About Jonathan Nelson
From the writer of the popular Gospel hit "Healed" by Donald Lawrence comes a solid debut album titled "Right Now Praise" (2008). It is an album filled with songs of encouragement, songs that minister to one's life. Starting with the "head not the tail" mentality-based songs of Champions and My Name is Victory and then matriculating into the very presence of our Holy Father with Drench My Heart and Right Now Praise, the CD continues on with praise-and-worship centered songs.
Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Jonathan was surrounded by a musical family, “My grandmother played piano,” Jonathan continues. “I had two uncles who were musicians. We just grew up playing and singing in church.”
Jonathan's musical abilities were further cultivated while he was a student at the Baltimore School for the Arts and Morgan State University where he studied under the esteemed choir director Dr. Nathan Carter. Nelson was soon traveling the globe and conducting choirs his self and working in the music department at his father’s church. About fifteen of his friends and he would also get together and sing at church. When Karen Clark-Sheard was coming to perform at his church, she needed some backing singers and his friends stepped in. “It wasn’t a formal group,” he recalls. “It was just something we did and after we did that service with Karen, we really enjoyed working together and that’s when we became Purpose.”
He career got a big boost when he met Troy Sneed. “I met Troy Sneed at a Gospel Music Workshop of America convention. He said that he had heard a song Purpose recorded called `The Right Place’ and that he wanted to record it.” Sneed produced the song on Pastor Rudolph McKissick and it became a Top 5 Billboard gospel hit.
It was through Sneed that Nelson would enjoy his biggest song yet. “ Troy called one day and said that he was coming to Baltimore to record a group of youth,” Nelson recalls. “He called me on a Tuesday and I didn’t have a song that night. I wrote `The Struggle is Over’ in about ten minutes. The scripture for it comes from Deuteronomy 1: 6-8 in the NIV version. In that scripture, the Lord spoke to Moses to tell the children of Israel they could now come out of the wilderness and possess the land that God promised them in Canaan . So, for them, the struggle was over. So, during the recording that night, the kids were crying and Troy said, `This will be the single.’”
Indeed, it was the single. Released in the winter of 2006, the congregational ballad became the surprise hit of the summer when it spent 12 weeks at #1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Gospel Songs chart. “I never thought it was single worthy,” says Nelson. “It didn’t sound commercial to me but I apologize for that because obviously the song has resonated with many, many people and touched them.”
Still, Nelson is good at keeping his church roots at the heart of it all, never quite letting his showmanship surpass the actual content and spirit of these songs, many of which deal with triumph in Christ. This consistent thematic thread makes it hard to say which song on “Right Now Praise” will be Nelson's next smash, but a few contenders do stand out, like the power-in-praise anthem "Bettah," the motivational big-church sound of "My Name Is Victory," and the Sunday-friendly "Great and Mighty."
Overall, “Right Now Praise” marks a promising debut, one with enough high points to establish Nelson as a newcomer to look out for in contemporary gospel.