On July 27, Fred Hammond, award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and pioneer of urban praise and worship music, will add a new title to his CV.
Record label owner.
The founding member of Commissioned and his business partner, philanthropist Roy Campbell, will unveil fHammond Family Entertainment on the 27th with the release of Life in the Word, the label’s first project and his newest release. fHammond Family Entertainment projects will be distributed exclusively by Universal Music Christian Group. Hammond will function as president and CEO, and will focus on cultivating the label’s creative content.
“When we first started to come up as Commissioned, owning a record company was a dream,” Hammond told TBGB during a recent phone interview. “It was so far-fetched at that time. Since then, I’ve done everything as an artist that I can do. Now I want to create a place for others to do the same thing, to share their faith with others.”
Hammond acknowledges, however, that owning a label is not what it used to be. “Today, everybody has a label, but for me, having a label is not just to have a label. It’s the ability to give artists who understand gospel music a chance to share their faith with others. Not those who are just performers, but artists who have a heart for gospel and touch the people with their concern for everyday needs.”
Other artists fHammond Family Entertainment is working with at the moment include Steve Huff (“an urban recording artist with an amazing body of work”) and Mike Bethany. Hammond’s daughter, BreeAnn, is also working on a project. “My daughter has a pop thing going. She knows what twenty-two year old girls talk about.” In addition to music CDs, the imprint will work on audio-visual projects.
TBGB asked Hammond about the condition of the gospel music industry in which fHammond Family Entertainment is stepping. “It all starts with radio,” Hammond explained. “Radio is my home base and I’m proud of it. We need to make sure that gospel radio not only survives but thrives. It’s doing the best it can, but radio needs more advertisers. Things have to change; we need to come up with clever ways to draw in advertisers.”
Hammond is optimistic that this can be done. “Look at Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound [church choir competition]. They packed out arenas. We have to continue to connect businesses with the business of gospel and make it relevant so people will come to the programs.”
Meanwhile, gospel artists need to focus on the content. “Artists need to sing what people need to hear like never before. Their message must be simple, not just talking and preaching, but singing songs that are relevant, songs people want to hear.”
Rigid conformance to style and rhetoric is not the issue for Hammond. “God wants to know what your heart looks like. Jesus did not look like the church of his day. He looked like everybody else.”
Hammond’s new project, Life in the Word, is a “praise and worship devotional that you can listen to in your car. It’s scripture with song – some solemn, some comedic – but above all else, it’s praise and worship to lift Him up.”
While Hammond wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album, he sings only two of them. Exemplifying the spirit of fHammond Family Entertainment’s mission, Life in the Word aims the spotlight on emerging solo artists such as Lowell Pye (Men of Standard), Michael Bethany and Dynna Wells.
A special feature of Life in the Word is a bonus DVD containing the first volume of “Warehouse Worship,” a gospel arts presentation that combines music, dance, drama and inspirational messages. Hammond created it to be a “YouTube type program, garage band style.”
Meanwhile, Hammond’s latest effort, Love Unstoppable, is still garnering brisk airplay and sales. “I love all my albums, but Love Unstoppable felt special. It captured exactly what I wanted to say.”
Is Fred Hammond still “radical for Christ?” “I’m not radical if you mean jumping around the stage, but I’m a radical thinker. I don't believe you can stand still. You have to keep on moving.”