Interview conducted by: Gabrielle Jackson & Chequelle Brown
This week, Level 21 TV got the chance to sit down and chat with Grammy Nominated artist and writer Alvin Garrett— a Birmingham based musician whose genre-bending music has captivated audiences from all over. In the interview, Garrett talked candidly about everything from his own roots in the church to his musical activism, as well as his 2020 quarantine.
Garrett, whose father is a pastor, credits the church with introducing him to music. “I will say that I was born into music via the church,” he told us. The musician began playing bass guitar as a teenager before going off to college and playing in different choirs and bands. This became the foundation for his love and passion for songwriting— and throughout the years, the musician has been able to perfect his craft.
In 2012, Garrett was honored with a Grammy nomination for his gospel song: Bring Your Praise. When asked about the nomination, Garrett described the responsibility that came with the success. “I was excited at first but then a heaviness kind of came on me… Moving forward now you’ve got to live up to this. If they’re going to use this in front of your name, you can’t not be worthy of that title.” If anything, Garrett believes that the nomination made him work harder, both inside and outside of the studio. Since then, the artist has continued working on various passion projects, refusing to be circumscribed to a single genre, and continuing to follow his heart— wherever it may take him. This has led him to embrace a wide array of musical influences and use his voice and platform to better his community.
Last year, in the midst of the social justice protest movement that defined the summer of 2020, Garrett felt the need to enter the conversation; releasing a thought provoking EP entitled The Awakening. The album, which opens with the song “Something’s Different This Time,” captures the anger and sadness which Garrett experienced after witnessing the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. “When I saw what happened with George Floyd, I didn’t want to type out how I felt on social media,” he told us, “I’ll write a song about it.” In “Something’s Different This Time,” Garrett captured both his own feelings as well as the feelings of the nation at large— one which was reeling from both the ongoing racial tensions and the global pandemic.
Outside of the studio, Garrett continues to work hard to better his community. The musician partnered with the Dannon Project to launch The Write Life Campaign— utilizing his passion for music to give back to his community. The Write Life is a song-writing therapy program that helps students develop important life skills through music. Recent graduates of the program have their songs streaming on Soundcloud, and have entered into a friendly competition to see who can rack up the most plays on their song. Their songs can be found through this link: https://dannonproject.org/our-events/.
Garrett is very excited about the future of The Write Life, and is looking forward to expanding the program. “Because (the program) is so transformational, expansion is imminent. So we are really tied into the network of agencies around the country that are serving the same purposes in their communities.” Garrett hopes to expand the program into the Birmingham school system soon as well as other re-entry programs all around the country. “We want to help model this in other areas because it is so effective.”
Musically, Garrett is also excited about what the future holds in store for him. He says that the 2020 quarantine gave him a much needed break— one which he hadn’t really had during his 20 years in the industry. “I didn’t realize that I never stopped until I had to stop. I didn’t realize how many voices were in my head other than my own and other than God until no one was talking.”Garrett embraced the quarantine but is excited about 2021; and indeed, the musician has a lot to look forward to. Garrett is releasing his next album: The Lightness of Love, sometime this year. The first single off the album, entitled: “My Gift To You” is already available to stream on Soundcloud. The singer songwriter has no reservations about what the future holds for him, and embraces all the twists and turns that come with any career in the music business. “I’m going to keep dreaming and along the way I’m going to fall. I’m going to get my Ls. But that’s what makes my hill. Because I can’t get on that hill if I don’t have that L in my story.”