Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Singer hopes band gets praise from music video

Cable show will air local gospel artist’s first video

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Gospel singer Robert Mercer performs during Sunday morning service at The Crossover Church in Hyattsville.
Beltsville gospel singer Robert Mercer is throwing everything into gaining exposure for his band Heavenly Soundz, including the kitchen sink.

Mercer’s video, ‘‘A Brother’s Worship,” will be featured on the Gospel Music Channel television network from Saturday to Tuesday on the channel’s ‘‘The Kitchen Sink,” which features a Hometown Music Makers segment.

Olivia Sellers, the show’s executive producer, said the show could be seen in Prince George’s County on Comcast Cable channel 189.

Mercer, 36, submitted the video in June 2007 and was informed in January that it would air this month.

‘‘It’s a big accomplishment to have the video aired on the show,” Sellers said. ‘‘A lot of people submit videos to the network, but a relatively small number of those videos will ever make it to the air. About 1,500 to 1,600 are sent every year.”

Mercer has been singing before audiences since he was 4, when his mother urged him to sing at a high school in Jacksonville, Fla.

‘‘My mom noticed I had this talent and she pushed me,” he said. His father was a pastor, so he was exposed to a lot of gospel music.

Mercer attended Hampton University and became head of the gospel choir and vice president of the concert choir there. While at Hampton, Mercer invited Ronald Winans, who is the oldest son of the Winans family, considered to be the first family of gospel, to do a workshop for Hampton’s choir.

‘‘That inspired me to further pursue my goals as a minister of music,” Mercer said. ‘‘Ronald Winans was like a mentor. It was so great because he was already an international artist and that’s where I wanted to go. It was a great learning experience, and he gave me the drive to really excel in my goals.”

Mercer met noted gospel artist Richard Smallwood, who he credits with teaching him to be playful and creative with his music.

‘‘We sing gospel music, but I consider our style to be jazzy, urban worship,” Mercer said. ‘‘We’re not afraid to flow in areas of gospel music that most people would stay away from. We’re not afraid to add rock and blues and jazz to the songs. It makes it more fun and keeps up our energy to reach people of all ages and backgrounds.”

In 2002, Mercer released his first CD, ‘‘Unmerited Favor,” which raised enough money for him to produce the video and release ‘‘A Brother’s Worship,” in January.

Mercer still sings at Crossover Church in Hyattsville, which he attends. He’s optimistic that the CD and music video he sent to the Gospel Music channel will spark good things.

‘‘Being that the channel reaches more than 22 million households, I really believe it’s going to open more doors for me and my band to present our music to more people across the country,” Mercer said.

Other local gospel musicians are excited for him.

Lisa Gillman of Upper Marlboro, who has performed with him, said she was pleased that Mercer’s video would be seen throughout the country.

‘‘It’s not just good for him, but for the people who will be blessed by listening to him,” she said.

E-mail Deborah Stoudt at