No Doubt

by John M. De Marco

Perseverance and belief that God called her to sing paid off for Nancey Jackson, whose debut album with Harmony Records released last fall.

Free (Yes, I’m Free) is receiving play on both gospel and contemporary Christian stations—as well as some general market formats—thanks in part to producer Loris Holland, known for his work with artists such as Mariah Carey, Patti Labelle and Bam Crawford’s Purpose. For Jackson, signing the record deal, sprinkling the contract with tears, and recording the album were the culmination of years of close-calls.

"I’d been disappointed so many times, and been to that point of people saying, ‘We’re going to sign you,’" says Jackson, 29, a resident of Roselle, New Jersey. "Through it all, I said, ‘God, if this was meant to be, then You let it happen.’"

For Jackson, the release of a studio project signals a new step for a career that began at age 6 with the choir at St. John’s M.E.R. Church, where her father has pastored for 40 years. After years of performing solos, the Rev. Milton Biggham discovered Jackson at St. John’s and gave her the opportunity to sing with Bishop Jeff Banks and the Revival Temple Mass Choir, based in Newark, New Jersey. Additional singing opportunities included background vocal work with artists such as Carey, Tramaine Hawkins, Dorothy Norwood, Ashford & Simpson, BeBe Winans, the GMWA National Choir and the GMWA Women of Worship Choir. Jackson also performed live with Carey at the 1994 Grammy Awards and a few other select events.

"It was about 1988 when I really tried and said, ‘I want to do this for a living. I want to sing.’ A couple of years ago, I realized this wasn’t just about music. This is a ministry," Jackson says.

Holland signed Jackson to his production company and brought her to the attention of Raina Bundy, head of Harmony Records. "(Holland) is extraordinary," Jackson says.

"When we started working together, I was so afraid. I thought, ‘This guy’s a genius.’ He made me feel very comfortable; we had a lot of fun. He’s really concerned about how I take care of my gift. I had vocal lessons every day before I recorded. He co-wrote a lot of songs with me and really encouraged me to write."

Jackson says the album displays the versatility of her singing gift while hopefully appealing to a broad audience. "It’s a world message to everyone. I really do want to see gospel and Christian music come together on both sides, so I wanted to do both of those styles of music on my album. And there’s no compromising; the name of Jesus is definitely lifted. There’s no doubt whom I’m singing about."

Reprinted by permission, CCM Magazine.