Before he was a 2004 Stellar Awards National Star Search winner, Micah Stampley had been a musical prodigy. Astonishingly, since the age of seven, Micah’s Christian/gospel music has been steeped in the most empowering aspects of God’s Word. Today Micah continues to proclaim the Good News, touching hearts and reaching all the way to heaven with his bass-to-first soprano vocal range and on-point, Biblically based lyrics.
The new tracks on Release Me, his fourth CD and a joint project of his independent label, Interface, and mogul Mathew Knowles’ Music World Gospel, are in keeping with his music ministry motto: The believer—despite outward appearances and circumstances—is in the hands of an all-conquering God. The believer’s worship should be less focused on his or her woes than on God’s desire for people to abide in peace and, in every essential way, to prosper.
“We are in the image and likeness of God. And if we live outside what that means, outside that intention, we’re living beneath our privilege. The Bible says ‘I wish in all things that you will prosper—financially, physically, spiritually—even as your soul prospers.’ God covers the whole person,” says Houston-based Micah, whose career has sped along full throttle ever since he became the flagship artist for mega-pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes’ then brand new Dexterity Sounds/EMI Gospel label.
As one of two new tracks on Release Me, which includes re-releases of four of Micah’s proven hit songs, “Heaven on Earth” expounds on the notion that the believer is supposed to prosper, and not merely in terms of making money. “The Kingdom of God is His people who are living and walking in His ways, in integrity and with righteous character,” Micah says. “… The spirit of the Lord is upon me. His anointing is empowering. The Kingdom of the Lord is within me and He’s calling me to the heavenlies. Yeah!…To be walking in His favor and grace is just like heaven on Earth. Oh!” So go the lyrics to the moderately paced song, buttressed by acoustic and electric guitars, driving percussions and an emphatic choral back-up.
“There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood” is the second new track, re-interpreted in Micah’s multi-octave signature style. He blends the traditional chords of that timeless hymn with a touch of today’s balladeering and graceful bellowing. “Wash all my sins away, ooo-o-oooo-o-oo,” he sings, knowing that God forgives.
In addition to the two new tracks, Release Me includes previous hits: “Lend Your Song to Me,” which begins in a mere worshipful whisper and rises higher, higher, higher toward a gift-giving God; “Corinthian Song,” an arrangement of V. Michael McKay’s that evokes the styling of the much lauded Richard Smallwood; “Marvelous;” with its piercing electric guitar, sounding brass and danceable drums; and “I Believe,” which opens with fingers snapping. “By faith, He’s given us the power to speak and see a thing. I believe, I believe, Lord I believe.”
“Spiritually, I feel liberated and I chose the title, ‘Release Me,’ because I’ve been coming through the struggles of being an independent artist in an industry that doesn’t always support independent artists. It’s like a load has been lifted off my shoulders,” says Micah, who is also a producer and prolific songwriter. With his regular co-writer, wife Heidi Stampley, Micah crafted the ballad, “Make An Example Out of Me,” for GRAMMY® Award-winner Regina Belle’s forthcoming gospel CD.
Micah, who’s also a frequent guest singer on the global Trinity Broadcasting Network, is at his optimum when he is in praise mode, ministering to and leading worship for audiences near and far. Amsterdam, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, London, and various African nations have hosted his concerts. When he’s not on the road, he sings for the four Sunday services at multiracial Grace Church of Humble, Texas, where he is an active member. The international audiences and parishioners back in Texas are hearing, feeling and glimpsing pure Micah, alone with his God. A humbled Micah is grateful for the worship-filled listeners; he knows they are present but he is focused solely on the Most High. Before Him, Micah boldly bares his mind, soul and spirit.
That same boldness and spiritual surrender is evident on Release Me, which is the follow-up to Micah’s third album, Ransomed. Recorded live before an expansive, ecstatic, testifying audience in an Atlanta church where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. once was the pastor, it received a Stellar nomination for Praise & Worship CD of the Year. That 16-track tour de force was produced by Kevin Bond (Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams), winner of 10 GRAMMY® Awards and 30 Stellar Awards.
Micah’s critically lauded second album, A Fresh Wind, was produced by GRAMMY® award-winning Aaron Lindsay (Israel & New Breed, Marvin Sapp) on Interface. It spent 31 weeks on Billboard’s Top Gospel Album chart, peaking at No. 6 and snapping up Stellar nominations for Contemporary Male Vocalist and Praise & Worship CD of the Year. His inaugural CD, The Songbook of Micah, shot to the No. 3 slot on Billboard’s Top Gospel Album chart. For his debut work, Billboard magazine placed him on its Top 10 Gospel Music Artists of 2005 list. AOL Black Voices included him on its roster of the Top 11 Gospel Geniuses of 2005. The Songbook of Micah also earned him nominations in the Stellar New Artist and Male Vocalist of the Year categories.
Micah’s brand of Christian/gospel is grounded in the rules and rhythms of the charismatic Christian household of his boyhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His parents—mom, Delmarie, was a homemaker and dad, Richard, was a pastor, carpenter and fine furniture-maker—were relentlessly devoted to their offspring. They were kind, loving, supportive and, on certain matters, unyieldingly strict. Secular music was not allowed in their home. But if, by his parents’ design, Micah and his seven siblings were being weaned on the artistry of such gospel greats as Shirley Caesar, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Clark Sisters, Andraé Crouch, the Winans, and Commissioned, his musical preferences, as a teen, were wide-ranging. Michael Jackson, Billy Ocean, Prince, Cyndi Lauper were blaring from the school bus driver’s radio, and Micah was rocking right along to the beat.
“Also, I do love jazz and classical music. I try to pull all those influences into the worship sphere,” Micah says. “When I was just a kid, something about music came and snatched me, grabbed me and held me down. God said, ‘I’m processing you to spread the Gospel. Now, go do it.’’’
A third-generation licensed preacher, Micah sometimes delivers a Sunday sermon. But music remains his chief calling. He has been a fixture in gospel ever since he was an elementary school student. He started out directing the choir at his grandfather’s church, and, by the age of 12, the self-taught pianist and drummer was a full-out minister of music, directing, arranging music and teaching harmonics in his family’s church. As a teen, he teamed with his cousin Nathaniel Stampley (formerly of Broadway’s The Lion King) to minister in song at churches and religious gatherings throughout Louisiana. His musical journeying would eventually take him to Los Angeles, the city his parents left soon after Micah’s birth, to perform in gospel-themed musicals. He also toured internationally as a featured vocalist and complement to the preaching ministry of Bishop Earl Johnson, among others.
As he followed his divine path as a singer, he fell in love with and married Heidi, a kindred spirit with whom he now raises five children, aged five to 16. A partner in life and in music, she is co-founder of Interface—originally named Levitical Records, after the singing Levites who prepared the sanctuary for worship—and a co-writer on many of her husband’s recordings. Together, they aim for as wide a Christian/gospel listening audience as possible. (In addition to sacred music, the duo has been penning uplifting and inspirational pop, country and rock songs).
“People can pull from the music whatever they have a flavor, a taste for,” Micah says of his latest Christian/gospel project. “I try to present a menu of music that everybody can eat from. Hymns, praise and worship, and that rock influence.” He wants listeners to glean from his music what he experiences while recording and performing.
“When I’m singing, I feel like I’m giving God permission to invade my life,” he states. “Release Me is so Christ-driven. It is delivering a song of hope in these times when people are losing jobs, getting their homes foreclosed on. I don’t believe God wants us to linger in that heartbreak but to push through it, to worship and praise through the hard times as we look for answers and solutions. God gives instruction. Only the Word of God can get us through.”