Praise and worship artist, Gaye Arbuckle is an accomplished thespian hailing from Dallas, Texas. The founder and president of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, the late Reverend James Cleveland, presented her to the gospel world at a very young age. Since then, she has been featured on two of GMWA’s hit albums and has also sung with or opened for artists such as Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Vickie Winans, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Fred Hammond, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kelly Price, and Stephen Hurd.
Gaye released her first two independent projects THINK ABOUT IT (2002) and MIRACLES AND BLESSINGS (2006). THE GOSPEL SOURCE had an opportunity to talk with Gaye about her new independent project, HOLY, that is truly establishing her on the musical map nationally. A stunning array of praise and worship music, HOLY, has the industry standing up and taking notice of this anointed woman of God.
The Gospel Source: Let’s talk about when it all began for you. When did you become interested in music… singing and playing in ministry?
Gaye Arbuckle: Singing has been almost my life. My mother was the minister of music of my church. And with her being the minister of music, or head musician as it was called at that time… I began playing when I was six or seven years old… and started singing around the same time.
TGS: Who would you say were your musical influences?
G. A.: My mother was one. But one of the people I really admired was Thomas Whitfield. He was just incredible. Then there was Vanessa Bell Armstrong… and so many different ones, but those [the people mentioned] were the people on the top of my list.
TGS: Let’s talk about the late Rev. James Cleveland. At a young age, he presented you to the Gospel world. You also appeared on two of GMWA’s hit albums. Tell us about that.
G.A.: I remember the first year I went… it [GMWA] was in New Orleans. There was a night when they had new artists and different individuals to come on and sing. At the time, I think I was in my twenties, and excited about the opportunity to meet “The” Rev. James Cleveland. A very interesting thing happened after I finished singing. They came back and said we want you to come back out and do an encore at the end. I was like, “Really? Oh My God.” So I got out there and begin to sing, and it’s like the heavens begin to open up. It was so huge for me because I was so young. There’s a fright that comes, when you start to sing in front of all those well-known people… and they are watching you. For that opportunity to come was just amazing. To be asked to come back out again, that’s just at the top of my list.
TGS: So that definitely impacted you and your start in Gospel music.
G.A.: Oh, definitely. But for years, like I said, when I was a young girl I started playing for churches when I was probably in the sixth or seventh grade. So I’ve always been in church, my mother was a musician, my grandmother, my father sang and my siblings and I, we sang as well. So, music was always there for me. I listened to a lot of music… different genres of music. It wasn’t always Gospel. I listened to other styles of music…
TGS: So it definitely seems like music is a part of the very fiber of your being, because even while you were in college I believe you served as the director and musician for the Baptist Student Union. Now you are the minister of music for your church, where you lead praise and worship. Share the experience of coming from college to now… and being a minister of music for your church.
G.A.: I went to Prairie View A&M University, and they needed a musician. I spent my time walking around campus and just enjoyed looking around; and during that time one musician had left school and they [the choir] needed someone to fill in for him… When he left, that door was opened for me. Everything that happened, I think, was preordained. I wasn’t even aware people knew I played. But I ended up playing the entire four years I was at Prairie View. From there, I began to play for other small churches, and the opportunity came open for me to be the minister of music at Concord Church [Dallas, TX.]
I’ve been here for eight great years. It’s been a blessing. We have probably four to five choirs, a praise team… and our church is steadily growing. It’s a blessing to me, so when the opportunity came for me to be here, I jumped on it. I was like “Sure”; this is my life. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to lead choirs, to teach, to do workshops, to give vocal training and to equip people… especially those who feel like they’re not a strong singer. I feel like God has put me in this place to enhance and encourage… and try to push people to the next level.
TGS: You are a choir director, minister of music, worship leader… and in addition to those roles; you are, of course an artist. Tell us about what you are doing now… about your current project and what it means to you.
G.A.: The current project is entitled, “Holy”. The songs on there…, I wanted them to be worshipful, and more connected with choirs and churches. I love that it is a CD, which caters to everyone. There is a hymn, worship songs; and for those who have choirs, I think the songs are simple enough that even someone who doesn’t play very well… they can really get it. Because sometimes when you listen to music, you feel like “I’ve got to have the horns, I’ve got to have the synthesizers…” just to make the song sound as big as it does on the CD. But the music is great for listening, traveling or going out of town. It’s a CD I did with my choir, and we still do some of the songs during worship services. I enjoy it because a lot of the songs on the CD, I wrote… and I had a couple of other people to write, like my good friend V. Mike McKay. So it caters to everyone – from the grandmothers to the young adults.
One song on the CD is called, “Madaase”. I went to Africa a couple of years ago, and I was so moved by their presence and their beauty. They are a people who just love you and want to help. So I said, I need to do something to give back. They love to worship. The song, “Madaase” simply says Thank You. It’s a great song for youth choirs and young people, to get them moving. And, it’s a great work out song too.
TGS: How has your current project, “Holy” impacted your life and journey thus far… from your first album until now?
G.A.: I can definitely see progress from when I first did a CD… until now. The journey has been a lot of moving back and forth. It can be great sometimes, then other times I’ve wondered, “What’s going on”… like I’m just barely holding on. But, it has really impacted me a lot. My writing skills have truly improved. Vocally, I feel like God has taken me to another place in Him. I think once we see where we are, we should progress, and we should continue to progress as well. So, I definitely see that the maturity is there, and I love what I do. I’ve always loved it, but it’s something about now. I’m much older, and I have more intensity… and more sincerity for the Lord.
TGS: That’s definitely wonderful. So tell us, where can we purchase your current project?
TGS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us? I know you have some good things going on… some upcoming dates that you might want to share?
G.A.: As a matter of fact, we are celebrating here at my church, Concord Church in Dallas, TX. It’s our pastor’s 10th anniversary. This Friday night there’s a free concert with Kirk Franklin, and I’m on to do worship… and we’re going to open up. I’m really excited about that. I’ve got a couple of things coming up in March that’s keeping me pretty busy, but for now – this Friday – keep me in your prayers. It’s very exciting, and we are excited because our pastor has been here for ten years.
For anyone who wants to get in touch with me, they can visit my website: www.GayeArbuckle.com, or they can hit me up on Facebook, and I will definitely hit them back.
TGS: Okay, that sounds like a plan. Well Gaye, I definitely thank you for speaking with me today, and I wish you many blessings on your album and with all of your endeavors.
G.A.: Thank you very much.