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by Armond X Goss

Soul Sessions- The Souls Behind The Sessions

Chances are if you live in Columbus, OH you’ve spent a Friday night at 300 Long St. Every last Friday of the month for the last five years, Soul Sessions has held events in the city showcasing independent Christian artists locally & nationwide. Open mics, comedy shows, poetry, choirs, and everything in between have graced their stage. But who runs the show? Who are the faces behind the curtain?? I interviewed Soul Sessions founders Tywan, Joel, and Lamont to get a glimpse of the minds behind the magic.

Are you guys from Columbus? What do you love/hate about the city?

Tywan: I moved here from London, OH as an infant, but I’ve pretty much lived here my entire life. I love the cost of living & the fact you can get wherever you need to get in a short amount of time. I’m not a huge fan of the way people respond to entertainment in the city. It seems like Columbus doesn’t come around until the last minute to “buy the ticket”, so to speak. It feels as if you have to dress in a pink suit, dance in a corner & say “this is the hottest event” to get attention. BUT, don’t get me wrong, Columbus is a GREAT city. I think it’s an up & coming, premiere city. But I feel sometimes people underrate it.

Joel: I’m not from Columbus, I’m originally from Cincinnati. I like the fact the city is kind of in the middle of a lot of different things. I agree that it’s somewhat underrated. There’s a lot of different colleges here, big businesses, etc. But that ties into what I don’t like about the city. It’s kind of fragmented. Most of the things you would find in the heart of a city are out in the suburbs of Columbus. And the heart of the city is a little difficult to tap into. Also the people are a little finicky when it comes to what they’d like to see as far as entertainment. Other than that, I love it here.

Describe the Ohio/Midwest gospel scene and what you see in it (good & bad).

Lamont: I think when you look at the Midwest as a whole, from Ohio to Indiana, & Michigan, there’s a lot of history here. And I think Ohio has a lot of untapped talent that the world has not been able to hear. But, they’re not heard because a lot of people here, especially in Columbus, don’t work together for the common good. Folks try to do things themselves instead of collaborate to help everyone. But talent wise & quality, the Midwest is just as good as any other sector of the country, all sub-genres from traditional gospel, to gospel rap, neo-soul & the contemporary Christian market.

Tywan: And that’s why I feel Soul Sessions exists to create cohesion between the different networks in the city to say “hey, we’re all in this together” & we’re trying to bring this population of untapped talent to the forefront of the gospel arena. Where they don’t have to go to the secular arena to do what God has called them to do.

Who or what inspired the Soul Sessions brand? What is its goal?

Lamont: The Soul Sessions brand was initially inspired by a need & desire of an outlet for young adults in the Columbus area. Somewhere we could go & listen to people express themselves outside of the four walls of the church & outside of the 15-20 minutes of praise & worship. Ultimately the goal from its inception was to create a House Of Blues type brand that could carry from city to city & be that place where inspirational artists want to go to be able to play on a stage in front of an intimate crowd & share their music. Not just song to song but to talk about the music, how they created it, what inspired them to create it, and allow the audience to get a deeper feel for the artist

Joel: Another one of our goals is to be consistent. Consistently have good music, good events, consistently be on people’s minds so that they will consistently come. We’re striving to achieve that & that’s ultimately what our goal is.

Tywan: Soul Sessions is an experience for a new Christian & the “seasoned” Christian. It’s an outlet where people can come experience these artists in an environment that’s different than a Sunday morning. And it’s also an opportunity of a way for individuals to use it as an outreach mechanism. Someone may not go to church, but they may come to a Soul Session.

What is success to Soul Sessions? And have you obtained the level of success you desire?

Lamont: Providing the opportunity for artists to express themselves & give them an outlet to work on & master their craft as an artist. Gaining the experience of working a crowd, interacting with a crowd; which is vital for up & coming artists. Also from a general standpoint, success for us is providing a consistent, good product for the community which will cause people to keep coming back. Soul Sessions is not here for the three of us to enjoy ourselves, but it’s for Columbus and anyone who’s looking for that social outlet for anyone looking to hear some good music in a great social environment. And we DON’T enjoy ourselves because we’re always working!!!! *laughs*

What practices do you implement to make the vision work?

Joel: Of course we make sure that God is first, because we don’t want to make the mistake of losing sight of Him, that’s too important. The fact that we have a desire to do this, the fact we were brought together to do this, and the fact we’ve been able to do this for so long has been all because of God. So we know this is His will for us. We also try to have fun with it. We don’t want it to be a job, because when it does, it becomes harder to do & easier to fall off. We consistently meet, try & infuse different things into the product, so that it never gets stale.

Talk about your most memorable show you put together & why it stuck out?

Tywan: When Mali Music came out. Because we knew that this young man had a unique talent that needed to be showcased. People came not just from Ohio, but other parts of the country to come check him out. The building was packed to capacity, PLUS SOME!!! It was so awesome, because when you’re planning events, you think about the outcome; the finances, the resources, how can we get the crowd we need to make the event successful. And on game day, God just abundantly blessed it more than we could’ve ever imagined. It’s something that I won’t forget, and I think the city of Columbus won’t ever forget it either.

Talk about the inner-workings of putting together a soul sessions event. Good & bad.

Joel: We plan multiple events at a time because we like to be ahead, at least 2-3 months out. We focus on the main pieces; the acts we want to spotlight, will there be a major theme, etc. Sometimes we have chefs come in to make dishes. We have a drink station where we sell smoothies & water which has been successful so we have to make sure we have enough supplies to make that happen. We’ve gotten good enough at it to the point where we know what we’re gonna do for the most part & we just have to fit the individual pieces to make the event successful. We spend a lot of time in-between events on improvements. What can we do to make the show better? On show day we do everything. We’re manning the doors, cleaning, setting up chairs & tables, handling artists, fixing the sound, whatever is necessary. We head to the venue right after work & we’re there from 5-6pm until the show ends around 11-midnight. We try to plan as much as we can, but something always comes up & we make it a point to be flexible.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your collective walk so far?

Lamont: We have to be as consistent as possible on our end, just as much as we’d like our audience to be consistent in attending our events. We can’t be inconsistent & expect the Columbus community to be consistent.

Tywan: These guys have been together a little longer without me and I came into the fold later. I was originally a consumer of the product & was allowed to come along side. It is definitely a faith walk, when dealing with people & trying to implement change. You can’t see it with your eyes, you have to know it in your heart that what you’re doing is all about Christ.

What’s next for soul sessions?

Joel: We’re currently developing a website & a social network on Ning in the next month or so. Our 5th anniversary is in October, so we’re looking to put on a huge show for that. Our Soul Sessions cruise was highly successful a few years ago & we’re looking to bring that back very soon. We’re always looking to bring in new artists, & partner with the community not to sell a product, but to be a resource & outlet for the community.

What’s the 1st 3 things you do in the morning when you wake up?

Tywan: Thank God for another day, turn off alarm clock after pushing the snooze twice prior to that

Joel: Hit snooze. Hit snooze again. Thank God for giving me another day.

Favorite book in the Bible…why?

Lamont: Proverbs…wisdom

Tywan: Proverbs because it gives insight to how to live save and successful as a young man in Christ.

Joel: Job. It’s the perfect example of a man getting to the end of himself and then getting to that “…but then there’s God!” moment.

What is something you could do all day every day & not get bored?

Lamont: help people develop their business ideas

Tywan: Paintball

Joel: Look up new technology or new uses for current technology.

Name one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t yet?

Lamont: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Home of the Duke Blue Devils)

Tywan: New York

Joel: Italy

Name your 3 favorite albums from any genre

Lamont: Leon Timbo – Hidden, Lisa McClendon – My Diary, Your Life, Mali Music – 2nd Coming

Tywan: Don’t know what albums but artist is Smokie Norful, Lisa McClendon, Trip Lee & Tedashii & LaCrae & their whole click, Cross Movement

Joel: Blesse’d – Pregame, Tedashii – Identity Crisis, Flame – Our World Redeemed

Kobe or Lebron?

Lamont: give me Lebron with Kobe’s attitude/passion

Tywan: Lebron

Joel: Kobe

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Lamont: falling superman style down the steps at a dress rehearsal for a skit at church

Tywan: Thought I was sitting on the seat at church but realize it was the floor. It was our early service and I guess that I still was shaking the sleep off.

Joel: I don’t even want to talk about it!!! *laughs*

What’s one thing about you that nobody else knows?

Lamont: If I told you, I would have to kill you!!!!

Joel: My most embarrassing moment!!! *laughs*