By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Vocalist Jonathan McReynolds exemplifies the modern gospel artist in many ways. His music has the inspirational zeal and spiritual lyrical direction of traditional gospel, but enough contemporary elements and sensibility to reach fans of both spiritual and secular music. McReynolds has enjoyed multiple number one Billboard Gospel LPs, won eight Stellar Awards, earned five Grammy nominations and now will host the 2021 Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards (he’s also a multiple winner in that field).
It’s the 52nd annual event, and the in-person ceremony happened Wednesday night at Allen Arena. But the show airs exclusively Friday night at 7 and 9p.m. on TBN, and is being simulcast on SiriusXM’s The Message. McReynolds understands the magnitude of the event. “It’s a real honor and something that I’ve long wanted to do,” he told the Tribune last week during an interview. “I’ve been a presenter and I’ve been in the audience and I’ve won awards, but I’ve never had that responsibility of hosting, being the person responsible for keeping things going and for making sure it runs smoothly. I’m really thrilled for the opportunity.”
There aren’t many things within the world of contemporary gospel that the Chicago-born McReynolds hasn’t done. This year’s event will include performances by all five New Artist of the Year nominees. The roster of artists scheduled to appear includes Dante Bowe, CAIN, Lauren Daigle, Hope Darst, Elevation Worship, Natalie Grant, KB ft. Matt Redman, Koryn Hawthorne ft. Donnie McClurkin, The Isaacs, Brandon Lake, Maverick City Music, Jonathan McReynolds ft. Mali, We The Kingdom, CeCe Winans, and Zach Williams.
McReynolds was playing drums at five, the piano at eight and was a church musician at an early age. He had a viral hit “No Gray” while in college, but his musical career really took off with the album 2012, with “Life Music.”
His second and third LPs were big hits as well, with “Make Room” (the third) earning eight Stellar awards and two Grammy nominations as well as being a number one Billboard gospel LP. McReynolds is among artists credited with helping the gospel industry grow over the years, but he’s quick to cite others as the reason for his success.
“I remember starting out and being so thrilled and influenced by people like Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton and Kim Burrell,” he continued. “I’ve never looked at what I’m doing in the business sense. It’s my life, it’s helping spread the music of love for God and for the music. But I am pleased whenever we (gospel artists) can get more attention in the mainstream. It’s always good to have more people hear and appreciate our music.”
McReynolds has won praise from such secular artists as Justin Beiber and Kando Burruss. He’s been called by Kirk Franklin “The future of Gospel Music.” He was the first gospel artist to form a major partnership with the streaming service Tidal, and his 2018 book “Make Room: Finding Where Faith Fits” was well received.
McReynolds also has impressive achievements in the areas of philanthropy and education. He established Elihu Nation, a non-profit that is geared to “celebrate, promote, and work to create young seekers and models of wisdom,” in 2016. It has organized several events aimed at Christian scholarship and self-help and has awarded at least $30,000 in college scholarships. He’s earned a bachelor’s degree in Music from Columbia College, a Master’s in Biblical Studies from Moody Theological Seminary, and taught for several years at Columbia College in the music department.
When asked if he has any interests in making the switch to secular music McReynolds response is quick and direct. “I’m very happy being a gospel artist and singing the music of the Lord,” he concluded. “I have absolutely no plans to become a secular artist. My future plans are just to continue making the best gospel music that I can and being an inspiration to the generations coming behind me the way people like Fred were to me when I was coming up.”
Jonathan McReynolds hosts the 52 annual Dove Awards, which air Friday night at 7 and 9 p.m. Central on TBN