Lisa McClendon: I am an Overcomer
by: Kimi Johnson
Anointed, talented, and determined are just a few words that describe gospel artist Lisa McClendon. An overcomer to say the least, this singer and song writer is definitely true to who she was created to be. Born and raised in Jacksonville, FL, Lisa began singing in the church at the age of 12. Known all over the world for her soulful, anointed tunes, she has proven herself to be more than a conqueror. With five albums under her belt and one in the making, it’s no secret that she has truly connected to her purpose. PDW had the opportunity to sit and chat with Lisa about her career as a gospel artist and how she maintains her relationship with God. During the interview, Lisa shared how she experienced some dark moments in her life and overcame them all through her relationship with God.
Okay PDW readers are you ready? Go get your favorite snack, sit back, relax, and enjoy because this is about to be good!
PDW: Hi Lisa, I am so excited about our interview and I have been looking forward to meeting this talented gospel artist named Lisa McClendon. This issue of Purpose Driven Women will focus on overcoming fear and stepping out on faith. When I read your story, I felt that you could empower Christian women to pursue their dreams. From my research on you, I realized that you are not a woman who will sacrifice your walk with God for fame, money or recognition and I love that about you. You definitely know who you are in God. I know that the pressures of the industry can sometimes be challenging for a gospel artist. So, that brings me to my first question, can you tell the readers of PDW who may not be familiar with you yet, how the Lord called you into the singing or music ministry?
LM: I have always been a writer and a singer so it just made sense. Even if I failed at having a regular conversation, I always succeeded when I wrote. I just knew I was supposed to be in the music industry. You know, like a fish in the water, you are just supposed to be there? I was always surrounded by music so I knew that’s where I was supposed to be. When you are surrounded by certain things it’s almost a clear indication that’s where you are supposed to be.
PDW: Were there any gospel artists that influenced your career?
LM: Earlier I listened to a lot of Cortex music, my dad played in a cortex when I was growing up so I listened to a lot of Willie Mills, Willie Johnson and the Gospel Keynotes, the William Brothers, a lot of that stuff. And I remember the A track, listening to the old Clark Sisters, and Darly Coley. As I got a bit older, Yolanda Adams came on the scene and I remember singing every last song she wrote in church. So I’ve had a lot of influence with gospel music. My biggest influence was in jazz and gospel.
PDW: Sometimes it is easy for us to not go after what God has for us because it causes us to leave our comfort zone. How did you push pass this zone and take a leap of faith?
LM: I just think it’s my personality. I can be stubborn. Sometimes the negative traits in our character can work for our good. I think it’s the fact that I’m stubborn. Because of the things I’ve gone through in life, a part of me is telling me I can’t but I’m going to try it anyway. You’re not going to control me, I am in control. So I think that kinda ties into the scripture that says “All things work together for the good.” It works for my good to be stubborn, to get me to do what I want to do even when it seems like a challenge. I want it, I want it so bad that I’m not going to stop until I get it and I think it just helps me out a lot. (laughing) It’s funny to say but it’s true.
PDW: Whenever you set out on a journey to connect to God’s purpose, sometimes the road has bumps along the way. You often find out who is really for you when God’s purpose for you is not clear to others. Have you experienced this within your career?
LM: Yeah, (laughing) I have. I‘ve had several situations. For example, I’ve had friends that were with me before I was “Lisa McClendon” and then as time went by they seemed to not grow with me or they seemed to be uncomfortable with my success. They were comfortable as long as they were a part of it but when it was time for me to keep going they didn’t know how to wish me well. Then, there were other instances where people came along because I was Lisa McClendon and I genuinely thought they were there for me, they loved me as a person and appreciated what God had called me to do but then I just realized soon that they didn’t and it just reminds me of Jesus. Everybody has a purpose in your life whether their outcome is positive or negative it’s always positive, they have a purpose. They played a part in me being where I am today because for a long time I was bitter and angry with those people in life. I thought how you dare portray/betray me, how dare you not be as good of a friend to me as I was to you. But then I think about the Lisa that I am today, I’m not as naïve, I’m not as “green”. Oh my God, I wanted to love everybody, of course you want to love everybody, but I wanted to let everyone all the way into my life because I just wanted to be connected and I had to learn from those situations and experiences that everybody doesn’t mean you well. You just can’t dive into a relationship. You have to be wise and love everyone. But everybody don’t get the red carpet you know what I’m saying? Everybody don’t get the red carpet into my life. You may get a welcome as a brother and sister in Christ, but you know, everyone don’t get the VIP section to my performance, the performance of my life and sometimes we do that. Just because we are creatures that are made to connect, sometimes we just give people positions in our lives that they not ready to handle. I’ve learned to make boundaries and I didn’t know how to do that before I had my music, so I thank God for them.
PDW: Has there ever been moments in your singing career that challenged your walk with God?
LM: Yeah, I was challenged more so in the place of not trusting God because you get so busy and you don’t think that you’re doing life on your own but you really are. You’re doing it aside from Him until life really taps you on the shoulder and you just lose it. So a season came when I was going into a depot (Not sure what that means) but I didn’t realize it until I was all the way to the bottom. That was the first morning I realized I was dealing with the spirit of depression, which is something that a lot of the women in my family have dealt with. Throughout the history of my family some were on medication and some are still on medication, so I didn’t realize it because you know, you think oh, I’m good. But I didn’t realize I was not good. The industry will keep you busy and if you’re not careful you don’t schedule God and I don’t want to say schedule because I used to schedule God, but if you don’t make God your number one priority for your whole day then you’ll get so busy that you will look up and you will feel really distant.
So when I woke up that morning, I realized I was losing it. I was in a deep, deep hole and I realized I was connected to everything else but God. I had to stop everything and take a step back. For the next 6 months to a year, I was just connecting with God getting up early in the morning just getting my mind right. From that point on, I said I don’t ever want to go back to where I was. Just being distant from God reminds me of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The Bible says that He was sweating drops of blood, blood vessels were actually bursting. He was sweating blood, and He was in anguish about being separated from the Father. One morning, I woke up and said, Oh God, I get it. He never had been separated from God in his life. You know of course for that moment the bible talks about God turning away from him because He had taken on our sins. God can’t look at our sins and so when He had to turn away from Jesus I believe that’s what caused Jesus to break down in the garden because I experienced that. I didn’t sweat blood or drops of blood or whatever the scripture translated but that fear of getting that far from God again when you are so close to Him, it’s a scary thing to not be that close because you realize you can’t live without Him. So now that I understand I cannot live without Him, there is not a reason, there is not an industry that can ever make me want to go back there again.
PDW: I just recently closed the chapter of being a hairstylist and in the salon I was working in your music was heavily played in the rotation of music. That’s when I first heard your song “Pause” on your Reality album, which is one of my favorite songs because it explains how busy and hectic life can get. Sometimes as a woman we play multiple roles which can make us feel we have to everywhere at the same time. I know for you having a demanding schedule, being a mother, a wife, and handling other engagements, how do you handle all of these things without getting overwhelmed?
LM: Absolutely, hands down. I was telling my husband, I said “Look,” because at first he was not used to me not being accessible for so long because I would get up at 5 AM and I would just be before the Lord for like 2 hours. Well now it’s like an hour but it used to be like two hours. At first he was like “I feel like I’m not getting no time in the morning.” And I looked at him and said “Dude, look here, you want me to be in God’s face, you want me to be in God’s face so you can be sane!” So, when my whole family realized how different I had become my daughter said to me one day, “Mom, I’m so proud of you.” And I said “Why?” She said “You changed, a lot.” I said “Really?” She said, “You’re nothing like you used to be.” Because I was a basket case. I was a shattered brain, I was all over the place. I had kids to deal with, I had my step kids at the time so there was a lot of kids in the house and then music. Plus, my husband had a church, there was just so much going on and now I just hold on to that scripture that says when I’m overwhelmed you know the way that I should go. And I got that scripture in my morning time with God and I hold on to that scripture when there’s a lot going on because I can hear his voice, and I believe God is always speaking. Sometimes we just can’t hear Him but He’s always talking so I believe that when you spend that time with God it makes you sensitive to His voice. SO when I have a lot on my plate I can hear Him say, “Okay, stop that, don’t do that right now, this isn’t the season for that. Put that down, okay do that, change that, save that for later.” I can literally hear Him telling me what to do now, what to do later, and what to just get rid of all together. I’m able to maintain balance because I’m connected to His voice but when I’m not connected yeah, I’m overwhelmed.
PDW: After taking a long break from the music industry you released your new album 5 AM. Tell us a little bit about this album and what 5 AM means to you.
LM: 5 AM, that’s actually the album I was writing when I started waking up at 5 AM in the morning. This album took me 3 years to write. I started getting up early in the morning for the sake of sanity and the album is actually called 5 AM The Sound of Waking up to Him and so the album is actually my way of showing the rest of the world what my morning sounded like waking up to Him. There was a time when God was singing to me. Every situation I was dealing with was expressed on that album. The song “You” is about me coming out of depression. I remember God telling me He whose mind is stayed on me would have prefect peace and that’s how the Lord gave me that song. “Fly,” that song indicates that I felt trapped. I felt like I was on the ground with pigeons but I had wings that said that I could do more but I wasn’t doing more. There were just so many songs on that album. “Hold my world,” I felt like my world was falling apart and I remember one morning the Lord said I’m holding your world. I’m taking everything that you feel is broken and I’m using it. I’m putting the pieces together. “Good morning,” that was a song pointing out, the first thing I do is talk to You every single morning so that album is actually me replaying what I was going through and what I was sharing during my devotional time with the lord. It’s my favorite album. It really is.
PDW: What advice would you give to upcoming aspiring gospel artists?
LM: Hmm, I think the greatest advice I could give an inspiring artist would be to trust God. When you don’t trust God you can get frustrated by what everybody else is doing and think that you’re not doing something right. You may think your music doesn’t matter, your voice doesn’t matter. If I’m not on the award shows I don’t matter, if I’m not winning an award I don’t matter. If I’m not being invited to churches I don’t matter. My philosophy to this for every artist is you were a singer before the industry and if you need the industry to validate who you are then you probably shouldn’t be singing. Don’t ever need the industry. You will see for yourself. If you need anybody or any outside thing to validate that you are a singer, then you need to go back and find your passion to really be a singer, because that’s not the passion to be a singer. I always watch those singing shows like the Voice, I love the Voice and American Idol and I always hear them say before they go to the audition, “Oh my God, I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t make it. This is my only opportunity to be a singer.” And I’m thinking, but you’re already singing that’s why you’re here. You mean to tell me you’re going to stop singing if you don’t make it on the show? I understand the opportunity to be in front of more people yeah, but to say out of your mouth you know, “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t get on this show. This is my dream.” What is your dream? Is your dream to be a singer and for the Christian world is your dream to be a vessel? Because you don’t need a stage to be a vessel.
PDW: Do you have any encouraging words you would like to share with the readers of Purpose Driven Women Magazine?
LM: The fact that it’s for women I definitely would like to encourage everyone that is a supporter of this magazine and that read the magazine to practice balance. I have an empowering group for women called briefcase and aprons where I share empowering words to the ladies to remind them of how to balance their life. The most important thing in our lives especially as moms and wives is our family. And if anything else comes before family you are out of order. No matter what you do, you will never have peace. You could be the most successful woman in the world but you will still fail if there is no balance. So I will just always encourage myself. I’m a briefcase and an apron because I work outside the home and in the home and that is sometimes the hardest thing because you have to balance both. You just have to find the balance. We always talk about other things that are an abomination to the Lord but the Bible clearly says that a false balance is an abomination to the Lord. So I just want to encourage the women to just find balance. Write everything down that you’re doing and see what you can continue to do and see what must be eliminated or put off for another time. Find some time to enjoy your life. Right now we’re just running after success but the main part of success is enjoying the earth that God is giving us. That’s what He told Adam and Eve. He created the earth and said now go enjoy it, do it, own it. And what we’re doing is, we’re just running, not even being able to enjoy it so just balance and enjoy life!