Isaac Carree is best known as one of the front vocalists for one of the most popular contemporary Gospel quartets, Men of Standard. 5 albums in and a greatest hits CD, MOS decided to take an indefinite hiatus and individually pursue outside endeavors.
As Isaac prepares to release his first debut CD “Uncommon Me,” coming this September, I sat down with him to find out exactly why Men of Standard actually took a break, why he and Lowell released CD’s at the same time and what we can expect from “Uncommon Me.”
How did Men of Standard come together?
Well, after singing with John P. Kee, Lowell and I were just trying to find our way from a musical standpoint. I started doing stage plays with Michael Matthews from ’94-’96. In ’96, Lowell and I decided to start Men of Standard. The crazy part was it was only the two of us, so we had to find two more members. I knew Bryan from one of the plays. I knew he had a dope voice, a great personality and he was a preacher. So we recruited Bryan and another friend introduced us to Michael, so that’s how the group started.
Why do you think male groups tend to stay together longer than female groups?
Guys don’t hold on to stuff. Guys aren’t emotional like that. We have issues, we talk about it, we fuss, we may fight, but when it’s over with, it’s over. We are able to separate business from everything else. So with that being said, Men of Standard was able to gel and have a chemistry that allowed us to always be honest and trustworthy. We never let anybody divide the group. We knew people were trying to get Lowell to do a solo album and others were trying to get me to do a solo album outside the group. But we didn’t let those things infiltrate the group. We showed loyalty to each other.
Why did Mike leave the group?
Mike wanted to do some other things. Mike is a writer and he really wanted to do some mainstream stuff. He felt like his time with the group was up. It was funny because we had just gotten out of our deal with Malaco Records and we were about to sign with Sony. We were like, “Are you sure you want to walk away now?” He said he was burned out, so we totally understood. But all of us still talk either everyday or at least once a week.
The money was being split four ways. Were you financially ok?
Interestingly enough, we were making money all those years, and that’s all we did. If you think about it, praise and worship gigs weren’t the jumpoff back then. These days everyone has a church gig now. If you were trying to do music, you didn’t have another outlet if you weren’t doing shows or concerts or if you weren’t writing or producing. God stayed with us! We would record a CD almost every 2 years and after that we would do shows. We would do so many shows in between that money was always coming in. On top of that, back then there was only one of us in the group that was married, which was Bryan. So we didn’t have the large overhead of families. But don’t get it twisted, in the beginning we could take care of our bills, but that was about it!!
How did you guys agree on taking a break from Men of Standard? Was everyone in favor of it?
About two and half years ago we were doing a show in Milwaukee at Bishop Hines’ church. Some things had been tugging on us individually and we hadn’t communicated it to each other because we didn’t want anyone to feel abandoned. Wanting to go in a different direction could take money out of someone else’s mouth. So we all sat down after the conference and laid it all out. Bryan expressed that as a pastor he needed to be at his church on a consistent basis and Lowell and I wanted to do some different things. When you’re doing things collectively God can bless you, but He also has things for you individually. And what happens is you get so comfortable being in a collective situation that you miss out on all of your individual blessings.
So was it your plan to do a solo album?
I never wanted to do a solo album. I was always cool singing background. So we sat down as a group and put together a five to seven year plan. I wanted Low and I to do a duet album, like Dawkins&Dawkins or Mary Mary. But Lowell felt it was our time to do separate projects. So he was really instrumental in pushing me out there!
Why is it that your CD and Lowell’s are being released so close to each other? It could appear to be a little competitive.
The reason we’ve done albums at the same time is because we don’t think it will affect one another. Lowell’s style of singing and music is totally different than mine. He is more of a quartet church dude, who can do contemporary. I am more of a contemporary, urban dude, who can do church. It’s like if J. Moss and Smokie Norful put out an album at the same time, they pretty much wont affect each other in a negative way. So ultimately, if I win, he wins and if he wins, I win, because we’re a team. I know people are going to come out and say well I like Lowell’s better than Ike’s or vice versa, but it’s all to our benefit.
What is your biggest fear as a solo artist?
It’s funny that you asked me that because I know the bible says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” But I really struggle with fear in my life: fear of dying, fear of not accomplishing goals, fear of people not liking my music, etc. I read books about it, I talk to Kirk, talk to different people, different artists and pastors who I trust spiritually to help me through this process. To know it’s me, myself and I when I step on stage puts me in a place where I have to totally lean and depend on God and that’s scary, man. It’s more mental than anything else. The spiritual side of it is that I don’t want to ever walk on stage so confident where I don’t have to lean and depend on God.
When is the album “Uncommon Me” going to be released?
Well, the single, “Redeemed” is on iTunes now. But the full album is coming in September! I worked with some really great producers. I worked with Adonis (Beyoncé, Alicia Keys), Warryn Campbell (Mary Mary), Harold Lilly (Fantasia, Angie Stone) and others! I have a duet with Eric Dawkins from Dawkins and Dawkins that is incredible. And I went back to where I started and did a song with John P. Kee. I’m just excited about the whole album! This album was designed and originated to show people who Isaac Caree really is because you never really get the true essence of a person as long as they’re behind someone else.
I entitled this project “Uncommon Me” because in this journey I found things about myself that I didn’t realize from a musical and personality stand point. I had to see my fears, my insecurities and my shortcomings. I had people fooled like I had it all together, but I didn’t. I grew up in a home without a father, which devastated me. Then I got married at a young age, had two kids and then divorced because I never had a father to show me how to be a good man. Then I got remarried six years ago and I have a wonderful family, but even still, having to blindly walk this road alone, just God and me, is scary. God said,” I don’t want you to be common. I don’t want you to be regular. I don’t want you to just be ordinary, be extraordinary. Get back to who I made you to be and who I made you is the good, the bad, and the ugly”. What we try to do is cover up the bad with the good and make people think that we got it all together, and God’s like, “No, I want to use your ugly too. Your ugly is going to help somebody else come out.” So I entitled the record “Uncommon Me.”
How do you feel about Gospel artists being called “celebrities?”
How can you be a Gospel artist, but be a celebrity? That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I’m not saying you can’t be successful, but success doesn’t equal celebrity. I don’t think the gospel was intended for people to be celebrities and stars. Bill Gates is not a celebrity. He’s successful and rich, but that doesn’t make him a celebrity. Beyoncé is a celebrity. Usher is a celebrity. The genre of music and the lifestyle they’re in can put them in that platform. But we don’t sing about ourselves, we sing about a Higher Power, we sing about Jesus. So they can sing about their cars, their houses, their cribs, their jewelry, their wives, and whatever else. Everything that we sing is about Jesus, so how does that make me a celebrity? I’m glorifying somebody else. So I just don’t get that whole thing. I said that to say, I’m a regular person.
ISAAC’S 10 RANDOM TRUTHS
- 1. Favorite Kirk Franklin song? “Hosanna.”
- 2. Least favorite Men of Standard song? “MOS Praise Party.”
- 3. Smokie Norful or Deitrick Haddon? Deitrick Haddon.
- 4. Bungee jump or skydive? Skydive.
- 5. Favorite R&B female singer? Brandy.
- 6. Most underrated female Gospel singer? Crystal Aikin.
- 7. 112, Dru Hill, Jagged Edge or Boyz II Men? 112.
- 8. Favorite ice cream flavor? Breyers butter pecan
- 9. A song you wish you would have recorded? “Let Go” by DeWayne Woods.
- Take 6, Commissioned, The Winans or Men Standard? Of course Commissioned.