Everybody Loves Kirk Franklin.
To artists and musicians, he is the epitome of consistency, creativity, boundary stretching, authenticity and longevity – and he is peerless as a songwriter and producer. For music fans, he is in most people’s Top Five, regardless of their favorite genre, and regardless of them being “in the church” or not.
Simply put, Kirk Franklin is one of music’s G.O.A.T.
Franklin is also a diversified multi-hyphenate who is leaving no creative or business stone unturned. He recently released his 13th album, the record-setting Long Live Love, and just wrapped its accompanying 26-city tour. He is the creator of the Exodus Music Festival, part of his unique partnership with LiveNation Urban, and he is a New York Times best-selling author. He executive produces a few broadcast properties: Kirk Franklin’s Praise on SIRIUSXM, BET’s popular Gospel singing competition Sunday Best and, recently, The Stellar Gospel Music Awards. He is CEO of his Fo Yo Soul record label, and soon he will be the subject of a Sony pictures released biopic helmed by veteran producer DeVon Franklin (no relation).
While financial gurus will say this is the quintessential “multiple streams of income” formula, for Kirk Franklin this is also “multiple streams of inspiration” because he takes very seriously his gift, his call and the power of his transparent imperfection to point people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This is why it comes as no surprise that he was ordained as a minister when he was 17 years old.
This Gospel Life spoke to Kirk Franklin about how he does it all, why he does it all, and – since he is a super producer – the dream supergroup he would record if he could.
You have multiple projects happening at one time. What is your approach to doing business and creating the right ventures for yourself?
What is extremely different and at the same time extremely difficult is that we are trying to build business platforms, as much as God will allow us to do so, in a system that doesn’t have a lot of content, a lot of analytics, or a lot of research. Faith-based content, especially in the urban community, is still something that has remained at the grass roots level to a certain extent…so it’s very hard to quantify that movement, and it is hard to measure the sustainability of that movement. It’s all very trailblazing, so that becomes an uphill fight within itself, but it is an uphill fight that is worthwhile.
After 26 years in music, what still excites you about the creative process?
What excites me more than anything is when God drops a song on my heart. When God is kind enough to let me borrow songs from time to time, and to put songs in my gut, that is extremely encouraging…It doesn’t have to be that way and I am very clear about that. This is not an automatic, and since it is not an automatic, I have a lot of humility and gratitude about it.
What albums are you listening to right now?
I listen to a lot of podcasts; I listen to a lot of sermons. Sometimes, you are so busy putting out that, for me, making sure that there is enough meat on my bones spiritually is a high priority.
The top three people I listen to are Charles Stanley, Ravi Zacharias and Tony Evans.
Do you have an all-time favorite album, any genre?
I have a couple: I love the Michael Jackson Off the Wall album; I think I like it better than Thriller. I love the Brandy Full Moon album, and the Purple Rain album. Those are three albums that I always go back to.
If you could go into the studio tomorrow to record a song with three singers of your choice – which three singers would you call?
I would have Joe singing tenor, I would have Jazmine Sullivan singing alto, and Karen Clark Sheard singing soprano. I think that would be pretty dope…that sounds pretty right, actually.
How do you prepare physically for performing?
I try to stay in shape in general so that I don’t have to do anything extreme to prepare for things. I got really serious about working out and about dieting several years ago, and I just stayed there so that it is a part of my fabric now.
I eat really clean: I eat chicken, and I eat white fish only. I don’t do carbs after 6 p.m. I don’t eat sugar, even natural sugar, except maybe once or twice a month. So, I don’t really eat fruit except for maybe an apple, or an orange.
I do between 16 -20 miles of cardio per week. I do high intensity on the treadmill, on an incline…I keep moving for about an hour and I cover four miles. I try very hard to stay in a healthy space.
You have been very transparent over the years about your personal challenges and vulnerabilities, which actually takes a great deal of strength. Why is it important for you to do that, and where does your strength come from?
God just wired me like that…I’ve always been like that. I’ve always wanted help…and I’ve learned as I have gotten older that I heal when I reveal…I can impress you with my success but I can impact you with my mistakes because now you know where the bones are buried. Now you know where the landmines and the nuggets are, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. I think that the generations have not always been kind enough to let the generations after them know where the landmines are.
You have been vocal recently about therapy, which is a big topic in the church and especially among Black men. What would you say to someone who may be on the fence about it?
You sell yourself short if you don’t do it. If you don’t make sure that your body, soul and mind are working well together then you will never be the best you that you can possibly be. You will miss out on that opportunity. I would tell Black men that if you want to maximize who God wants you to be, it is imperative to take care of all of you.
What are you reading right now?
One of my favorite books right now is How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind by Thomas C. Odom. It is a brilliant read…that’s what I’ve been getting into a lot lately. I am always trying to get it in.
Do you still attend Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship?
Yes, I am still at Oak Cliff. I love the teaching and there is good theology there. I will probably be there until they roll me out in a box.
What is your scripture mantra?
Romans 8:28. It has to do with me trusting and believing that the good, the bad, the ugly – God is behind it all. That is my daily prayer. That is my daily pursuit.
How would you describe the overall call on your life?
I feel the overall call on my life is to serve and to be a walking billboard about the love and kindness and grace of God. I am here to permeate society with the knowledge of Jesus Christ.