via: SAC Cultural Hub – Michael P. Coleman
An Exclusive Conversation with one of the Legendary Founders of Commissioned
No conversation about gospel music groups would be complete without a mention of Commissioned, one of Detroit’s best musical exports. Most gospel aficionados could name superstars Fred Hammond and Marvin Sapp as alumni of the group. Fewer would recall Keith Staten, who helped found the group in the mid-1980s. Influenced by groups like The Winans and The Clark Sisters, Commissioned released six successful albums, including the Grammy-nominated “Will You Be Ready?”, before Staten left the group and released his debut solo album,“From The Heart”. A decade and three solo albums later, Staten all but vanished from the public eye.
Keith has been married for over 25 years, and is the proud father of a 23-year-old son, Anthony. He exclusively and candidly talked with The Hub about his abrupt departure from Commissioned and his current relationship with his former bandmates. He also talks about his diverse musical influences (Kenny Rogers? Barbra Streisand??), his time away from the recording studio — including time pastoring a church — and what we can look forward to from this brilliant vocalist and songwriter.
THE HUB: It’s an honor to talk with you. Where have you been, and what have you been up to?
STATEN: Well, it’s been awhile! My last solo project was back in 2002, and we did the Commissioned Reunion project back in ’07. Last year, I sang on Donald Lawrence’s project. Although I haven’t been recording, I’ve been ministering and traveling all over the country. I’ve dedicated most of my time away from recording to pastoring a church, having moved to Arizona in 2003. I lived there until 2010, and my wife and I were senior pastors of a church there. Now, I’m really longing to get back on the road more consistently, and getting the new project out. But you know, man…God is smart! (Laughs) He’s brilliant! I never planned to stop recording, but God in His wisdom and goodness had His own plan. He’s been preparing me for this, and I’m really excited about everything He’s doing with this project.
ALSO SEE: Gospel Flashback: Commissoned
THE HUB: Describe your music for someone who’s not familiar with Keith Staten.
STATEN: I’d say my style varies between the urban contemporary, the R & B flavor from my Commissioned days, and my background with hymns & spirituals. That’s what I grew up singing. But this new project is very contemporary. To be honest, since way back when I was with Commissioned and people would ask where I trained vocally, I’d have to tell them that even then, I was praying to God “Lord, teach me how to sing.” And God did it. I haven’t had one day of vocal training. God did it.
THE HUB: Have you thought about doing an album of hymns? You’ve got the voice for it!
STATEN: I’ve noticed that a lot of today’s contemporary singers are PHENOMENAL but they can’t cover a hymn, because they came up in a different day. I grew up singing them. I’d like to do an album of hymns down the road.
THE HUB: You were one of the few singers who could hang with Fred Hammond, and that’s saying something!
STATEN: Thank you! A lot of people don’t remember that I was the “vamp man” in the group. Fred was our bass player as well, so they used me to vamp vocally at the end of songs because Fred was busy tearing up that bass. On some of those projects, some listeners couldn’t distinguish me from Fred.
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