JJ Hairston is a pastor and gospel singer known for songs such as “Thankful,” “Miracle Worker” and “You Deserve It.” Now with his latest album, “Believe Again, Vol. II,” his ultimate goal is to reach the masses by taking his ministry on the road.
As a husband, father and leader in the spiritual world, the Grammy-nominated artist creates music from his personal and worship experiences, coupled with Biblical knowledge.
When Atlanta Black Star recently spoke with Hairston, he made it clear today that he’s more focused on his impact than solidifying a presence in the music industry.
“I used to have this drive to like be on the awards shows and have different people recognize our ministry. I’m not there anymore,” he said.
His music is inspired by three things: his worship, his personal experience, or scriptures he connects with in the Bible. “I don’t have anything else to pull from.”
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“So I’ve learned how to sing in that personal experience because I realized that when I just say ‘I’m thankful’ or I say, ‘God, you deserve it,’ like people who are in their own personal space can appreciate personal lyrics,” Hairston continued.
“…A radio announcer said something to me this one time that I never forgot. They said that what comes from the heart reaches the heart. So when I sing from the heart or write from the heart, it reaches somebody else’s heart.”
The New York native’s ministry and music background came from his mother, who was the minister of music at Mt. Sinai Cathedral C.O.G.I.C. church in Brooklyn. “I didn’t want to sing at all,” he said.
Hairston recalls accompanying her during the week to rehearsals and on Sundays during service. But it wasn’t until his family moved to Connecticut at 13 that he began his transition as an artist.
“So we moved to Bridgeport and she started going to this church and I saw this girl in the choir. I’m going to be totally honest. I said, ‘I need to get with her.’ So in order to get with the girl, I got in the choir,” he explained. “The choir was Youthful Praise. And the girl was my wife, Trina…we’ve been now married for 28 years.”
Hairston and Trina are both managerial pastors at All Nations Worship Assembly in Washington, D.C., and authors of the 2019 book “A Miracle Marriage.”
For his first solo release since becoming senior pastor last year, his hope is that “Believe Again, Vol. II” will help younger and older generations to get excited about their faith.
“My goal is when you listen to the lyrics and you listen to the leads and everybody is singing, you’ll be inspired to believe the God of the Bible again,” he said.
The 48-year-old gospel singer said he appreciates being able to record and release music that directly aligns with his ministry and the messages of hope and encouragement he shares with his flock.
“If I get to sing and then pray, if I get to preach and then sing it’s like it has to … couple with what we’re doing ministry wise,” said Hairston. “Its no longer just me being excited about releasing music.”
As choir director, he noted that “While it’s necessary and I know music is also ministry; for me, it needs to give me the opportunity to minister in a different level and that’s just not where I was before.”
Hairston’s music has garnered national and international attention, along with a variety of accolades. “You Deserve It” earned an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Award in 2018, as well as a Billboard Music Award for Top Gospel Song. The track and album of the same title is the first project from his imprint label, JamesTown Music.
That same year, Hairston and Youthful Praise walked away with six of the nine Stellar Award nominations. Fast forward to 2021: The group won Choir of the Year for the album “Not Holding Back,” and Music Video of the Year for “Something Has to Break (Live).”
“You Deserve It” is also featured on Hairston’s new album, “Believe Again, Vol. II,” which is out now with appearances from Travis Greene, Maverick City Music and more. The first volume was released in September 2022.