Ricky Braddy has performed on some prominent stages. Now, heâ€™s singing with one of the elite artists in Southern Gospel Music. The 32-year-old is the newest addition to the Karen Peck and New River ensemble, joining the group in August.
Braddy is best known for finishing among the top 15 during season eight of American Idol. Braddy recently sat down to talk about that achievement, in addition to a variety of other topics.
What was the experience of being on American Idol like?
I didnâ€™t intend or want to audition to begin with. It wasnâ€™t, â€˜oh my gosh, I have to do this or my life is over.â€™ I went in with no story. I was just a country boy from North Carolina. I just sang. I just prayed and asked God to close the doors He wanted to close. I just kept making it round after round. What the overall experience taught me was more of what I didnâ€™t want out of my life. Itâ€™s cool to step out of a movie theatre and have cameras there. Itâ€™s cool in the moment, but ultimately, itâ€™s not what I want. Now, being back in Gospel music and being with great ladies, I feel at home.
What was your primary musical style while on â€œAmerican Idol?â€
It was soul, bluesy, pop â€¦ blue-eyed soul kind of stuff. It was good, ole soulful R & B ballads.
What have you been involved with since your time on â€œAmerican Idol?â€
I lead worship in Nashville (at Crossroads Church in Lebanon, Tenn.). Iâ€™ve been doing that. I do quite a bit of session work, background vocals in studios. Non-musically, Iâ€™ve been working really intensely with special-needs children. I have a heart for that. Iâ€™ve been doing behavioral-aid type of stuff.
Do you have a background in Southern Gospel Music?
I was raised in Eastern North Carolina. Thatâ€™s the hub of a lot of it. I was raised on Gospel music. I sang with my family growing up. We did local churches. My biggest influences were Michael English with the Gaither Vocal Band. I loved the Cathedrals and the Gaither Vocal Band. Iâ€™ve known (the music) for a long time. I think itâ€™s in my bones.
Talk about the process of joining Karen Peck and New River?
It was actually a mutual friend. Itâ€™s a friend with the Steeles. I was loosely connected with the Steeles. My friend was texting me saying, â€˜Hey, Karen Peck (Gooch) is looking for a singer if you are interested.â€™ They were kind of laughing about it. They didnâ€™t think I would be interested. I said, â€˜Yeah, send me your information.â€™ They sent Karen a link to me singing. She called me later that day. They face-timed me. They were in Lebanon (Tenn.) singing the next week at the county fair. I sang on the bus with them that night. They really put me on the spot. That night, they asked me if Iâ€™d be open to filling in. I got the (soundtracks). After about a month of traveling with them, they hired me.
How familiar were you with Karen Peck and New River?
I knew about Karen from when she was with the Nelons. â€œFour Days Lateâ€ was familiar to me, but I was not familiar with their new stuff. I didnâ€™t know they were doing the progressive stuff like â€œRevival.â€ I didnâ€™t know a lot of the current stuff. I love it. I loved learning it. It made it easy.
Whatâ€™s the experience been like so far?
The first time I stepped up on the stage with them, I felt like a fish in water. It felt like it was exactly what I needed to be doing. I feel like Iâ€™m connecting well with the world of Southern Gospel, mainly because I love it. I just came in new to the industry. Everybody has been awesome and receptive. Iâ€™m just learning the ropes and doing my thing.
What are your favorite songs that the group regularly performs?
â€œFour Days Late,â€ being able to do that with Karen has been incredible. Everybody; thatâ€™s the one they really know and connect with. One of my favorites is, â€œI Wanna Know How It Feels.â€™ I listened to John Darin Rowsey (the writer of the song) sing it. He was (at the National Quartet Convention), and we sang it. I was intimidated a little bit to sing it with him there. That one has connected with me.
What other groups do you enjoy listening to?
Jeff and Sheri Easter, theyâ€™re good friends with us. Weâ€™ve done several things with them. Their music is great, and weâ€™ve connected with them. The Martins, I grew up obsessed with them. The three of them singing again together â€¦ man â€¦ it was nostalgic.
What has the transition been like since joining the group?
Iâ€™ve told several people that I already feel like part of their family. They are so good about being warm and inviting. I will say this â€¦ I have been used to sleeping a whole lot. I go to bed at 10 oâ€™clock (when Iâ€™m) in Nashville. Those girls will stay up and talk. Iâ€™ve never had so much trouble keeping up with 50-year-old women. They are stretching me to be young.
How steep has the learning curve been since joining the group?
Theyâ€™ve been pretty good to â€“ ahead of time â€“ let me know what I need to know and learn. There have been several times where theyâ€™ve just thrown me into the fire, where they have to. There have been moments where Iâ€™ve been driving up to an event with my headphones in listening to â€œWhispered Prayers.â€ Itâ€™s been good though, but it has tested me.
Have you always naturally heard harmony parts, or has that been something you have been forced to work at?
I started singing harmony when I was four years old. It just came naturally. Iâ€™ve always been able to hear naturally harmony parts. Having to adjust to blending (with others), Iâ€™m careful to do that. Leading worship and other stuff that Iâ€™ve done, Iâ€™ve not had to think about blending with other singers. This is way different, keeping an ear out for Susan (Peck Jackson, the groupâ€™s alto) and where sheâ€™s moving. Karen breaks into an a cappella song, you have to jump in. I love the challenge.
Where does all the energy that you exhibit on stage come from?
I just always have been really excited to sing. For whatever reason, that explains it. I love what I do. I love the opportunity to share the Gospel through song. The best way I can lead worship is not necessarily telling them what to do or how to do it, but to do it. I just live by that. I want to show people how to worship God, in the ways He wants and likes.
By Craig Harris
First published by SGN Scoops in November 2015.
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