Chicago native Sharon Irving struggles with referring to herself as a “gospel artist.” Despite her roots being in the church, and her leading worship every Sunday, the 29-year-old singer feels called to share her music on a more global level. She wants to reach those in churches and in bars. This is why it’s no surprise she recently wowed the “America’s Got Talent” audience with a soulful and captivating rendition of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.” JET had a chance to speak with Sharon about her desire for the Christian industry to explore pain, and her debut album “69th & Bennett.”
JET: What does an average day for you look like?
Sharon Irving: I’m a freelancer, so I make my own schedule. Everyday looks completely different! I travel all the time between Chicago and Grand Rapids for work. I left my job in 2013 to pursue my music career in artistry full-time. It was a leap of faith to say the least.
JET: How was your experience on America’s Got Talent?
Sharon Irving: It was surreal. I’m a city girl from the South Side. I didn’t think opportunities like that could happen for me. In fact, I auditioned for The Voice a few years ago and didn’t make it through. I told myself that wasn’t the lane for me – the TV lane. Goes to show you when one door closes another one opens. God is faithful. I am a living witness that he will take the things that you consider weaknesses and shortcomings, and use them to bless and inspire others. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.
JET: What is your inspiration for your music?
Sharon Irving: Some of my biggest inspirations are everyday people. My friend is a nurse and she fearlessly loves on men and women in the health care field. I have another friend who is a teacher. I think teachers are so underrated. Of course I have my musical inspirations. Lauryn Hill is queen! She was one of the first Black women I ever saw use her voice and wear her natural hair. She’s one of the dopest lyricists of our generation.
JET: Let’s talk about your debut album 69th and Bennett. How’d it come to be?
Sharon Irving: 69th and Bennett. That’s the street I grew up on in the South Shore neighborhood. The house that my grandparents moved into in the 1960’s. The same house that my mother and her sisters were raised in. My mom, brother and I moved into the house with my grandmother after my parents divorced. It’s a family home in every sense of the word. A quintessential family home. Very special to me. With all that in mind, I thought it would be cool to dedicate the album to where I grew up. I was very close with my grandmother and spend a lot of time with her in the house. I also started exploring songwriting in that house.
JET: You’re pretty adamant about not being called a gospel artist. What genre do you fit into?
Sharon Irving: This is a very difficult question for me. I’ve always struggled with what lane I fit in. I’ve decided that maybe God wants me to create my own lane. There’s no denying my roots in the church and I’m very grateful for them. I still lead worship and sing in the church today. I have a heart for exploring different methodologies and styles of worship. I write songs about where I’m at in life and some of those don’t explicitly mention God, but I believe God is in everything. I feel called to share my music on a global level, from churches to bars.
JET: What do you hope to bring to the Christian music industry?
Sharon Irving: I would love to see more voices represented. I think it’s a shame that if you go on iTunes right now it’s predominantly White males that dominate the charts. The charts don’t represent success, but I do think there’s a lack of voice represented in the Christian music industry. I hope to bring an authentic voice. Sometimes I think we skip the messy stuff in life and head straight to the celebration, but there’s something about lament that I’m very drawn to. Everything isn’t picture perfect. Heck the Bible was far from picture perfect. I want to bring songs to the Christian music industry that explore pain, doubt, confusion and unrequited love.
JET: What else do you want us to know?
Sharon Irving: I’m a work in progress. I love to laugh and be goofy. I love deep conversations and connecting with people. I’m very emotional and I often feel the words to the songs that I sing very deeply so I may or may not cry during a song. I’m a leaky vessel. On the logistical side of things, I would love for people to know that my debut album will be done soon so please support and look out for it! I really believe the songs can change the world and heal hearts. I hope people feel me because the songs are a gift and they don’t belong to me!
To keep up with Sharon Irving visit her website www.sharonirvingmusic.com.