Legacy Five vocalist Lee Black has released his solo album Beloved. Comprising of 11 modern hymns, the album features some of Black's finest compositions, especially the thank-filled "Giver of Good Things" and the moving title track "Beloved." To purchase the album, click HERE.
Black is also a prolific songwriter in Southern Gospel music. His first cut was on the first Brian Free and Assurance project in 1993. His songs have also been featured on albums by Legacy Five, The Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Triumphant, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, The Crabb Family, The Oak Ridge Boys, KP&NR, and many others. He has also written extensively for church choirs.
Q: Lee, thank you for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: when and how did you first discover your gift of songwriting?
I dreamed about being a writer from the time I was a little kid. My parents took me to England when I was about eight years old; and I have a vivid memory of being in a London book store with my father. He was looking for a book titled "To Kill A Mockingbird." When I asked why, he explained that the author, Nelle Harper Lee, was a family friend and from our hometown. He just wanted another copy bought in London. Something about that ignited a spark in me. I didn't know anything about the book, and it would be years later before I read it, but it made me want to be a writer. I was fascinated that someone from my little town of Monroeville, AL could have written a book that people around the world wanted to read!
Growing up, I was something of a loner... spending a lot of time reading and making up little stories... writing. Initially I wanted to be a journalist. As my love of music grew, the writing morphed into songwriting. My first attempts at songwriting were cheesy, poorly written pop love songs that have, thankfully, been lost to time. Haha!Q: What was your first cut as a songwriter? Tell us a little about the song.
My wife and I moved to Nashville in 1992 after we were married so that I could pursue songwriting. My first cut happened soon after we moved to town - a song titled "Flood the Altar" recorded by Brian Free and Assurance and co-written with my friends David Moffitt and Sue C. Smith. I was familiar with Southern Gospel growing up, but not a diehard fan like some. When I began trying to write CCM songs, some early publishers I met with felt like they were more southern in nature. And that first cut, in a way, set me on the path I'm on now. I never set out to be a "Southern Gospel" writer. I just wanted to write. And, for the most part, those songs have found their way to the southern gospel world.
Q: What usually inspires you to write?
It's funny... I just had this conversation with a songwriter friend the other day. Many days I don't really feel "inspired" to write. But I LOVE writing... so the act itself inspires me. Somedays I sit down to write worried that the well is dry, but I do it anyway. There's something about writing through to inspiration that I love. Just knowing that if I'll carve out the time and commit, I will eventually wind up at that "Aha!" moment.
But I do always keep an ideas folder in the notes on my phone. I feel like my idea antennae are always up and scanning. I hear ideas and song titles in sermons, conversations, movies, etc. I read them in my personal devotional time and other books.
Q: How then did you get involved with Legacy 5?
Through the years I've sung a lot of my own song demos as well as demos for other writers. So I know Scott Fowler, owner and manager of Legacy Five, was familiar with my voice. When the tenor position came open several years ago, we had a conversation about my joining the group. Initially I was interested in the possibility. Then when Scott sent me all the songs in a typical Legacy Five concert, I got cold feet. Haha! That tenor position is rather vocally demanding, and I just didn't know if could sing three or four concerts a week. Scott talked into getting on the bus one weekend just to "test the waters." That weekend really piqued my interest. I had a great time with the guys and just really enjoyed singing the concerts.
Q: Besides your involvement with Legacy 5, you also have a new album out. How did this album come about?
I feel like I learned to write songs by reading hymns. When I was a kid, there was no such thing as children's church... it was straight to big church after the nursery! No offense to any pastors, but I passed the time during the sermon flipping through the hymnal. I fell in love with the language, the cadence, and melodies of all those great hymns of the Church. So when I started writing songs, hymn writing felt like a natural place to go. For some reason, it was hard to get any of those modern hymns cut by other artists. With an ever growing catalog of them, my excellent publisher, Rick Shelton, came to me with idea of recording some of them for myself. So I picked out some of my favorites and we did just that.
Q: Why did you call it "Beloved"?
I love the book of Romans. Paul opens chapter one by saying, "You are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus." He addresses them as those "loved by God and called to be his holy people." What an amazing and beautiful thought that I... that we, the Church, are loved by God! I know who I am at heart... my sin, the darkness in me. And yet God loves me. I will never get over that! I had this little chorus, "Beloved, He called me beloved as if I'm worthy of Calvary's cruel tree. Beloved, He calls me beloved. And beloved is my Savior to me." Sue Smith and I have a regular standing Tuesday co-writing appointment. We finished the verses together. I mentioned earlier that many days I don't feel inspired to write, but do it anyway. The day we wrote the song Beloved was different. This song felt like a prayer and something I wanted to say about my Heavenly Father. Sue and I definitely worshiped as we wrote. I wanted to title the entire collection Beloved because I think this is the heart of the album.
Q: One of my favorite songs on the record is "Giver of Good things." What's the story behind this song?
I am blessed to know and call some pretty amazing songwriters my friends. The great lyricist Tony Wood is one of those.
There are days when I solo write that I, obviously, write both lyric and melody. To some melody writers, I am a lyricist. To some lyricists, I am a melody writer. And when Tony Wood is in the room, I kinda of stay out of lyric land! This is a beautiful lyric he penned. I tried to serve it well with a melody that folks could sing and think about James 1:17 that giver of every good and perfect gift.
Q: How do you hope these songs would impact the church and the lives of your listeners?
I guess every songwriter wants their songs to resonate with people... to stir some kind of emotional response. These songs were never written to be radio hits or big concert songs. I know not every lyric is vertical, but they were meant to be prayers. It was my prayer when we began recording these songs that individuals would use them in their quiet times alone with the Lord and that churches would use them corporately to worship Him. To know that people would use them to draw closer to the Lord would be the biggest blessings to me.