British gospel singer Annastasia Baker could have done a lot of things with her life. The Jamaica-born, South London-raised star was a natural athlete, an actress and a dancer, but it was her passion for singing that inspired her the most creatively. She knew at a young age that singing would be a part of her for the rest of her life, but she explains to rolling out that it took some time for her to be certain that she wanted to make singing the focus of her life, career-wise.
“From the age of 13 [when] I was at secondary school and I believed that this was what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “I made the real decision when I was about 17 years old. I actually started out doing musical theater, singing, dancing and acting. But the singing in the particular course was very little — only about half an hour, if that, each week. I noticed that I was really enjoying the singing lessons but it just wasn’t enough. That’s actually when I decided to stop that course and go on and make singing the one that I wanted to do. I went on to the Vocal Tech Music School here in London.
“The first hurdle was just making the decision: do I want athletics, do I want to act and dance, or is it going to be singing? But singing was just what I wanted to do and what I loved the most. I’d been in church since I was 2, but there weren’t many opportunities in church for me to sing. But once I made singing my focus in college, I began to get more involved in singing in the church. But I was still young and still experimenting.”
Baker would go on to wow the judges on the U.K.’s “X-Factor” in 2008, and she won the Time2Shine gospel talent competition in 2013. She’s hopeful that she can be an inspiration to gospel stars in Britain — an example of a homegrown talent who’s helping to fortify the gospel base in the U.K.
“It’s very hard here and we’re trying to play catch-up with [the States],” she says. “Even Time2 Shine is the biggest opportunity for any gospel artist, but not much prior to that, really. Everybody is trying their best to change things. I’m a part of that, trying to change things and make history for U.K. gospel and make it a lot bigger in this country. The gospel scene isn’t very big at all — it isn’t as big as it should be. A lot of people wind up changing because they’re trying to make it and they don’t in gospel. Time2Shine is a great platform for people who don’t want to compromise their faith and want to continue with what they want to do.”
Annastasia is currently prepping her debut album, You Turn, for release and she wants the project to stand as a testament to everything she’s overcome and accomplished in her walk as a woman of faith.
“I know that God has brought me a mighty long way. He’s the reason why I’m standing here today,” says Baker. “A lot of times you’re in church because your parents are into church and you go because your parents say you need to go. But about four years ago, there was an incident where my car blew up into flames. God spoke to me to get out of the car before it blew up. That was a turning point. I wasn’t as serious about my relationship with God, but that was my wake up call. I feel that that moment in particular was the moment where it was like ‘Now, it’s time. God I owe you my life. You saved me for a reason.’ Even my album is titled You Turn. That’s what God did for me. He changed my life. I think it’s important for people to understand that God can turn you around; He’s a life-changer. The first thing I said was I wanted my testimony to be on my album and there’s a track called ‘Fire.’
“I actually came up with the concept for the album and was involved with the majority of the writing for the album. Everything that’s on there is exactly as I wanted it to be. I believe I went through what I went through so that others can be encouraged. There’s also ‘Forgive,’ I’ve been through so many incidents where I’m like ‘How do I forgive in this situation? Lord, teach me how to forgive.’ Every song, I was involved in the whole process with the writing team. The album is everything that I’ve wanted — more, actually. I feel like so many people can relate to what is actually on the album.”
She’s now poised to become a breakout gospel star and a groundbreaker for her home country. For Annastasia Baker, being able to touch souls with her art is the greatest reward.
“Most of all, I’ve enjoyed ministering live [and] just having people come up to me and saying ‘I really needed to hear that song. I know what I’m going to do,’” she shares. “That means the most to me. Because for me, the album is doing exactly what I believe God wants me to do. It’s about uplifting people and letting them know that they’re not alone in this.”