Marvin Sapp is one of the most celebrated artists in contemporary gospel. The superstar pastor and singer is stepping into a new phase of his career with the release of his first holiday-themed project, Christmas Card. While many may expect Sapp to take a “traditional” route with the seasonal album, he says that he decided to go in the complete opposite direction.
“Out of the 12 that were recorded, 10 of them are original music,” Sapp explains. “Not only that, but it showcases me in a different light — something that’s more contemporary and urban. People are more used to hearing me in a traditional atmosphere. This is more edgy.”
Sapp admits that he saw releasing a Christmas album as an opportunity to try musical styles he hadn’t attempted before.
“Honestly, the reason I did it is because I wanted to do something totally different than what I usually do. And I thought what better place to experiment than a specialty record?” he says. “When I record my next CD, in January, I’m going back to what I usually do. Keeping it churchy but funky.”
“You never want to lock yourself into a particular lane. you always want to make sure you’re an artist and artists take risks,” he continues. “And I think that the gospel music community has grown and matured to the point where we can stretch and come out of our comfort zone and still maintain our base.”
Despite his tremendous success, Sapp remembers how unsure of himself he was at the beginning of his career; and he admits that it took years before he really understood who he was as an artist.
“When I first got into this industry, I was trying to find myself and vacillated musically,” he recalls. “When I did my first record in 1996, we came in with the mentality of just wanting to put together wonderful gospel music. Then I found my niche. When I found it, I decided not to deviate from it. Even though this is my 10th record, it took me about six records to find my niche.
“When I began I was 23. I’m 46 now,” he adds. “I know me. I know my style and I know what my listening base enjoys.”
Sapp’s career now is focused and faith-based. And it is his faith that got him through the most challenging period in his life — the death of his wife, MaLinda Sapp, who died in 2010 after a battle with colon cancer. The gospel star says that he understands how this time of year can be bittersweet for many people, but he urges anyone coping with loss to remember that life goes on.
“I definitely understand loss and the challenge of missing the one that you love and admire,” he says. “But even though you’re going to miss [them], realize most importantly that the greatest gift they can give to the person they’ve lost is to keep living. We end up stopping. But the person we love wouldn’t want us to stop.”