wilson didn’t always have a vision of being a singer for Christ. In fact, the Chicago native had a different plan for his life. But when God calls, you answer. Like many of us growing up, Wilson sang and was part of the church, but didn’t really connect with the institution until he was older. JET spoke with Wilson about his growing appreciation for his faith, why singing is his calling and the power of having a solid relationship with God.
JET: Growing up, you sang in the church with the adult male chorus. Is it safe to say that you’ve always known that you’d have a career as a gospel singer?
Brian Courtney Wilson: No. Not at all. I didn’t know that there was a career. I just knew that my dad was making me go to choir rehearsal and that was just to avoid the repercussions of not going. I wasn’t really trying to discover anything about gospel music as a career until I moved to Houston. I guess it was always around me, but it just wasn’t something you know as far as a career. It was just something you did as part of the community.
JET: When did gospel music become more for you? When did you actually make the conscious decision to sing for the Lord?
Brian Courtney Wilson: Well in college…I think that’s when I really realized that I had some talent that was distinguishable based on the opportunities I was being presented. Then a few years after college, I moved to Houston and encountered a church ministry there and for the first time, I saw [people] practically applying Christian principles to everyday living. You know there was no vacation time on what the people [down there] were doing on Sunday. It was like they were career ministers. And I could see myself in that type of life. I was fortunate enough to meet some great musicians that were excellent at what they did, and meeting those people helped me.
JET: As a Black man in America, it’s very easy to become frustrated with all that is against you. How does your faith in God keep you from expressing frustrations in an otherwise negative way?
Brian Courtney Wilson: You know, I don’t know that they always do. I guess sometimes I do get frustrated and say it. I’m not a priest. But I think one of the things I try to remember and that I try to teach my kids is that your worth is not determined by what people think of you. There’s evidence all around us that there are people in power who do not ascribe a lot of worth to people of color in this country. But, according to our faith, we have a God in heaven who thought enough of us to lay down his life for us. So that’s one of the things I keep my faith in. You remember that the God you served thought enough of you to die for you. Basically, that you’re worth fighting for.
JET: Speaking of being “Worth Fighting For,” that’s one of your songs that sticks out to me the most. What inspired the track?
Brian Courtney Wilson: It started with a conversation between the producer and myself. He asked me about the state of the church and it was one of those questions where you could’ve easily got negative about given the stories you hear. But I said, after considering what the church has been in my family life and my own life, that it’s worth fighting for. And it really resonated with both of us at the time. You got to fight back discouragement and despair, frustration like you mentioned before and just keep looking to God for help and keep looking within yourself to keep going. That’s really where that song came from.
JET: Even the most believing Christians battle with having faith all of the time. What do you say to them? How do you keep the faith?
Brian Courtney Wilson: One, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. Every hero of our faith short of Jesus has made mistakes and even Jesus is chronicled as having some doubts. Know that God’s mercies are new every morning and then make sure that you’re part of a community of faith. Because usually, someone is or has gone through what you are going through. In moments of despair, you can find a way to give and then be given to in community. I find that to be a comfort and a strength in moving along.
JET: What’s Next for you Brian?
I launched what is basically a letter writing campaign. Based on some of the things I’ve seen happen in this country with people of color, the justice being slow and coming and the frustration setting in around that, I wanted to reaffirm our community and start with my own so I wrote a letter. [It talks about] how despite whatever messages are in the media, they should ignore those and know that they have a value that goes way beyond the moment. That they’re worth fighting for and God sees them. I’ve asked people to join me in the #worthfightingfor campaign. Post a letter, a video affirming your child on social media so we can just kind of collect and chronicle these messages and get something good out of it.
Check out Brian Courtney Wilson’s song, “Worth Fighting For” below: