Gospel star Donald Lawrence marked his 20th year in the music business late last year with the hit album, “20 Year Celebration, Vol. 1: Best for Last.”
His next 20 years might be a bit different.
“I had never enjoyed the moment because was so busy working in the moment,” says Lawrence, one of the performers in the Praise 103.9 Concert, March 29 at the Liacouras Center. “I’m probably different than a lot of artists because I started in the background. I started being an MD [musical director], being a producer, and so my mentality is to make sure that everything is OK,and everybody is OK, as opposedto me being an artist and everybody making sure I’m OK.”
Part of this new reasoning is that Lawrence is OK after a cancer scare in 2012.
“It was pretty intense” says Lawrence, who is based in Chicago. “I feel God has given us the power to face challenges and giants, that’s kind of how I approached it. I moved to L.A. for treatment and stayed there for four months. I took the time off to deal with it and came back to work.”
Lawrence has been a constant force in contemporary gospel over the last two decades, leading his own groups,the Tri-City Singers and Donald Lawrence and Company, and working behind the scenes with stars like Karen Clark Sheard, Kirk Franklin, En Vouge and Stephanie Mills.
He’s been a power player in the move to mainstream gospel music.
“My goal is the make sure it’s music for everyone, whether you’re in church or not,” Lawrencesays. “It’s toempower and uplift. I feel there are a lot of people in churchwho are not uplifted and not empowered and inspired — they’re just there. And then there are a lot of people who don’t ever go to church. I prefer my music to not be preachy. I like for it to be biblically based and what I call spiritual music.”
He’s coming to the right place. The Praise 103.9 Inspiration and Music Conference at the Philadelphia Convention Center, prior to the concert, will feature star-studded panels taking on everything from songwriting to personal finances.
Afterward, the Praise 103.9 Concert features the biggest names in gospel music today, including Israel Houghton, Hezekiah Walker, James Fortune, Tamela Mann, Isaac Carree, Smokie Norful and a newly solo Erica Campbell, formerly one-half of the duo Mary Mary.
“It’s scary and it’s exciting and it’s fun, there so much unexpected but I am enjoying all of it,” says Campbell, who just released her self-titled solo debut this week. “Standing by myself is good for me. Now it’s just what I want and I’m really liking it.”
Praise 103.9 Concert
March 29, 6 p.m.
1776 N.Broad St.
Praise 103.9’s 4th Annual Inspiration and Music Conference
March 29, 10 a.m.
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.