Israel Houghton has been “chosen” for this generation to write songs for the nations. His latest project, “Covered: Alive in Asia,” was released July 24th and earned a number one spot on both Billboard’s Top Gospel and Top Christian/Gospel charts. The album, available via RCA Inspiration, also entered the Top 50 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
“How Awesome Is Our God” is the chart topper featuring 4-time Grammy winner Yolanda Adams. The 13-track CD was recorded in stadiums across 6 Asian countries. This remarkable worship experience offers a look at the global impact of Gospel music. “Friend of God,” “In Jesus Name,” “All Around,” “Jesus at the Center” and “Again, I Say Rejoice” are a few of the soul stirring praise and worship favorites penned by the worship leader of Joel Ostend’s Lakewood Church. Interestingly, the humble musical giant deemed to be one of gospel music’s most prolific songwriters, doesn’t consider himself as a great composer: “This project just came out and I still don’t feel like an amazing song writer,” said Houghton.
Recently, the multiple-award winner talked about the inspiration for his newly released CD project. Houghton, also spoke of the people most touched by his music and who influenced his career.
JET: Are you aware of the large amount of churches that sing your music?
Israel Houghton: I think that is what has motivated me, especially since New Breed has been together for the past 15 years. Realizing that there is a place there for resources and people for Sunday morning need something that they can give voice to or what causes them to connect with God. Being able to write those types of songs—I’ve been told they have become staples for Sunday mornings. I never set out to write like that, but what a high honor and a very humbling thing to hear. Especially churches that have become intentional about becoming more cross-cultural…they go to these staple songs of Israel and New Breed—that means a lot to me.
JET: At what point in life did you realize your powerful song writing ability?
Israel Houghton: I don’t think you ever really know that especially early on. For me, it was just one foot in front of the other everyday. Sometimes there are splashes of being in Asia, Africa and Latin America where people are singing your songs in other dialects and you go “‘Wow.’ this song obviously has some kind of effect to be able to translate across language barriers.” I don’t’ just sit down and write a song like “I’m amazing—let’s write.” I’m always going to be a bit more self-deprecating in that way. It’s always propelling me forward. I always want to write a better song. Whatever I can do to be better at what I do—I’m always going to be motivated by that.
JET: Which nationality have you found to be most responsive to gospel music?
Israel Houghton: For years, I would have answered South Africa because we have traveled there for 21 years. But having been in the Philippines and parts of Indonesia, it’s on par with any other crowd we have been in front of…they are probably the loudest…
JET: Which artist has influenced you the most?
Israel Houghton: To this day it’s still Andre Crouch. The things I ‘m doing right now are a direct link and direct result of what Andre was doing 40 years ago. I was 5 years old when I saw him and he affected my life so much. I sit down and say “How do you sit down and write a timeless song? How do you write a song that will still be relevant and impacting?” I don’t know if he sat out to do that, but that’s certainly what poured out of him. That certainly is a gigantic inspiration to me.
JET: What’s the take away message for your CD?
Israel Houghton: The title track is called “Covered”—a very simple song—covered by your grace. I think I want the American church—the western church to understand that the Gospel music that we do is really defined as good news music. Gospel music is not relegated by the U.S.–Gospel music is good news and good news is global. To see the effect of the things that we would hear in Chicago, Houston or Atlanta everyday is a rarity over there. Yet they really respond to the style of music but also the message in the music. It’s important to know that we are touching something global and not just local.
Effie Rolfe is a media consultant, personality and speaker. For years, she was the “voice of inspiration” each Sunday morning and middays on Chicago radio. She also speaks at schools, churches and workshops. Effie writes for several publications and is the author of The K(N)ots Prayer. Visit her Website effierolfe.com; like her on mseffierolfe.com and follow her via @effiedrolfe.