National gospel recording artist Byron Cage is known by many as “a psalmist after King David’s own heart.”
Millions have come to appreciate his energetic style of praise and worship music through numerous concerts and several successful recordings.
Cage is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., which will celebrate its 100 years in Indianapolis July 3-9, featuring Kappa men from all over the world including Tavis Smiley, Joe Clair, Montell Jordan and a host of other celebrities.
Kappa Alpha Psi was founded at Indiana University in 1911. The only other Black Greek letter organization that shares the same distinction of being founded in Indiana is Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., which was founded at Butler University in 1922.
The week-long Kappa centennial celebration will include a Gospel Extravaganza on July 8 at the Indiana Convention Center. Byron Cage and fellow Kappa Marvin Sapp will lead a concert entitled “100 Percent Pure Praise.”
This week, the Recorder spoke with Cage about his journey as a gospel artist, the state of gospel music today and his thoughts about returning to the place where Kappa Alpha Psi began.
Recorder: How have some of your early experiences molded you into the artist and musician you are today?
Byron Cage: I started in Grand Rapids Mich., and went to the same church as the Debarge family. I remember singing in the same choir where Fred Hammond was first a bass player, and I also was influenced by Donald Bell who was the minister of music at my church. When I got a little older I had the pleasure of working with Thomas Whitfield who taught me a lot as an artist. I went to Morehouse College when I was 23 on a scholarship, and I had the chance of becoming the minister of music at New Birth Cathedral. I even remember being in Tyler Perry’s first play in Atlanta when he first started out. I’ve been doing this for over 16 years, and I am very grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had.
You’re considered to be a pioneer of contemporary praise and worship music. What is the driving force that allowed you to bring this style of music out into the forefront?
Praise and worship used to be called testimony service. Saints started that. I learned my style from Minister Thomas Whitfield. So I owe it all to the early saints for this style of music we call praise and worship. I really enjoy the feeling that is in the atmosphere during praise and worship. I really owe everything to what I learned growing up. But as I reflect on the song that I did, that really brought praise and worship out front. It was called “Shabach.”
It seemed as if God was preparing you for something big when you moved to Ebenezer AME in 1998. What was it like having to make that transition, after having assisted New Birth to 10,000 plus members?
It was a very difficult transition that I had to make. I thank God that I had pastors around me that were praying for me. People did not accept me when I first came to Ebenezer. There were a few people that liked what I was doing, but there were also those that did not want change. I just stayed true to my calling and what God wanted me to do.
Why do you feel praise in worship is such a critical part of being at church and what do you think it does for the believer as a whole?
I think it’s important for believers to make worship their lifestyle. I had to make it a part of my lifestyle.
Your last album, “Faithful to Believe,” was recorded in Detroit with a handful of great artists. Why did you go home to record that album, and what are you going to try different with your next album?
The recession hit very hard in Detroit. I went back, and I wanted to bring some things back to the people. My next CD will be recorded live in Chicago at the end of July. We are going to have some great musicians on this album again. It’s going to be great.
How do you remain grounded as a gospel artist when the world celebrates secular music more than gospel? How do you not lose focus?
When you’re called to do something, I learned how to be thankful and just keep walking. I’ve done all the award shows and things related, I just try to make sure that I don’t get caught up in all the hype.
How does it feel to be a part of the Kappa celebration?
It feels good. It’s amazing how far we’ve come. I was initiated at the Kappa Upsilon Chapter in 1983. That was a long time ago, but it still feels good to be a Kappa man. I am glad to be a part of something where brothers are making a difference in the community.
For ticket information on the Kappa Gospel Explosion, visit www.kappaalphapsi2011.com.