About Israel Houghton
Israel Houghton is known for injecting contemporary gospel and worship with a blazing, youthful energy that has made him among the most influential tastemakers in his field. As a singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and worship leader, he has created a canon of songs that have become standards in houses of faith around the globe. He has accomplished this largely as the leader of "Israel and New Breed," a Grammy, Stellar and Dove Award-winning musical ensemble and ministry organization that has amassed gold-selling albums and critical platitudes reserved for the best of the best.
Over the past 6 years, Israel has amassed a legion of fans while blasting down musical barriers, and drawing together people of all races, ages and cultures through worship. He has been fittingly graced with 2 Gold-selling albums, 6 Dove Awards, 2 Stellar Awards, a Soul Train Award, and 2 Grammy® Awards - one for "Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album" for A Deeper Level and one for "Best Traditional Gospel Album" for Alive In South Africa. Ironically, there is very little that is "traditional" about the way Israel approaches music and ministry, defying categorization with an ease that other artists envy.
For his most current musical offering, Israel momentarily steps away from New Breed, whose members are also active in their own ministries, to record a solo album that is his most personal effort to date. The project, The Power of One (2009), is a guest-filled tour de force that is galvanizing in both its inspirational power and Israel 's bankable high standard of music making. The Power of One is a challenge to all of faith to be as impassioned and Christ-like in their earthly walk as humanly possible. And does "Iz" ever have the soundtrack for that spiritual walk! From roots reggae and head-banging rock to sanctified funk and power pop, The Power of One is a visceral rush of bravado and gratitude. Listening to this album - Israel 's first solo studio offering after a string of highly successful New Breed concert sets - will surely set your soul on fire.
“This is the first time I've entered into a project with no premeditation,” Israel explains. “In the past, I'd go into a project saying we need this kind of song here and that kind there - worrying if it would sell or if the Church would accept it. This time it was fun to go into creating a record with no rules and just do what was in our hearts...a very cathartic experience.”
The seeds for The Power of One were planted last May at a friend’s beach house in Southern California . “It's about two miles from where I was born in Carlsbad,” says Israel . “I generally go there by myself to gather my thoughts, turn off the phone, read, write and get inspired. This time I had Tommy Sims and Aaron Lindsey come in to give a collective energy try. We had a couple of acoustic guitars, bass, keys, Pro Tools and a digital studio. We spent three days there... just looking at the ocean and writing the bulk of the album.”
Both introspective and anthemic, the song “Power of One” is an instant high water mark in a catalog already rich in Israel classics. Interestingly, it wasn’t originally intended to be recorded by Israel at all. He explains, “Two and a half years ago, I was asked to write a song for a mainstream artist who was looking for something based around a socially conscious idea. At that time I was just beginning to understand the connection between worship and justice, so this song came very quickly to me. I was about to send it to the artist's manager when my wife Meleasa asked me to play it again. When I did, she said, ‘Don't you dare send that away! The time will soon come for you to sing that song.’ Now is that time.”
As an album, The Power of One overflows with exceptional material, all woven together by mesmerizing interludes. The experience begins with the percussive and grand "Everywhere I Go," a joyous jam about the relationship between The Lord and the faithful. That song and “Moving Forward,” are the two tried and tested numbers of the collection as they had already become fan favorites, uplifting worship concert audiences before writing began for the new album. "Just Wanna Say" is a danceable confection reminiscent of OutKast’s “Hey Ya.” It’s the infectious rave-fave of Israel ’s kids (ages 12, 7 and 5). Another highlight is the powerful gospel ballad “Every Prayer” which features Israel ’s old friends Mary Mary.
Lyrically direct and musically dynamic, one of the instant ear grabbers is "You Found Me. " “I got the original idea riding a jet ski,” Israel confesses. “I was going about 70 miles per hour when the words and melody ‘You Found Me’ just smacked me in the face! Two weeks out from recording, I was playing it on my acoustic and Meleasa loved it. She filled in a lot of the lyrical holes… she’s a genius in painting word pictures. We wrote the chorus together. The last section is a vamp from another song called ‘I Am Free’ from our Sound of The New Breed series - that ‘No more chains holding me’ line fit really well. The song had an Island feel at first, but I’d been listening to some off-the-radar rock groups. Aaron suggested we put the melody over a rockier feel. Within minutes we had a really fun and edgy new thing. So I called (rapper) tobyMac. He loved it and joined me on the song.”
The difference between The Power of One as an Israel solo project vs. New Breed albums is subtle. “Most New Breed albums are done live,” Israel states. “This is a studio record so it has a different energy. I get to call on any and everybody for specific sessions. The biggest question is always who’s going to play drums. The first week I used Calvin Rogers. The second week we brought in Dan Needham. And we used Lamar Carter on ‘Saved by Grace.’” That song, reminiscent of the classic live New Year’s Eve video of Prince & The Revolution joining Sheila E.’s band for the encore medley “I Would Die For You/Baby I’m a Star” is an all-out throw down, thundering on for a hair-raising 13 minutes like it’s “1999!”
Another special guest on the album is multi-instrumentalist Akil Thompson (son of drum master Chester Thompson from Weather Report and Genesis) who co-wrote “You Are Loved” with
Israel. “Akil is a monster on bass, drums and guitar,” Israel marvels.
“I really enjoy what I do,” Israel concludes. “It's about getting a bigger picture of what's going on in the world instead of focusing on my life, wants and needs. It's about connecting with people around the world.”