It’s not everyday I get to chat it up with such talent in the music industry, but I was blessed with the opportunity to interview Bryan Popin about his upcoming album You Can Make It. Known also as Little Boy Wonder thus the name of his pub company, he has worked with countless artists such as Stevie Wonder, Tamela Mann, Justin Timberlake, Chaka Khan and the list goes on. Bryan Popin has a big story on life, God and music, so find out more about him in this exclusive interview as he checks INNTHEBASEMENT with me, Mirika C.
1. Bryan Popin, your life story is an amazing one. You come from birth and a prayer to now a master at your art in music and songwriting. With your upcoming album YOU CAN MAKE IT about to release on October 22nd, it seems like your journey in life is meant to be a movie.
Of all 14 songs on the album, is there one record that goes to the root of your trials in life and is there another that reveals the manifestation of your breakthrough? Please name them both and give us some insight.
Yeah! Absolutely, the song “ALL I CAN GIVE YOU” I wrote about my struggles and trials. The first verse says, “When the darkness surrounds me & all hope is gone, when the pain is so deep that it hurts to move on.” Traveling for so many years, learning to trust God thru the ups & downs, thru the disappointments & the rejection, trying to figure out how to survive. God has shown me that what He wants first & foremost is simply ME, or yourself. The whole time I was so selfish, wanting & needing this & that, I learned to focus more on others & learned to give Him me, you know my worship. Somehow, He then took care of everything else.
Another song, “I CAN MAKE IT” is about my breakthrough – Although I believe I’m still living thru this journey of life & ministry – it’s a process. This particular song, God gave me to speak faith over my life during a season when nothing was happening. During a time when I had a word over my life, but I couldn’t see it in the natural. People weren’t calling to have me in & the phone wasn’t ringing. Sometimes, no one else is there to help you & you’ve just gotta pat your own self on the back & speak faith into your situation. Whatever your “making it” might be to you – sometimes it is a journey and you have to learn to enjoy wherever you are and not be afraid to give up control, have a little fun along the way and enjoy the process.
2. Is it still exciting to you, working with such a diverse array of artists? Not many people get to cross boundaries like you have been able to, so do you believe it keeps things fresh and new to have the ability to work in different genres of the music industry?
I’ve always had a love & respect for all genres of music since I was a kid. From R&B to Gospel to Pop & even Classical! God is multifaceted, He created it all & He is too good to limit. Working with & even writing with such a variety of Artists like Chaka Khan & Justin Timberlake to Martha Munizzi & Tamela Mann is not only fun, but an incredible blessing. These are people that I’ve really admired & looked up to in the industry & in ministry. To have God somehow connect me to them shows me that God can literally do anything when He wants to do. I like to be challenged Artistically & by working with such a diverse group of people, it helps me continue to grow & stay fresh! I try to co-write as often as I can for this very reason. It seems to help me go down roads I never would have thought of going down creatively, but you have to be open to creative suggestions. And yes, it is still very exciting to do what I do… I would be lying if I said I didn’t love what I do!
3. What was your experience like working with Tamela Mann in the studio with the record Alright? So many people around my circle adore her music and what shows as her being a very pleasant person. Did you two get along like peas in a pod, and this same question goes for the very talented Martha Munizzi with the track Your Love Amazes Me?
I originally met Tamela thru her husband David. We hit it off like family the first time we met & he has been so supportive of this project. He introduced me to Tamela & I just had to have her part of this project & sing on the song, “ALRIGHT.” I’ve admired Tamela since her Kirk Franklin days… I mean that’s her singing on “Now Behold the Lamb.” Do you even know how many mimes I have been blessed by at churches to that song… haha! For real, her voice is one of a kind & she is a beautiful person, so honest, kind & pure. She really is a true gift! In the studio, I remember she sang thru ALRIGHT as a practice vocal, which I though was good enough for a final take… I had goose bumps all over & was in awe of her. She then laughed & said she was just warming up… it was real hard to chose between the 3 takes she so kindly gave me. The crazy part of it all was when she was done with the 3rd take, she wanted to know if it was good enough for me & if I thought we got it or needed to change anything. I simply smiled… laughed and said, “Ahhh, no we good. We got it!!!”
As for Martha Munizzi, she has been a long time friend of mine. Both her & her husband Dan have been a source of encouragement & a huge help to me. They have been in ministry for a long time & have been close enough that I could pull on for guidance, strength & support. I cannot even begin to say enough good things about them. To have Martha on my record is truly a blessing, an honor. I love her heart & her passion for God. She is a true worshiper! She sang with me on a song we co-wrote with another good friend of ours, Derick Thomas. Together is a complete honor. In the studio we had church! She & Dan are a lot of fun. But, the entire record was like that. Regardless of where we were, you can tell we were pressing in & having church. Especially there at the end of the song “I CAN MAKE IT”… you can’t just plan those things. We pressed in & went off to another place long after the song was done & I made sure those moments stayed on the record for that very reason.
4. You recently performed at MEGAFEST at the beginning leg of your YOU CAN MAKE IT tour. Can you tell me about your experience there just this past Labor Day weekend?
Bishop Jakes has always been one of my favorite preachers. He has spoke into my life & been an important role model for my ministry. Just to be part of anything with him is a huge honor to me & is humbling! God is so good to have provided that opportunity & I am very thankful. Megafest reaches such a wide variety of people & touches so many lives in so many countless ways. It is such a power packed event with something going on everywhere you turn. While I was there, I was blessed to be able to attend a special screening of Winnie Mandela with Jennifer Hudson & it was incredibly powerful. It really moved me. MegaFest ended with church at The Potters House on Sunday where I played & Micah Stampley lead worship with Myron Butler. It was the Sunday that Tyler Perry brought the house down & gave $1 million to Bishop Jakes’ new youth center!!!!!!! It was an awesome week! Not to mention right before I played, Bishop spoke a word over me that spoke straight to my heart & where I’ve been over the last many years. It was something I will lock up & never forget. Basically, he said that this is my season & he loves & believes in me. Bishop has always been & will always be very special to me. See, I believe that this is not just my season, but all of our season who have chosen to press thru & worship Him thru the struggles of life, the economy, depression & all oppression against them. I believe it & this record is going to minister to a lot of people just that!
5. Again, you are no stranger to working with countless artists, from gospel, country, R&B and pop. You have covered what seems to be everything, including movie soundtracks.
Thinking back to the time of your youth until now, if there was another career other than music for you, what career would you have chosen and why?
Before I began music ministry & seriously decided this was going to be my life, my parents gave me a choice to make. Did I want to follow the path of music or did I want to move south to a warmer climate & seriously pursue golf as a touring pro. When I was in my teenage years, I was shooting scratch golf & really like the sport. To be honest, there have been moments when I have really wondered if I made the right choice… but, I know without a doubt that serving God & doing what He wants for me has been the best choice I ever made!
6. I love the fact that you aren’t afraid of your craft. You take it for what it is and seem to enhance it with every chance you get.
For those people who have a talent, or gift, but seem to shy away from it out of fear of rejection or not being good enough, what advice would you give being that you found your gift at such a young age, latched onto it and have become so successful?
There have been moments where I too feared rejection & that I am not good enough. In fact, I think just yesterday I felt those feelings! I think insecurities are normal with Artist temperaments as you have to be sensitive to feel music & be moved by a lyric or a melody. I really have always felt as though I had a calling on my life & that God wanted me to do this, but to say that I didn’t get down, get discouraged or be confused as to which way to turn due to life’s circumstances or what people said about me or treated me, would be a lie. I felt all those things & more. I knew that even if I wasn’t good enough, even if people rejected me, my God is big enough to take me & make me, He would make a way when there was no way! Again, you’ve got to go back to your foundation, worship. The time you just give God you and keep on praisin. Yeah, that’s a song on the record too… probably one of my favorites ’cause it’s something I’ve had to do a lot! KEEP ON PRAISIN’, thru the storm, thru the rain, thru the pain, thru it all… You just got to have faith & believe that if God calls you, nothing can stop you!
7. I’m also a writer but of fiction books, and the one thing that any writer loves do is create a particular feeling or emotion in their audience.
That being stated and with you being a songwriter, has there ever been a time or how often do you find yourself mentally drained or with a certain type of “song writer’s” block? How do you recover?
Worship is my foundation. It is a lifestyle, a choice & not just my career or something I do in front of people. If I find myself mentally drained or if i have a writers block where I feel uninspired – I just fall to my knees and worship! I praise God for His goodness & mercy & His love & everything else. I have a lot of reasons to worship. Not only me, but we all mess up & need a Savior. I know that God is faithful & if there are important words that He wants in a song, He will give them to me or you. It may not be exactly when I am trying to write the song & want to finish the song, but He will put it in my mind or your mind at some point, always right on time. This happens a lot. I try to do things on my schedule & He does it on His… trust, His is always better!
8. Bryan, going back to your album’s title YOU CAN MAKE IT, when a person can’t see even seconds ahead into their potentially great future due to storms and clouds fogging over their vision, what advice do you give to that person who sees no way out, being that you have a personal testimony of particular struggles of your own?
The darkest part of the night is always before the morning light & often before a great blessing. Don’t give up before you miss out. God wouldn’t allow something to go on in your life if He didn’t already know your future & that you CAN & WILL get out of it. There is always a way out & a way up. You may not be able to see it right now, but you have to reach down deep within & trust in His word. You have to trust that God will provide for you like He does for everyone else & did with everyone else even in the Bible. Nothing you are going thru is new to God, pretty much someone has already gone thru it before & God delivered them. You have to trust when you see nothing. You have to worship thru it all. No decision should be made when you are tired or when you are overly emotional. You are stronger & better than the lies others have spoken over you. No matter what you have done or what you are going thru – there is a God that can & will deliver you from your storm. A God who cries desperately for you to make it.. a God who loves you more than anything & wants to help you wherever you are in life right now. He wants to wipe your slate clean & not look back ever! A new start, a fresh start. When you fall backwards, just pick yourself up & go again & again & again if u have to. Put on your boxing gloves & spiritually fight! I promise you, God is on your side! You may have to will it before you believe it, but you’ve gotta KEEP ON PRAISIN’ regardless of what you see or are feeling… because YOU CAN MAKE IT!!!!!!!
It’s been an absolute pleasure having this interview with you, Bryan Popin, and I am one of the millions who will add the album You Can Make It to my personal collection of favorites, having already fallen in love with the single I CAN MAKE IT.
Thank you and may God continue to bless you on your journey.
For more on Bryan Popin, visit BryanPopin.com.