I'm in Pursuit
CHRIS GRAHAM BIOGRAPHY A WARRIOR FOR WORSHIP In a day and time where the average young gospel artist is seeking to make music to cross over to the radio stations spinning the latest beats by Chris Brown or Ciara, Philadelphia native Chris Graham is sticking with what he knows best: praise and worship styled gospel. His forthcoming CD debut is a live recording featuring an array of worship songs peppered with elements of funk, jazz and heart-felt emotion. "I'm ready to go minister to the nations," Graham testifies. "I'm a big fan of jazz and a lot of people are drawn by my vocal skills. I riff and run, scat and do all that and people are still blessed about it. I came up on Dianne Reeves, Jonathan Butler and Rachelle Ferrell on the jazz side. But, most of my influence is from gospel artists like the Clark Sisters and John P. Kee. The O'Neal Twins were awesome. They used to come to our church. They sounded so much alike and it was like they could read each other's minds. They did everything in harmony. One would be on the piano and on stand up singing. All of that gave me my foundations." His mother also gave him a foundation. Born in 1978, Graham is the younger of two boys. "It was a lot of noise growing up," he laughs. His mom worked as a secretary and provided a middleclass income for the household. Still, "You don't get everything that other kids get. I pretty much wore my older brothers' clothes as hand-me-downs but we made it." Perhaps, the biggest absence in his youth was a steady relationship with his father. "A household with no father in it," he sighs. "You see other kids with both their parents and you see them be able to get what you can't have. I knew my father but he wasn't around. He wasn't really saved but I missed having that fatherly presence." Graham's father died suddenly and was eulogized on the former's 20th birthday. "That was devastating," he says. His father died in his sleep. A heart attack at the age of 45. When asked if his father ever heard him sing, Graham quietly says the affirmative. "He was proud of that," he says. No matter what happened in the Graham household, it was music that united them. He and his cousins were always singing at their grandmother's house and eventually had a group named Cousins that sang around the City of Brotherly Love. His mother traveled and sang with the Clara Ward Singer's soprano, Marion Williams, for years. They all attended the same church, B.M.Oakley Memorial Temple C.O.G.I.C, where Williams was a church mother and leader. "She would take me on the road and teach me things. She would have me and my cousin open for her sometimes," he recalls. "She would take me into the studio with her. I learned so much being around her. She called me her grandson." In spite of his musical pedigree, Graham went to school for Barbering and Cosmetology because it was hammered into his head to have something to fall back on financially. He opened a Christian hair salon that played Christian music and created a pleasant atmosphere for church-going clients. "In the area where my shop was, the competition got really intense with a lot of other salons," he says. "It makes you have to be on top of it or you'll be run out of business. Before he could be run out of business, Graham decided to close the salon because music was calling his name and he could not be distracted. In 2004, he performed a concert of some of his original compositions. "We got such an overwhelming response," he says. "People started to say, that song 'Life in the Atmosphere,' do you have that on tape? I need that because it really ministered to me." The positive response gave Graham the idea to record a live demo that he was planning to shop to gospel labels to get a recording contract. He mentioned it to his childhood Sunday school teacher, Veda Brown, who then said, "Why do a live demo when you could just do a live recording?" The fateful day came on July 30, 2005 at the B.M.Oakley Memorial Temple C.O.G.I.C. where he currently serves as a minister, Praise & Worship leader, and Mass Choir Director under the leadership of Pastor Maria Gardner. That evening, over 500 people were packed into the church. "People were everywhere," Graham says with amazement. "People were up in the balcony and wrapped all around the building." Every song on the project is special in it's own way but the track "Life in the Atmosphere" is particularly poignant to Graham. "I was closing my business and going through some stuff," he recalls. "I was in my car and heard the Lord say, 'What are you going to say about the situation? Are you going to let it die here or are you going to speak life to it?' I remember reading the bible in the book of Ezekiel about the valley of dry bones and began to speak life and God gave me that melody." It was an evening of spontaneous praise. Graham was on stage when a little praise tune came to his mind. "I just began to sing it and the band picked up on what I was doing," he says. "Then, I called B. Chase Williams to come on stage and help me out with it and he just flowed with me. The project features various styles of worship music. From the funk of "He'll Make A Way" to the Latin-flavored "Arise" that was written b y Rodney Harris and rearranged by Graham. Another Philly psalmist, John Payton, wrote "We Need Christ" also rearranged by Graham. However, Graham did the bulk of the songwriting. Of the track, "Search Me Lord," he says, "That song is based on Psalm 51 and it's a conversation directly between me and God." Graham is passionate about his faith and feels that music can save this generation just like it saved him. "This is my foundation," he proclaims of gospel music." By no means am I perfect. I've messed up, but I was rooted and grounded in church even when I didn't want to be. Everything just stuck with me and it kind of helped me in situations and prevented me from falling into traps because I feared God and had been grounded in the word of God. It can do the same thing for others too."
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your version of Flash Player.