Electrifying. That’s how Jamaican gospel singer Kevin Downswell described the experience of recording his first live album.
The 17-track album entitled ‘Realignment: The Live Encounter’ will be officially released on June 15th 2018, both physically and on all digital platforms. He said he and his team gave it their all and feared nothing. They’ve spent almost a year fine-tuning every second and every note to give listeners the perfect experience, so expect something great.
Before getting into the album, let’s focus on Kevin for a while. Just one minute into our conversation, I could tell he was both extremely passionate about his ministry and had an undying love for God. He mentioned growing up in poverty and said it allowed him to see the power of God first-hand. He saw and appreciated how much God continually provided in times of need. It was through this, he developed a personal relationship with the Lord.
The decision to do full-time ministry was what he called one of the toughest decisions of his life.
“I almost rebuked the voice because I said no, that’s not God,” he said, “I cried for weeks.”
His calling to become a minister came while he was preparing to study medicine as his dream was to become a doctor. He said he acknowledged that God knew more than he did, and eventually, all he had to do was trust him and surrender. From that moment, doors began to open — so many that he wished he said yes sooner.
The acceptance of God’s calling is a decision that he has never regretted. From having his music impacting thousands and being played in various countries, to befriending his musical inspirations Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin, Kevin Downswell is doing quite well. And now in 2018, he’s releasing his first live album — something you don’t see every day in Jamaica or even the Caribbean.
Here’s our conversation about the album:
NF: So the album is called Realignment: The Live Encounter
NF: It was actually recorded in July 2017, what caused the gap between then and its release?
Kevin: It was recorded July 22nd. Now, after you record something like a live album, you have to now go into post-production which is overdub, background vocals, fixing things that need to be fixed… releasing a single, build on that single, and so it took… It has to take time. People do this all the time, they release live albums and you’ll realize they don’t come out until a year after because post-production is vital. It’s very vital, so… we had to get the album to a place where it was excellent. We didn’t want to release any and anything, we had to make sure that it was right.
NF: Especially since it’s your first time doing something like this
Kevin: Exactly. Once you spend time on something, people take time to listen to it. But if you rush something, people will rush, listen to it, and they’ll push it aside quickly. That’s one lesson I’ve learned. We believe in excellence.
NF: Have you ever been in the audience for a live recording for any other artiste?
Kevin: No, this is my first live recording experience. This is the first.
NF: So you’ve only watched others, say, on the internet and such
Kevin: Exactly, I’ve watched them, I’ve observed them and I’ve just been wowed. But I’ve never been a part of it, I’ve never been at that level of participation.
NF: You said something that I saw in the Gleaner. You said it’s not like a regular album because you feed off the energy of the audience… and that you can’t get that when you’re in the studio. So what was the feedback like on the day you recorded?
Kevin: Oh my gosh! They knew they were coming to a live recording and so, everybody wanted to scream louder than the other person. *laughing* It was ecstatic. It was electrifying. People were going crazy. So that energy just drove… it just… I was so tired at one point because I was doing a series of tours leading up to that. So I was tired, but being on stage and the people kept pushing and pushing… and then the glory of God.
The presence of God in the place was amazing. You could just feel that people were being strengthened, they were being encouraged, they were being inspired by the presence of God. It was heaven on Earth! It was really a blessing. The fact that it was indoors and there were so many people! It was tight. You couldn’t run too far ‘cause if you run too far, you’d run into somebody else. *laughing* It was something else. It was really electrifying. I think electrifying is the word.
NF: How did you the decision to do a live album come about?
Kevin: I’ve always wanted to do a live album. Why? There are a lot of songs that I’ve done that I feel like me doing it in the studio doesn’t do it the justice. Songs like ‘If It’s Not You’ or one of my latest songs called ‘All The Way’. Songs like that are really liberating when they’re done in the presence of an audience and you get the chance to have them sing it back to you… and watch them lift their hands and worship.
I’ve never really been satisfied doing some of my songs in the studio, but… we never really had a choice because we never had the ability to do it at that time because of the finance that was required, the technicality and everything, so… we had to be patient.
And two, it was almost considered impossible to do something like that in Jamaica. It’s done every day in the U.S. but here in Jamaica, it’s considered taboo. But I tend to try to push the envelope. I try to never ever be average, I’m always thinking of ways to do things differently. My brain never stops. So when I got the team on board and said “Guys, we’re gonna try this,” they said wow, let’s do it. My team was with me all the way and I’m just grateful that we attempted it and it worked excellently.
NF: Is it something you would do again?
Kevin: Of course, come on! My next album after this will be a live album! *laughing* I mean, we’re sold. We are sold. And not just that but I think some things we never got perfected in this last one, we can work on. Even with this new album coming out, we are well matured for the next one because we’ve learned so much more already in one year.
I never stop learning. It’s very important for you to continue to enlarge your knowledge, your expertise, your creativity. Don’t ever settle — that’s me. So I’m excited about the next album, and I’m looking forward to having some really strong international… for this one, I intentionally focused on songs that have strong, local collaborations. But I’m believing that for the next one, we’re going for some real massive names internationally.
NF: Now, the day of recording. I know that it was a lot of work. Vocals have to be on point, engineering has to be on point. Did everything run smoothly?
Kevin: No, it didn’t. *laughing* I mean, it doesn’t matter how well you prepare for stuff like this, most things will go well but… some things will happen and you just have to work with it. And that is the power of being innovative. That challenge you face when you’re in scenarios like that is something that causes you to grow. But all in all, the general project was excellent.
NF: What are you hoping this album does?
Kevin: I want this album to touch and change hearts and lives. We really went in with this album, we feared nothing. I really want people to love God more when they hear these songs. I really want people to surrender their lives to God when they listen to this album. I want people to become focused — I want kids to become focused. I want families to start praying together again… those who have fallen off — that’s what you call realignment. It’s about coming back into order, it’s about coming back to what we lost, coming back into place.
I really just want to see people love God more after listening and while they’re listening. Just loving God with everything. Some persons have lost their families, lost a friend… things have happened in their lives… they’ve fallen off shape. But I want this album while they’re listening to it in their car, their earbuds, on the airplane, for it to just bring them back to that fresh, unadulterated, undiluted love for God again.
NF: Are live albums something you’d like to see done more often in the Caribbean?
Kevin: Absolutely. I believe I may be someone God uses to start something but I don’t wanna be the only one who does it. I want to see people run with stuff that we initiate. I want to see people try things — new things. I wouldn’t wanna see me alone doing things for the rest of my life. I want to see people try things and say, “Okay, Kevin did it. I’m gonna try it because Kevin did it and it was successful.” That’s what I believe it.
NF: My final question to you is, if you could give some advice to a young or upcoming gospel artiste right now that’s probably looking at your journey and thinking, “Wow, I want to be like that,” what would you say to them?
Kevin: I want younger artistes to be hungry. I don’t want them to ever settle. I don’t want them to ever feel like they’ve arrived. They might look at us and say, “They’ve got a whole lot going on for them.” I want them to know this — we don’t ever consider ourselves having arrived. Well, Kevin Downswell has never ever considered himself having arrived.
I’m always pushing for more, I’m always stretching for greater, I’m always pushing to another level. Don’t settle for average — in your relationships, in your education, or when it comes to God. Push the envelope above and beyond. Don’t settle for average in terms of your purpose and your calling. Even when you feel like you’ve done enough, go beyond that. And lastly, just love God with everything inside of you. Just love God.
-End of transcription-
A man with a love for learning, a love for young people, and a love for God. Look out for Realignment: The Live Encounter by Kevin Downswell now available on all digital platforms.
As God realigns him, he seeks to realign the people through his music.