Beyond the Song: Greater Vision sings “You’ve Arrived,” interview by Jantina Baksteen
I caught up with Gerald Wolfe of Greater Vision for this interview for Beyond The Song.
Group members of Greater Vision include: Gerald Wolfe, Rodney Griffin, Chris Allman, and Jon Epley.
Jantina Baksteen: December of this year, you celebrate 29 years of Greater Vision! What was your greater vision when the group was formed in 1990?
Gerald Wolfe: I wouldn’t say we had some sort of epiphany, but I would say we had a strong desire to put a group together that would focus on strong lyrics that would convey a clear message, good arrangements that would be interesting to listen to, and that would convey the message of the lyric to the listener. We also wanted to have a group that would compliment a church service, as well as be entertaining enough to be effective on a concert platform. Looking back, it’s easy to see how the Lord guided those early steps that set us on the right course.
JB: To me, you are my Southern gospel music hero. What exactly is your definition of Southern gospel music?
GW: Thank you so much! You’re very kind. Your question is one I’ve been seriously asking for a couple of years now. I was listening to gospel music, and going to concerts, before “Southern Gospel” existed, as a term or genre label. To me, what we do has always been “Gospel Music.” If an unchurched person asks me what I do, I tell them I’m involved in Christian music. Usually, they will have some sort of concept about what that is, but I’m not certain “Southern Gospel” has ever been an effective term to describe the kind of music we do, to someone who has never been exposed to it. These days, our genre of music encompasses such a wide variety of musical styles, I’m really not sure “Southern Gospel” is an adequately descriptive term anymore, even among people who might have an idea of what they think it is. The definition seems to depend on the personal tastes of the person describing it. So… the short answer to your question is, I don’t really know what Southern Gospel is. I just know what I like, personally, and I call it Gospel.
JB: How would you describe the music Greater Vision is singing now?
GW: I’ve always called it “Gospel Music,” “Christian Music,” or “Church Music.” Overall, our basic style and sound hasn’t changed over the last 29 years. However, we’ve never been afraid to stretch and challenge ourselves, musically. So, in that respect, we do a lot of different varieties of musical styles, within the confines of keeping the “Greater Vision sound” we’ve become known for, and that our listeners expect. People will usually go with you on a little musical journey, as long as you bring them back “home.”
JB: You had to step down from singing and Jon Epley has taken your position. Has this changed the dynamic?
GW: I actually think bringing Jon onboard has actually broadened our dynamic, and allowed us to do some things we hadn’t been able to do before, especially in our concerts. Jon’s voice is easy to blend with, and he has a great ear, so he quickly adapted to our sound; and on recordings, most people can’t tell the difference between the old Greater Vision, and the new GV. He’s been a great addition.
JB: Do you miss singing? If the crowd asks you, will you step up and sing?
GW: I can’t say I miss singing, since I still do sing when I feel good, or when someone makes a special request for something I can still do.
JB: I enjoy the radio release of the same titled album, “You’ve Arrived.” How did this song come together?
GW: “You’ve Arrived” was sent to us by Rick Shelton, at Daywind Publishing. It was written by Kenna Turner West, Sue Smith, and Marcia Henry. The first time we heard it, we knew it would make a great opener for the album, but a couple of lines needed to be changed to make it work. The writers graciously agreed to make the changes we suggested, and now we sing it every time we walk onto the platform.
JB: Who orchestrates your music since your long-time friend is home with the Greatest Orchestrator?
GW: Since my long-time friend, Lari Goss, passed away, we’ve worked with two young arrangers: Trey Ivey and Cody McVey, and well-known arranger, Steve Mauldin. It’s been an interesting journey, having worked with Lari for so long. I first worked with him in the studio in 1981, and there are still days I cry when I listen to some of beautiful work he did for so long. He was a friend and a hero, and there’ll never be another Lari Goss. Thankfully, The Lord is still raising up gifted people to help create arrangements that will lift the songs from paper and deliver them to the heart of the listener. On our new CD, Trey Ivey did all the arrangements.
JB: Even before summer time starts, you start talking about Christmas. For you, what makes the best Christmas?
GW: There’s nothing better than listening to Christmas music when it’s 90F degrees outside! For me, there’s never a wrong time to talk about Christmas. Since we call it “the most wonderful time of the year,” why should we limit it to four weeks, between Thanksgiving and December 25? I prefer having “the most wonderful time of the year” all year long! Seriously, when we think about the real gift of Christmas, and what it really meant for God to come to earth as a baby, we should be overwhelmed, whether it’s in July, September, December, or February. So, the best Christmas for me, is whenever I think about it! Merry CHRISTmas!
JB: Who has the most jokes /funny stories when you are on the road?
GW: I’d say it’s a close tie. When we get on the bus for a trip, everybody usually has at least one funny story about something that happened while we were at home. Anybody who’s traveled with us for a weekend will tell you the laughs start when we get up in the morning, and usually continue until the last light is turned out at night.
JB: I know you like to drive. Do you make the most miles behind the wheel?
GW: All of us share the driving responsibilities on the road. Everybody on the bus has a Commercial Driver License (CDL) and we have to remain in compliance with current DOT regulations for buses. We drive 250-mile shifts, and driving is something I really enjoy, unless I happen to end up with the 2:00 p.m. ’til 6:00 am shift, when we have an all-night drive on the schedule. I don’t think anyone enjoys that!
JB: What is your favorite quote to share?
GW: I love good quotes. One of my favorite is, “Obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.” (Dr. Charles Stanley).
JB: Thank you, Gerald, for giving us a little insight into Greater Vision. May God continue to bless your ministry, that wherever the bus stops to share your music, the words sung and the words spoken won’t return empty.
Please enjoy this video preview of Greater Vision singing the songs from “You’ve Arrived!”
Read more Gospel Music News in the latest SGNScoops Magazine Online HERE.