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Following the Master’s Voice

Master’s Voice may be a fairly new name to a lot of people, but they are making waves within the industry.  Thought it’s been nearly 25 years since the group started, the last few years they have made tremendous strides, and their latest recording, Solace, solidifies them as a force within the industry.  That may be a bold statement, but behind that statement you will find a group of men putting out great music and taking a solid stand for Christ.  At the helm of the group is tenor, Ricky Capps.  I recently was able to catch up with Ricky as we had a delightful and insightful conversation as he shared with me the factors that brought the group together, his vision for the group and offered some great insight into managing Master’s Voice.

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James Hales: What influenced you to start your own group? 

Ricky Capps:  I did not try to start a group!  It was literally a God thing!  One Sunday, after Sunday morning service, me and 3 of my cousins and my girlfriend at the time were sitting on the front steps of the platform at church and the pastor walked up to us and pointed at us and said “You kids are going to sing a song tonight, so you better get one ready!”  I’d never sung in my life and this was not on my radar.  So we sang that night and I was nervous and it was probably three shades of horrible!  (laughing)  The church loved it so we sang the next week and the week after that and so on.

About a month later, a church 15 miles away heard about these young kids singing and invited us to sing at their church.  So we had to have a name at that point!  So we put group names in a hat…and this is how serious I was about the whole thing, I wrote down “Ricky and the Pips”!  (laughing)  Needless to say I got out voted and we chose the name Master’s Voice and that was 24 years ago and I was 17 years old at the time.  And look, I did not have a Southern Gospel background.  My first introduction to Southern Gospel was when I was about 16 or 17 years old and I immediately gravitated towards it, but I never wanted to be a singer.  But my first influences were Gold City, Gaither Vocal Band, Hinsons, Isaacs, etc.  and 80’s big power ballads!  (laughing)

JH: Do you remember the first song you sang that Sunday evening?

RC: I do!  It was “Crimson River” by the Cathedral Quartet.  I didn’t even know who the Cathedral Quartet was at that time.

JH: What have been some of the struggles and triumphs of owning your own group?

RC: There was hardly any struggle at the beginning because we weren’t doing it for living.  If we made money that meant we got to eat on the way home!  When we went full-time, I immediately felt the financial burden in making sure everyone was paid, bills were paid, etc.  The finances of what we do can be a real challenge.  But it’s hard to call that a real struggle, because it’s helped me grow my faith more than anything else and I’m grateful.

Also, the sacrifice involved with missing some of the things with your kids and your family is unprecedented.  No matter if you love singing or are good at it, if you’re not called to this, you won’t be doing it for very long.

I’m not trying to sound super spiritual, but I learned the hard way that if we seek Him first and His righteousness, He would add those other things unto us, when it’s time.

JH: Who currently makes up Master’s Voice and how long have they been with the group?

RC: I sing tenor and I’ve been here since our inception almost 25 years ago.  Our piano player has been here 6 ½ years and his name is Theron Perry.  Our bass singer is Jerry Pilgrim.  Some people may remember him from the Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet, and he’s been with us a little over 5 years.  Our lead singer, TJ Evans has been here 4 years.  Our baritone singer, David Folenius, has been here about 2 years.  We also have a sound guy/drummer, Chuck Howe, and he’s been here about 5 years.

JH: What do you think makes Master’s Voice unique?

RC: I don’t know if other groups experience this, but we are kind of a polarizing group because we tend to be more “in your face” a little bit.  We can be silly, but we believe in a black and white gospel and God is either for it or not.  Sometimes people don’t like that and there’s been some people who may not enjoy our scope of ministry, and that’s fine.  To us, music is just a vehicle to get their attention and deliver the gospel.  We believe you can be both entertainers and ministers, because it’s important to get their attention because we have eternal things to tell them and we want them to be entertained, but when we got them, we want to tell them about the Lord.

JH:  Not many groups are based west of the Mississippi River.  Do you find being based in Oklahoma a hardship or do you find it has its own set of perks?

RC: Let me answer that with this…YES!  (laughing)

It’s both!  Primarily, the fans are east of the Mississippi, so if we don’t travel there very often, people won’t really know us.  But the groups we are friends with that are from the east, are trying to get where we are, out west!  It’s less saturated out here and it’s probably easier financially out here.  Being out here in the middle of country, it doesn’t take us several days to go out on the west coast.  So that definitely has its advantages!

JH: Earlier this year you released your lastest recording, Solace.  Tell us about it.

RC: It was released January 10.  For some reason, with this latest project, we didn’t go out and just to try to find songs to record, it just seemed like these were the songs God sent our way.  The songs have a central theme about enduring trials, hardships and uncertainty or they were talking about Jesus coming back.  Solace is defined as “comfort in time of trouble”, and I don’t know anything more relevant today than to comfort people either saved or lost and sing something encouraging to them.

JH: Any favorite or special songs on this new recording”

RC: You know that’s like picking your favorite child, right?  (laughing)  Our current single is “Peace Like a River” that was released back in the middle of April.

But, I would say one of my favorite ones is the song “Pray Through Me”.  I think if you live long enough, you will encounter a time where you’re in such despair that you don’t even know how to pray…how do you pray when your child dies, how do you pray when the person you thought would never betray you just stabbed you in the back…you learn to trust Him and allow Him to pray through you, when you don’t know what to say.

Another one would be “Things Only God Can Do”.  It’s a very simple song, but you know when it’s over and it’s all said and done, you look back and say to yourself, “Man, God did that!”  The most memorable times in my life has been when I looked back and see God’s fingerprints all over it.

At least today, those 2 are my favorites.  Ask me tomorrow and I might tell you 2 more!

JH: A lot has changed since the inception of the group.  How has the industry change since you first started and how are you evolving and changing with it?

RC: Man, that’s a hard question…styles have changed, the music is getting broader.  Honestly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  It’s about relationships, really!  Now, the people of “influence” has changed over the years and because of that some things tend to change.  Everyone says the crowds are getting smaller, but there’s 10 times more concerts going on than their used to be.  Maybe it’s diluted because there’s more groups out there doing it.

The groups of old tended to have more superstars within them like George Younce and Vestal Goodman.  I think you find less of that today.  Groups are more assessible to fans now, especially with Social Media these days.

JH: Everyone has people they want to emulate or strive to model themselves after.  What groups or artists does Master’s Voice look up to?

RC: We’re all gospel nerds!  (laughing)  We used to go to NQC and keep notes of what we like and didn’t like and we’ve learned more of how we want to be and don’t want to be from that.  One of the groups that we have gleaned the most from are the Booth Brothers.  Their success speaks for itself, but we have actually gotten to know the guys personally and I am delighted to tell everyone they are as genuine and godly as they come across, because sometimes you don’t know.  You get close to your mentors and sometimes that shine comes off.  Triumphant Quartet…they can tote the mail!  They are real and they love people.  Karen Peck has always gone out of her way to be kind to us and we see how she treats her fans.  One person I appreciate their work ethic is Danny Jones of the Singing News.  He has been in our corner from day one!  He encourages me and tells me when I’m an idiot too.  (laughing)  You know, you need someone in your life like that, and depending on who you are, you might need several!  (laughing)

JH: What attributes do you hope young aspiring artists see in you/Master’s Voice?

RC: Man, I’m glad you asked that.  We have always tried to look for that because we want young folks to take away from Master’s Voice that life is short, be urgent about it.  Keep striving for His glory and not your own.  Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your audience.  If you are a ministry, then minister!  Don’t be up there with a competitive nature and try to out do someone else.  Love people, invest in them and make it all about Jesus.  When you leave the stage, you want people to have a spiritual collision with Christ!  Fashion your show, your music, your roster, your image, your social network…all of it…right to Calvary!  There is nothing more attractive than Jesus!

JH: Lastly, the last couple of months have been extremely impactful to all artists, due to the current pandemic.  How are you and the group weathering this storm? 

RC: Through God’s grace!  We are not a group prepared to have 12 weeks off!  But God has made a way for us to keep paying our guys and keeping everyone healthy.  God has reminded us how precious this should be to us!  I don’t think we’ll be complaining about our schedule anytime soon!  We’ve made it through by prayer, our supporters and our families.  Plus, because we are usually gone all the time, with us being home all the time now, we’ve completely messed up our family’s mojo!  (laughing)

For Master’s Voice, we’ve made it through not because we’re wise or smart, we’ve made it through only because God, in His mercy, has sustained us!

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Since this interview, Master’s Voice (as well as many other artists) have began to slowly get back out on the road.  You can find out more about Master’s Voice and when they’re coming to your area by visiting their website:  www.mastersvoice.com

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James Hales
Head Reviewer at Absolutely Gospel
James Hales, from Durham, North Carolina, has been a writer for AbsolutelyGospel.com since 2000. James is our featured reviewer and also contributes to monthly features periodically.

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