If you love Gospel music, and especially if you are a worshipper, the name Maranda Curtis has been on the tip of your tongue for most of this year. The powerful singer’s “Open Heaven” has become a mainstay at churches around the country, as well as on social media where videos of Curtis ministering the song circulate rapidly. Curtis recently released a masterful album, Open Heaven: The Maranda Curtis Experience, and has been receiving a robust response while visiting churches and venues around the country sharing her ministry.
This comes as no surprise. I first heard Maranda Curtis sing live at a 2018 pre-Grammy Gospel celebration. Along with the rest of the standing room only crowd at New York’s venerable music venue S.O.B.’s, I was in awe. Maranda Curtis makes you want to know the God that she sings so marvelously about and, if you already know Him, you will desire a deeper connection after you experience her worship. The magnetism is not only in her voice, but her commanding yet humble and graceful presence. It is in her dynamic delivery and her perceptible connection and commitment to the most high God. It is also in the sheer joy that she exudes when she sings – a joy that literally reaches out to grab you. It’s all there, in one vessel, and it makes you want what she has. Radio host Willie Moore, Jr. said it best when he declared “when Maranda opens her mouth, God comes out.” And then there’s the R&B singer Fantasia Barrino who, after hearing Curtis sing, posted on her Instagram that Curtis “is not playing with Abba. She is truly chasing Him and Him alone.”
These sentiments may sound elaborate, but they are no exaggeration. Maranda Curtis is a wonder.
Born in South Florida, Curtis grew up in Zebulon, Georgia where she would find herself going to church with her grandfather, who was a pastor. When she was 20, Curtis gave her life to Jesus. She began leading worship at church even though her musical foundation was R&B and jazz, due largely to her parents, both R&B singers. She cites her biggest influence as Anita Baker, the iconic R&B songstress whose own musical roots are planted in Detroit’s storefront churches. This influence is seen in Curtis’ naturally mesmerizing stage presence, flawless improvisation techniques and hints of soulful jazz inflections. She is also influenced by quartet music. Listening to quartet music, she says, is how she learned to “squall”.
While Curtis definitely has a “squall” in her, she is a meticulous singer who artfully punctuates every lyric to precisely emote intense feeling behind the words. Curtis also has a way of bringing an audience into her worship space, which is arguably what makes her so special.
Backtracking to Curtis’ early days singing in church, she acknowledges that she did this because her family said she had to – not because she knew God. “For years I sang for the Lord because that it what I was told to do…when I started traveling more, I realized there is something to this thing…I realized there is a void here…and I actually wanted to know more about the God that I was singing about.”
After giving her life to Christ and traveling for music ministry, a visit to John P. Kee’s VIP Conference would be a pivotal experience for Curtis. There, Kee would take notice of her gift and ask her to lead a choir. She would eventually become praise and worship leader at his New Life City of Praise in Charlotte, North Carolina, and – at the age of 23 – would record a song with him, which would be her first recording.
Maranda Curtis was praise and worship leader at The House of Hope in Atlanta before serving in that same capacity at The Potter’s House Church in Dallas. She released her debut EP, The Maranda Experience, Vol. 1, in 2017. The independent, self-financed album debuted at number one on Billboard’s gospel chart in August of that year. Her latest release, Open Heaven: The Maranda Experience Live, appeared this spring and also debuted #1 on Billboard. After hearing music from the album, Grammy-nominated producer Stanley Brown, who interviewed Curtis during a listening session at BMI in New York, said “if you have a praise and worship team at your church, notify them that they now have material for the rest of the year.”
Again, this is no exaggeration. The album is really that extraordinary.
“There is a difference between ‘sound’ and ‘noise’,” says Curtis. “The sound is very important. ‘Open Heaven’ was birthed while I was getting ready for intercessory prayer for ‘Woman Though Art loosed” last year…it is a reminder that we are standing under an open heaven of unlimited possibilities, and that we serve the same God that our Grandparents served – a God of miracles, signs and wonders.”
“I don’t declare what is popular, I declare what I hear,” says the singer. “Ezekiel 47:9 birthed the verse ‘there is a river flowing…’ We as the kingdom of God have to have faith enough to jump into the river…wherever the river flows, that’s where life is.”
Curtis says of her latest album: “This project was a labor of love that I knew ii heard God on, and I know transformation will come from it.”