GRAMMY-winning Christian music artist Smokie Norful recently visited The Recording Academy's Nashville Chapter and participated in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview. Norful discussed the Nashville music scene and why he calls his music "urban inspirational," among other topics.
"I almost don't like to be pigeonholed as gospel other than the fact that what I do sing is a gospel message," said Norful. "The packaging of my music is so universal it actually could be pop, urban [or] inspirational … because it's popular in its packaging, but it's also very impacting and powerful in its content."
Born Willie Ray Norful Jr. in Muskogee, Okla., Norful was first exposed to gospel music as a young boy in his father's church, before moving to Chicago to pursue a master's degree in divinity and work as a musician and pastor. Norful's debut album, 2002's I Need You Now, topped Billboard's Gospel Albums chart, and was followed by 2004's Nothing Without You, which earned a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. Norful's third studio album, 2006's Life Changing, garnered a GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional Gospel Album and peaked at No. 2 on the Gospel Albums chart. In 2009 Norful released Smokie Norful: Live and received GRAMMY nominations for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album and Best Gospel Performance for "Jesus Is Love."
Released in April 2012, Norful's most recent album, Once In A Lifetime, features the title track as well as 14 of Norful's most significant recordings, including "Dear God," "No One Else" and "I Need You Now."