Gospel singer Koryn Hawthorne is ‘Unstoppable’ with chart-topping debut album
Koryn Hawthorne (Photo credit: DeWayne Rogers)
Chart-topping gospel singer Koryn Hawthorne released her debut full-length album, Unstoppable, last month. In a short amount of time, the album shot up the Billboard gospel charts with help from her highly popular hit single “Won’t He Do It.” With this being the beginning of her career, the young singer has set the bar fairly high.
Unstoppable is a 10-track album with a collection of inspirational songs, some written or co-written by Koryn. Though it is a gospel album, it also features influences from pop, soul and contemporary rock, giving it a more dynamic sound than more traditional gospel albums. With her award-winning lead single “Won’t He Do It,” on the album, Koryn has become the highest streaming gospel artist with over 21 million streams.
Prior to her newfound success, Koryn was always a person who took her spiritual journey seriously. “I’m all about purpose and allowing God to lead and direct my life,” she says as she explains what led her to gospel music. “I feel like I came to that place at a very young age because it was clear that God was going to use me.” And God has used her well, bringing Koryn to the forefront of gospel music and having her appear on the OWN hit series “Greenleaf.”
A former finalist on NBC’s “The Voice,” Koryn was introduced to the world on the show’s eighth season at 17 years old. Now, at 20, she’s signed to RCA Inspiration and just stepped off of the Summer Lights Tour, which consisted of acts like Jeremy Camp, Matthew West and Rend Collective. Right now Koryn is at a place in her career where the success is coming extremely fast, but there’s still more work to be done.
Koryn shared her thoughts about her new album and her journey as a Christian and gospel artist.
Your debut album, Unstoppable, has shot all the way to the top of the Billboard gospel charts. How does it feel to come out the gate at No. 1?
It’s a little scary. I’m not going to lie. I feel like I’m super blessed and thankful. I know that God is actually doing something with this, but it’s still a surprise because it’s the first album. I’m already thinking ahead about the next album, so this kind of sets the bar pretty high. Overall, I just want to grow and get better.
From the title Unstoppable, people can assume what the album is about. However, can you say in your own words what is the album’s overall message?
For me, I’ve been singing for a long time. Ultimately, I do it for God. I’m all about fulfilling the purpose that he has for me. Stepping into this industry as a gospel singer, people probably had their own opinions about me. They think that I probably should be more traditional and sound a certain way. But it’s about what God has his hand on, no man can stop. I’m not trying to say that I’m unstoppable, but the purpose that God has for my life is unstoppable. I’m just trying to encourage people to have that same boldness for the purpose that they have or at least find a purpose.
How did the album’s first single, “Won’t He Do It,” come about, and why did you decide to make it the lead single on the album?
“Won’t He Do It” actually came from me doing “Greenleaf,” the television show. They asked for me to be a part of their soundtrack, so I went into the studio and they played me the song. When I heard it, I knew straight out [of] the gate that it was a great song.
It was written and produced by Makeba Riddick-Woods. We did it for the TV show, and I got to be on an episode in Season 2. Just by the response on set, a lot of people thought that it was such a great song. However, I never thought about the song going past “Greenleaf,” but my label loved the song and decided to put it out as a single.
I wasn’t really conscious about it. Listening to it in the studio, it definitely related to my life. That’s why Makeba [and I] worked together again while I was recording my album. We worked on the title track “Unstoppable.” For me, it felt authentic and not a cover song. I never thought about it going any further than the soundtrack for “Greenleaf,” but God has his plan and amen.
Now that the album is complete, which song off Unstoppable is your favorite?
Y’all can’t ask me that. I worked really hard on all of the songs. Of course, I have a few favorites. I wrote “You Still Love Me” all by myself. I co-wrote on a few others, but this song is a favorite for me. “Down Goes Rome” is also a favorite, and “Bless Up” is a fan favorite.
Can you tell us what the next single will be?
Honestly, I don’t know. We thought maybe “Unstoppable,” but I think that people love “Bless Up.” Of course, I decide with the label, but I feel like sometimes when we plan to put something out, the fans will choose what they like. It might be “Unstoppable” or “Bless Up. Maybe both.
What made you ultimately decide to become a gospel singer?
I’m all about purpose and allowing God to lead and direct my life. I feel like I came to that place at a very young age because it was clear that God was going to use me. It really wasn’t my decision. I don’t feel like I decided to be here, even though I had to choose the path that God had for me. That’s all I did was follow the path for my life, and I’m here. This is just the purpose that God has for my life, so it’s not about me loving gospel.
What are some of the things that you’re doing outside of music?
We got acting. I already did “Greenleaf,” and I’m going to be on the show’s third season. Right now music is pretty high on the totem pole. Other than that, I love vacationing when I can, and I love traveling. I also love food.
You just got off of the Summer Lights Tour. Do you have any plans to do more touring?
We have a tour coming up with Israel Houghton at the end of September. We’re still working on all of the cities and the dates, but people can keep looking out for that. We’re going to release all of that information soon. That tour is actually a little longer than the Summer Lights Tour. However, I’m hoping for an Unstoppable tour or a “Won’t He Do It” tour. I feel like people really want it.
What did you learn from being on “The Voice?”
I always say that “The Voice” prepared me for this moment. I had to learn how to do interviews and deal with a lot of pressure. It’s crazy how God orchestrates your life and prepares you. He prepared me, and I was able to step into the industry 100 percent prepared.
I knew what I wanted to do, and “The Voice” helped me figure out who I was as an artist. On the show, I was able to perform so many types of music and genres, but I was still also able to stay true to my faith. I didn’t feel like I had to openly say that I’m a Christian, but people knew. Stepping out, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my music whether I was signed to a gospel label or not. I wanted to make music that’s related to everybody and still has a strong message. “The Voice” definitely allowed me to be comfortable with that.
What do you pray for in your daily prayers?
I pray for wisdom. Wisdom over everything. I pray for God to lead and direct my life as he has already. In different seasons of your life you’ll pray for different things, but right now I pray for maintaining. I don’t want to get caught up in everything, knowing that I have to focus on the fact that I’m here to fulfill a purpose.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
I don’t think too far ahead. Hopefully, I’m still doing what God wants me to do. I have personal goals. I want to own a Chik-fil-A. I want to have a few franchises. Hopefully, more albums that go No. 1 and get some Grammys. I just want to be successful in what I’m doing and continue to show people that if you glorify God through your life, he can use you for a greater purpose.
What’s a piece of advice that you would tell the young girls who look up to you?
I feel like everything is about purpose, and the most important thing is establishing a relationship with God. You build that relationship with God for yourself, and you’ll clearly know exactly what he has for your life. It doesn’t matter what you want to do. Whatever your passion is, once you build that relationship with him, you’ll be doing what he wants you to do, and you’ll be successful one day.