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Interviews : J. Moss

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Interview with J. Moss by Christopher Heron

J. MossThe career of songwriter, producer and artist J. Moss has certainly been one of epic proportions, a story rippled with promising starts, unsettling setbacks and fascinating comebacks.  It’s the tale and real-life experience of James Moss, son of Detroit recording legend Bill Moss, Sr. and nephew of Gospel’s unofficial matriarch – Dr. Mattie Moss Clark.

Born and raised in Motown, USA to sing God’s glory at the impressionable age of 4, J was quickly exposed and prepared for a life of performances that would eventually include stints as a back-up singer with Bill Moss, Sr. & The Celestials, one half of the Moss Brothers and a premature stab as a recording soloist.

The experience was invaluable for J. Moss in those early days, even though disheartening at times, as unbridled effort and blaring talent had yet to yield any measurable success.

However, life was about to take an interesting turn for J. Moss in the 90’s, as his musical ambitions finally found momentum.  Touring with his cousins - Twinkie, Dorinda and Karen - as well as contributing as a songwriter and producer on Karen Clark Sheard’s debut release, Finally Karen (Island), quickly propelled J back into the limelight as a formidable player who could sing, write and produce like the genius he appeared to be.


J. Moss - I Wanna Be

His reputation as one of the hottest producers in Gospel music quickly earned him and his highly touted production company – PAJAM - which includes Paul ‘PDA’ Allen and Walter Kearney, additional contracts with such standouts as Patti Labelle, Michelle Williams, Kelly Price, Hezekiah Walker and Dorinda Clark Cole, just to name a few.

With a boat load of experience now under his belt and a reputation that’s likely to fall in line with the legends of Detroit, J. Moss is finally in the driver’s seat.  Moss’ first solo album in over fifteen years – The J. Moss Project - will be released on GospoCentric Records later this summer.  PAJAM remains one of the most sought-after production companies in the industry.  And J. Moss never sounded better, whether behind a mic or mixing board.  BLACKGOSPEL.COM stole a few moments from J. Moss’ coveted time to discuss the tried and tested life that’s truly PAJAM, in every sense of the word.

Christopher Heron
: J, I first discovered the wonder and gift of PAJAM in the production of Finally Karen (Island) back in ’97. Back then, were your energies and talent completely poured into production or were you already contemplating your debut as a solo artist?

J. Moss:  When PAJAM first started ten years ago, we began with the intention that J. Moss would be the first and primary artist.  Of course, over time God showed it wasn’t yet to be.  But at the beginning of the PAJAM era, the focal point was to see J. Moss be the first artist to record.  But God took me through a prerequisite period where I learned a lot about the business and ministry.  I wouldn’t trade the experience and this particular journey for anything.   

CH: Your family is built on a rich musical legacy that includes your father Bill Moss, Sr., Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, the Moss Brothers and the legendary Clark Sisters.  How have they all played an influence in your music?

J. Moss:  Oh my goodness!  It all kicked off with my dad, Bill Moss, Sr.  He instilled so much in me.  He’s the one that pulled me to the side and encouraged me to start writing.  He told me I had the gift to make music.  And, he’s the one that’s instrumental in my whole musical writing and production initiative.  My brothers, particularly Bill Moss, Jr. who has a degree in music, taught me a lot about playing instruments and arranging vocals. 

And then there’s Twinkie and Karen and Dorinda and Jacky and Aunt Mattie (Moss Clark) is what we all called her.  Performing, showmanship on stage, selecting quality songs, the anointing, and one’s life on and off the court as Dorinda would say, in terms of being spiritual in front of an audience or in private.  Musically and spiritually, they’ve all instilled so much into me.  I’m hitting the ground running, just to show them that their labor in me has certainly paid off.

CH: Everyone is well aware of Detroit’s reputation for being a breathing ground for developing and nurturing Gospel talent.  In fact today, PAJAM is playing its part in introducing new talent from Detroit with the recent release of Ramiyah.  How influential have been many of Detroit’s finest artists such as Vanessa Bell Armstrong, The Winans and Commissioned to your ministry?


J. Moss - We Must Praise

J. Moss:  Back then, if you were going to live in Detroit, you had to have your hand in some part of the music business.  It’s always been crazy that way.  You could go to a musical and it would start with Vanessa Bell Armstrong, then Thomas Whitfield & Co. would follow, then here comes Commissioned and then Marvin, Carvin, Ron and Michael (Winans) and then BeBe & CeCe would close it out.  It was incredible.  Those performances inspired me because everyone was so talented and versatile.  Twinkie showed us something special, the Thomas (Whitfield) Company gave us something and then Marvin (Winans) gave us something more.  It was so impressive.  I was just a sponge and soaked up everything I possibly could from all of those artists.  So now, you have the well-rounded J. Moss, product of Detroit…for real (laughs).

CH: What were the steps that led to the recording and upcoming release of your debut project on the record label that also introduced Dorinda Clark Cole, Trin-i-tee 5:7 and Kirk Franklin – GospoCentric Records?

J. Moss:  First of all, it’s an honor and privilege to be with a company that’s made such a deposit in the Gospel music industry.  When a company has sold in excess of 15 million records, they obviously have the formula for success and know what they’re doing.  I always will give a shout-out to them for giving me a chance to share my gift with the world.  As far as the steps that led to this relationship, I can say it has everything to do with my guys – Walter Kearney and Paul ‘PDA’ Allen. 

This deal started over two years ago, when my guys started showcasing me and putting together a J. Moss package to shop me around.  All the legal stuff, the verbiage, the showcasing, it’s all them.  They are really responsible for my deal.  It’s been a ten-year run for me.  And the journey has always been about setting up the J. Moss artistry ministry.  Through this journey, as producers, we’ve had a lot of successes, as well as disappointments, ups and downs. I’m so much stronger and wiser, since I’ve gone through this experience.  I’m just so excited about what God is going to do for this ministry. 

CH: Your collaboration with Paul D. Allen and Walter Kearney has been both an artistic and commercial match made in heaven.  What were the fateful events that lead to you three men coming together to form PAJAM?  And what made this team a perfect fit in your eyes?

J. Moss:  That’s a good question.  Before we started PAJAM, everyone was pretty much doing their own thing.  ‘PDA’ brings technical strength.  Back then, he was working with a big, local producer by the name of Michael Powell.  He was learning how to write and mix.  He was taking on any project he could to better himself.  Walter was doing his thing with a big, nation-wide company in advertisement and management.  He was a senior executive at a very reputable Detroit company.  And I was doing a lot of singing, writing and producing with solo artists.  We all came together when Island / Def Jam launched Island Inspirational through Hiriam Hicks and Stanley Brown.  Paul ‘PDA’ Allen had a direct link to those guys. 

And so, discussion began as they expressed an interest in J. Moss the artist.  PDA and Walter were good friends.  And PDA and I were also tight.  So, we agreed, it was time to put all are cards on the table and come together and make this a full blown, marketing, management and production company.  And there you have it, the launch of the PAJAM era.

CH: Will music fans of J. Moss and Paul Allen hear many of the trademark arrangements and harmonies associated with PAJAM or will your first album reveal an entirely different sound and message from J. Moss, the artist?

J. MossJ. Moss:  It’s twofold.  Both of those guesses are right.  We definitely didn’t want to disappoint our fans and followers who’ve grown to love the sound of PAJAM, so we definitely have that there.  But God is taking me to a totally new dimension and whole new level in Him and music.  The maturity is there.  We took Praise & Worship to a new direction that we feel is the PAJAM flavor.  We’ve also got some down home church, foot-stomping, hand-clapping stuff as well.  And of course, we’ve got some Urban stuff.  I definitely feel folks won’t be disappointed with what they’ve grown to know and love about PAJAM but I do think they’re going to be shocked with the new dimension God is taking PAJAM to.     

CH: I sense that the artist in you is excited about the season that’s on the horizon.  Will you be able to put back on the producer’s cap and sow a seed into the ministries of other artists in the future?

J. Moss:  I say this all the time, “PAJAM will go on.”  We have a team of writers and producers under our fold that we’re building up right now and they’re extremely hot!  We’re instilling in them everything we know, so that they can keep this short legacy of PAJAM rolling on.  My heart is still in production and so it is for PDA and Walter.  Of course, as my ministry expands, I’m going to be pulled away from some of the time I used to spend on writing and producing.  But if I’m right about Paul and Walter, they’ll make sure I’m doing ten things at the same time.  I’m not about to get away from production that easy, and honestly, I don’t want to get away.  I love making music.  I love the art in it.  I love being behind the scenes.  I love the marriage between me and the music I create.  But right now, definitely my artistry is going to be my focal point.

CH: It’s obvious that PAJAM is responsible for creating and customizing a unique sound in Gospel music today.  What do you hope and pray your distinctive music does to the hearts of men and women?

J. Moss: Unity in music is what we’re missing today.  Everything is still so segregated.  People are always asking, “What is his music about, is he Praise & Worship, is he Holy Hip-Hop Gospel, is he Contemporary or Traditional Gospel?”  It’s just Gospel music.  Let’s love it for what it is.  When we wake up in the morning, sometimes we feel like listening to Traditional music, so we’ll put on that Mighty Clouds of Joy CD or Shirley Ceasar.  On another day, you might feel like hearing a ballad, so you’ll put on an album by CeCe Winans or Yolanda Adams.  And still on another day, you might feel like you’re in a youthful body, so you’ll turn on Tonex, J. Moss or (Kierra) ‘Kiki’ (Sheard). 

I feel we need to embrace it all and stop putting music in a box.  It’s so much bigger than that.  It’s all for the same cause and that’s introducing souls to Christ so that He can change lives forever.  So my biggest prayer is that He will strengthen the unity among artists, the labels and the people that support our ministry.  

Related Web Sites:
:: Label Web Site  ::  Gospocentric.com

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