Phil Cross is a name with which most Southern gospel music fans should be familiar. Cross is known for penning some of Southern gospel’s most beloved songs, including “Wedding Music,” “Champion of Love,” “I Am Redeemed,” “One Holy Lamb,” and several others.
Cross is also known for being the founder and lead singer of Poet Voices. Poet Voices started in 1991 as a trio but became a quartet by 1996 and remained as such until 2002.
Now, 15 years later, the group is a quartet once again. Cross is now joined by long-time member Donny Henderson (baritone), Nic Holland (tenor), and newly-added bass singer Brandon Barry. Henderson and Holland joined the group in 1999 and 2000 respectively.
Barry is no stranger to Southern gospel music, having served as bass singer for the Old Paths Quartet and the LeFevre Quartet. This exciting lineup will also be joined by a live band on select dates. The talented quartet has returned to spread the extraordinary word of God through song once again.
“Poet Voices was formed in 1991 by myself, Howard Stewart, and Dale Brock,” Cross says. “We were signed by Chris White of Sonlite Records, and our first radio release, ‘Jesus Built A Bridge,’ reached the No. 1 position on major charts.”
This was the first of many No. 1 hits for the group, which also included “Wedding Music” and “The Key.”
One of the group’s most memorable moments was receiving Song of The Year honors for one of their No. 1 songs, “I Am Redeemed.”
Cross points to several artists as inspiration for the group’s unique sound and style.
“Cathedral Quartet, Oak Ridge Boys, and everyone that’s currently honoring God through music,” are prime influences on the ministry and sound of the group according to Cross.
One could argue that the inspiration was mutual as many of the songs that Cross has written were recorded by those beloved artists. Regardless, these influences can definitely be heard in the current quartet.
In addition to their vocal parts, each member has other important positions in the ministry.
Cross serves as songwriter, producer and emcee. Henderson produces and handles everything concerning marketing and sound. Holland manages transportation, and Brandon Barry helps coordinate the schedule.
The group’s 2018 is off to a strong start with the group releasing two new recordings, “I Am Redeemed” and “Extraordinary.” “I Am Redeemed” features fresh recordings of some of the group’s most well-known songs, while “Extraordinary” is a fitting title for the latter record featuring eight classic Poet Voices songs, along with four new tracks.
“‘Extraordinary’ is a collection of newer songs written by myself and others,” Cross points out. “It includes a couple of worship songs, along with songs of proclamation.”
The title track is the first radio single from the project.
“‘Extraordinary’ is an exciting, up-tempo song written by (me),” Cross emphasizes. “It reminds us that everything about Jesus was extraordinary. He didn’t do anything average or ordinary.”
Both recordings showcase the incredible harmonies of this great quartet as well as the strong, gospel-based lyrics.
According to Cross, the mission of Poet Voices is “to provide authentic Christian encouragement and worship to all generations,” which is reflected in their music, their concerts and their daily lives.
“God is on our side,” Cross points out. “He cheers us on. He never gives up on us. He has an extraordinary plan that includes us.”
The music of Poet Voices has made an impact on many people around the world.
“An entire tribe in the Virgin Islands received Christ after a missionary shared ‘Jesus Built A Bridge,’” Cross shares. “Their bridges had been destroyed in a hurricane, so they easily identified and understood the song.”
This has humbled Cross and the members of the quartet. God has blessed them, and through them, He has blessed many others.
“God has impacted our lives, and music is a way for us to express that,” Cross says. “Singing has afforded us the tremendous blessing of meeting wonderful people and knowing that God touches them through the message we get to share.”
Even with all of their success, the men of Poet Voices are still focused on the true star, Jesus Christ. The group also encourages new artists and those who feel called to sing gospel music.
“Be genuine, real, and do not copy others,” Cross points out. “Remember, we’re not great, but He is. This is not a singing contest.”
The coming days are looking bright for the men of Poet Voices, and they are excited to embark on this new journey together.
“We will be sharing in concert events, churches, and wherever doors open,” Cross says. “We will do it with class, integrity, and purpose, to honor Him.”
By Justin Gilmore
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in February 2018