Micah Stampley Biography
Left Behind Despair to Follow Dreams, Rode the Whirlwind, Selected discography
Gospel singer, songwriter
Micah Stampley's multi-octave singing range has taken him to the brink of stardom, with a flurry of appearances in the United States, London, and Paris. He is finding fans around the world and earning steady sales in places like Kuwait and Australia. In March of 2005, his first gospel album, The Songbook of Micah, debuted at number three of Billboard's chart, an astounding accomplishment for a new artist. It was the second highest debut in Billboard's history for a male gospel artist, putting him ahead of gospel greats Smokie Norful, Kirk Franklin, and Donnie McClurkin. Made with the help of his songwriting partner and wife Heidi Stampley, The Songbook of Micah combines R&B, traditional gospel, and hip-hop to position Stampley for a leap to stardom.
Stampley was born the fifth child of Richard and Delmarie Stampley's eight musically gifted children on September 7, 1971, in Los Angeles, California. Shortly after his birth, the family relocated to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Stampley grew up. It was evident at an early age that Stampley had great talent. His parents began to share that talent with the community when he was just four years old, allowing him to join their church choir. That was just the beginning. Stampley later sang and played tambourine on the local Buckskin Bill television show and at churches and various venues around Baton Rouge. By the age of seven he was directing the church choir and the buzz about this young musical genius was growing. Stampley had also learned to teach vocal arrangements and harmonies, taking part in musical productions. Other churches sometimes called on him to lead musical workshops.
Left Behind Despair to Follow
The family later moved to Natchitoches where Stampley graduated from Natchitoches Central High School. He knew by this time that his life's work would involve music but he wasn't sure how. Previous years had brought many opportunities to learn and showcase his talents. During junior high school he sang the national anthem during the governor's inauguration and earned several music awards. His talents gained strength and range as he listened to the music of gospel greats like Andrae Crouch and the Winans. He also began to internalize the influences of mainstream artists like Michael Jackson and Billy Ocean. Secular music was something he had had little exposure to at home, but when he did hear it he found its chord progressions and melodies to be a welcome novelty.
By the age of 13, Stampley and his brother Nathaniel, who was not only Stampley's best friend but also his musical partner, were both officiating as ministers of music in their father's church. But in 1994, Nathaniel was killed in a freak accident. The loss left Stampley devastated and without direction for several years. When a call from the nationally renowned evangelist Rev. Earl Johnson came, Stampley found a ray of sunshine that would guide him through his first steps out of the darkness that had enveloped him. Rev. Johnson had heard Stampley sing at a conference and wanted him to join his own church in Pasadena, California. Stampley accepted the offer and spent the next three years doing gospel musicals and crusades with Rev. Johnson. Then another call came, from his own father, who asked Stampley to return to Louisiana to run the music department of the church he was planning to start. Stampley had once believed he would never return to Louisiana. But he did return, sensing that this was a calling from not only his father, but also a higher being. It was during this return to Louisiana that Stampley would meet and marry Heidi Jones, a fellow gospel singer and nursing student. The couple now has five children, and Heidi has been instrumental in her husband's career, writing several songs for his debut album.
In 1999 the couple relocated to New Orleans when Stampley accepted a position as co-choir director and musician for Bishop Paul Morton's Greater St. Stephen's Church. In 2003 Stampley became assistant minister of music at St. Agnes Baptist Church in Houston. The move to Houston would be the catalyst he had been searching for. When the church's music director came down with a serious illness, Stampley was asked to fill in. It was during this time that a good friend of the senior director, who also happened to be the organist for the popular evangelist T.D. Jakes, happened to hear Stampley's voice and the work he was doing with the choir. The organist, Marcus Dawson, who is now running Dexterity Sound Records, Bishop Jakes' record label, knew he had found a powerfully gifted voice, exactly what Bishop Jakes had been looking for. Dawson quickly returned to Dallas to advise Bishop Jakes of the news. Things were moving quickly for Stampley on many fronts during this time. The following January Stampley beat out several thousand other singers to win the 2004 Stellar Award Gospel Star Search competition. He was on his way.
Rode the Whirlwind
After the Stellar Awards, Dawson invited Stampley to perform as special musical guest in Dallas. After the performance Bishop Jakes met with Stampley and offered him a record contract. Several labels had made similar offers in recent days, but Stampley's heart went where he felt spiritual comfort and he accepted the offer. "It has been a whirlwind of blessings ever since," Stampley said in an interview with Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). Bishop Jakes warned him that it would be, but Stampley said he had no idea "how quickly God would move in his life. I tried for so many years," he told CBB. "I couldn't have paid anyone to listen to my demos back then. Now it seems that everyone is after me. I wondered what I was doing wrong. I think God gives you what you need when you are ready for it, when he knows that you won't let it go to your head and forget about the ministry. I believe God looked at me and said, 'Now I can trust you.'"
Stampley told CBB that the most difficult part of his rising fame is keeping the right balance between career and family. "It was very tough when I was growing up. My parents really struggled," Stampley said. "My father worked long hours and I don't want to have to do that and be away from my kids. Sons especially need their father. I don't want my children to be another statistic. God has blessed our family with a way to keep the balance." Another difficulty for artists in the business is protecting oneself from people who will take advantage of them. "I love truth and honesty," he said. "I want our people to know their purpose and be successful. So a person going into the business must protect himself from those who would take advantage of him. You've got to understand the business and how publishing and copywriting works, or you may not end up making a cent."
Although Stampley's roots in the church are grounded and sincere, he said there is another side to him that most people don't know about: his comedic side. "I'm a Def Comedy Jam 'wanna-be,'" he laughs. "I love to act crazy, and I do it a lot. But family will always laugh at your 'stand-up.' I don't think I'll ever have the courage to really do it!" But don't put it past him. With his talents, Stampley is liable to succeed at whatever he tries.
The Songbook of Micah, Dexterity Sounds/EMI Gospel Records, 2005.
Michah Stampley, www.micahstampley.org (October 12, 2005).
"Micah Stampley and Wife Join U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Campaign," EMI Gospel, www.emigospel.com/artist/artist_default.aspx?aid=336179 (August 1, 2005).
"Micah Stampley Biography," BlackGospel.com, www.blackgospel.com/bios/micahstampley (July 25, 2005).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Micah Stampley on August 10, 2005.
—Sharon Melson Fletcher
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