FIFI FOLSON INTERVIEWS JJ HAIRSTON @ HIS HOME CHURCH, CITY OF PRAISE, MARYLND

Fifi: Welcome to the Fifi Folson Gospel diaries. I am currently at City of Praise and I am here with Onaga hit maker, JJ Hairston.

 

What’s JJ?

 

JJ: I don’t know. My name is James, and I’m the third, so I don’t know why when I was a kid, they started calling me JJ and it stuck.

 

Fifi: Congratulations on the kind of music you do. I mean you are at the forefront of gospel and I can promise you, in African we love you.

 

JJ: And I love Africa

 

Fifi: currently in Ghana, ‘you deserve it’ is dope, we’ve moved to ‘agreed’. We are gradually falling in love with ‘Miracle worker’, Onaga is ………. Of course, ‘Gratitude’ is equally doing awesome. And so 18years in the gospel music industry, has it been more than that?

 

JJ: It’s actually been 20. We recorded our first project in 1999. God is still blessing us and we are just so grateful for what He’s done through us and for us.

 

Fifi: Wow, so 1999 when you started, let me ask you, did you see today?

 

JJ: Oh no, when we recorded our first project, we just wanted to have something to sell on the road. We had some songs that we loved and wanted to expose other people to. So we released it on a record and now, here we are 20years later, giving God glory.

 

Fifi: Congratulations. I want to know how JJ Hairston gets his music; how do you write them?

 

JJ: well, some songs are God inspired – we could just be worshipping. Sometimes I listen to messages and they come. And sometimes they are given to us - shared with us. You know, like ‘Onaga’, the song my brother, Tim Godfrey wrote, I’m so excited about that song. ‘Agreed’ was a song that God gave me just because of Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. And then ‘Miracle Worker’ was written by a young man, Rich Tolbert Jnr who sings with me. So, they come in different ways; David Bloom originally came up with ‘You Deserve it’ and then gave it to us and we made some changes and added some stuff to it. So, all different ways they come and we are grateful for them.

 

Fifi: So, I wanna go back to your childhood. People would ask, what do you wanna be in future? I wanna be a Doctor, I wanna be a Lawyer……. Did you wanted to be a musician?

 

JJ: I was actually a computer programmer.

 

Fifi: Oh really?

 

JJ: I went to school for Management Information Systems. My first 10years, whilst we were out singing, I was working at General Electric.

 

Fifi: Really?

 

JJ: Yeah, and I would take my laptop on the road and work while we were singing, and one day it just became too much. God had started to bless our music ministry so much that, doing both was not possible. But we retired. I wasn’t fired, I didn’t quit. I believe in finishing things the right way, and He allowed us to do that, and now this is what we’re doing?

 

Fifi: Is music in your family?

 

JJ: yes, my mother was the minister of music at my church in Brooklyn, New York, where we are originally from – my grandfather was the Pastor. And then my wife, her mum and dad are Pastors, but they are also music ministers. And then my father-in-law, Bishop J. C. White had the Institutional Radio Choir that released music for years.

 

Fifi: Oh right, that’s your father in-law?

 

JJ: yeah, so we had no choice.

 

Fifi: I see. Was it difficult for you growing up? I guess you grew up in a Christian home, is that right? How was life growing up?

 

JJ: It was good. It’s just that I had come to depend on my family’s relationship with God, not my personal relationship with Him. So once we started to become adults, we had to rediscover what our relationship with God really meant – not what was passed down to us, but our personal relationship/ personal discovery of who God is. And that happened in our early 20s. Now I have a true testimony of who God can be and what He can do in your life; so He truly is a miracle worker.

 

Fifi: I wanna talk about Youthful Praise, is that your own idea?

 

JJ: No, youthful praise was a church choir. Yeah, they were the church choir of my father in- law’s church, Bishop J. C. White. They were the teen choir of the church, and I joined the choir because there was a young lady I wanted to see…… I married her. Yeah, Trina Hairston, we’ve been married 25years.

 

Fifi: Really, Congratulations. Oh wow.

 

JJ: Yeah, so that’s why I came to the choir. Now who would have thought that our relationship would start a relationship with the choir and everything we’ve done since. I give all the glory to God, but I give her some too.

 

Fifi: I know right. What brought you to prominence?

 

JJ: In 2005, we were singing choir music, that’s what I heard. Then God changed what I heard. Instead of us releasing choir music, we started to release worship music. And that was the record called ‘Live - The praise, The worship’ and on that cd, we have ‘Incredible God, Incredible Praise’.

 

Fifi: One of my favourite

 

JJ: And that song introduced us to a whole different audience. Not only did we start being recognized in the States, but abroad and all over the world. So I think that song started to open us up to different places, and then we continued with worship and now it’s grown so much.

 

Fifi: In 25years, which one of the songs would you say is your favourite.

 

JJ: I would have to say ‘Lord You’re Mighty’ is my favourite. It’s a song you can sing in any atmosphere. It could be a really exciting late-night atmosphere and it could go great. It could also be intimate worship and we could still sing it different style but the same song.

Fifi: Welcome to the Fifi Folson Gospel diaries. I am currently at City of Praise and I am here with Onaga hit maker, JJ Hairston.

 

What’s JJ?

 

JJ: I don’t know. My name is James, and I’m the third, so I don’t know why when I was a kid, they started calling me JJ and it stuck.

 

Fifi: Congratulations on the kind of music you do. I mean you are at the forefront of gospel and I can promise you, in African we love you.

 

JJ: And I love Africa

 

Fifi: currently in Ghana, ‘you deserve it’ is dope, we’ve moved to ‘agreed’. We are gradually falling in love with ‘Miracle worker’, Onaga is ………. Of course, ‘Gratitude’ is equally doing awesome. And so 18years in the gospel music industry, has it been more than that?

 

JJ: It’s actually been 20. We recorded our first project in 1999. God is still blessing us and we are just so grateful for what He’s done through us and for us.

 

Fifi: Wow, so 1999 when you started, let me ask you, did you see today?

 

JJ: Oh no, when we recorded our first project, we just wanted to have something to sell on the road. We had some songs that we loved and wanted to expose other people to. So we released it on a record and now, here we are 20years later, giving God glory.

 

Fifi: Congratulations. I want to know how JJ Hairston gets his music; how do you write them?

 

JJ: well, some songs are God inspired – we could just be worshipping. Sometimes I listen to messages and they come. And sometimes they are given to us - shared with us. You know, like ‘Onaga’, the song my brother, Tim Godfrey wrote, I’m so excited about that song. ‘Agreed’ was a song that God gave me just because of Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. And then ‘Miracle Worker’ was written by a young man, Rich Tolbert Jnr who sings with me. So, they come in different ways; David Bloom originally came up with ‘You Deserve it’ and then gave it to us and we made some changes and added some stuff to it. So, all different ways they come and we are grateful for them.

 

Fifi: So, I wanna go back to your childhood. People would ask, what do you wanna be in future? I wanna be a Doctor, I wanna be a Lawyer……. Did you wanted to be a musician?

 

JJ: I was actually a computer programmer.

 

Fifi: Oh really?

 

JJ: I went to school for Management Information Systems. My first 10years, whilst we were out singing, I was working at General Electric.

 

Fifi: Really?

 

JJ: Yeah, and I would take my laptop on the road and work while we were singing, and one day it just became too much. God had started to bless our music ministry so much that, doing both was not possible. But we retired. I wasn’t fired, I didn’t quit. I believe in finishing things the right way, and He allowed us to do that, and now this is what we’re doing?

 

Fifi: Is music in your family?

 

JJ: yes, my mother was the minister of music at my church in Brooklyn, New York, where we are originally from – my grandfather was the Pastor. And then my wife, her mum and dad are Pastors, but they are also music ministers. And then my father-in-law, Bishop J. C. White had the Institutional Radio Choir that released music for years.

 

Fifi: Oh right, that’s your father in-law?

 

JJ: yeah, so we had no choice.

 

Fifi: I see. Was it difficult for you growing up? I guess you grew up in a Christian home, is that right? How was life growing up?

 

JJ: It was good. It’s just that I had come to depend on my family’s relationship with God, not my personal relationship with Him. So once we started to become adults, we had to rediscover what our relationship with God really meant – not what was passed down to us, but our personal relationship/ personal discovery of who God is. And that happened in our early 20s. Now I have a true testimony of who God can be and what He can do in your life; so He truly is a miracle worker.

 

Fifi: I wanna talk about Youthful Praise, is that your own idea?

 

JJ: No, youthful praise was a church choir. Yeah, they were the church choir of my father in- law’s church, Bishop J. C. White. They were the teen choir of the church, and I joined the choir because there was a young lady I wanted to see…… I married her. Yeah, Trina Hairston, we’ve been married 25years.

 

Fifi: Really, Congratulations. Oh wow.

 

JJ: Yeah, so that’s why I came to the choir. Now who would have thought that our relationship would start a relationship with the choir and everything we’ve done since. I give all the glory to God, but I give her some too.

 

Fifi: I know right. What brought you to prominence?

 

JJ: In 2005, we were singing choir music, that’s what I heard. Then God changed what I heard. Instead of us releasing choir music, we started to release worship music. And that was the record called ‘Live - The praise, The worship’ and on that cd, we have ‘Incredible God, Incredible Praise’.

 

Fifi: One of my favourite

 

JJ: And that song introduced us to a whole different audience. Not only did we start being recognized in the States, but abroad and all over the world. So I think that song started to open us up to different places, and then we continued with worship and now it’s grown so much.

 

Fifi: In 25years, which one of the songs would you say is your favourite.

 

JJ: I would have to say ‘Lord You’re Mighty’ is my favourite. It’s a song you can sing in any atmosphere. It could be a really exciting late-night atmosphere and it could go great. It could also be intimate worship and we could still sing it different style but the same song.

Fifi: How does this song sound like?

 

JJ: Singing………………. Yeah that’s my song. God gave me that in the middle of a worship experience.

 

Fifi: You know, listening to you, I just keep thinking, God has a way of blessing His people. He just gives it to you in the cause of duty.

 

How does it feel to be a Music Pastor in your church?

 

JJ: It’s one of my favorite assignments, because you go to different places and you sing and you don’t have the chance to see the growth of the people that you’re ministering to. Here, we serve with the choir, we serve with the church; we are actually able to see the growth of the music ministers and the people grow as leaders. It’s been really awesome for me to see some of the people who were here when we first started, and what they have grown into now. 

 

And I have to say, God used us to make that happen, so that’s an awesome thing for me.

 

Fifi: Do you remember any testimony, maybe the first that comes to mind of your ministration or one of your songs?

 

JJ: there’s been so many. There’s a song we recorded called, ‘After This’.

 

Fifi: I love that song

 

JJ: Yeah, that became like the cancer survival song. So many people would email me or send me messages on Facebook saying, you know I played your song ‘After This’ while going through Chemo therapy and stuff like that. So many testimonies like that for that song specifically. So that’s one of the songs that probably got me through and got other people through.

 

Fifi: Who are those you would say have inspired you in your gospel music journey?

 

JJ: Umm, definitely Pastor Donnie McClurkin, good friend of ours- he’s really mentored us. Donald Lawrence, Tye Tribbet and Israel Houghton, those people are all good friend of ours. And of course, my brother Travis Green. Those people really helped me to grow when I was trying to find my voice and find my way in the music industry.

 

Fifi: How did you become born again?

 

JJ: It’s not about emotion. It’s about decision and communication. God says if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved. So many people think that you have to be emotional and jump up and roll in order to be saved. No, God says that you have to believe and speak, and so I believe that.

 

Fifi: So you believe that, right? So, at what point in your life did you give your heart to Jesus, or you’ve been like that since childhood?

 

JJ: No, umm 16 …. I made my confession, but at 22, I changed my direction.

 

Fifi: Can you explain that?

 

JJ: Uuh, I believed with my heart and confessed with my mouth that God raised Christ Jesus from the dead at 16, but at 22, I changed my life style. It wasn’t just about my confession, but my decision to live the way God wanted me to live.  

 

Fifi: Fifi Folson Gospel Diaries here, I am honoured to be here with JJ Hairston, and we are trusting God we can bring him to Ghana. Ghana, are we ready for JJ? Why not, He’s trending, we love his music.

 

Now, JJ, before I go, what’s your favourite scripture in the Bible?

 

JJ: Romans 8: 28 says all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. I believe we are called, and if you love Him, you know, no matter whatever you go through, it’s all working together for your good.

 

Fifi: hmm, I see. What’s your favourite food?

 

JJ: Buffalo wings

Fifi: You know how to prepare it?

 

JJ: No, I can’t cook anything. My wife does the cooking

 

Fifi: How much does your wife mean to you in your ministry?

 

JJ: Uhh everything. Like I said, I came to this place because of her ……… uhh, my life changed because of her. She’s a partner for me in all things….. we ran our business together, we ran ministry together, she’s everything to me.

 

Fifi: What gets you angry?

 

JJ: What gets me angry? I don’t get angry

 

Fifi: Oh you don’t?

 

JJ: No, our house is a very peaceful and stress-free house, so we just don’t get angry.

 

Fifi: Outside your house?

 

JJ: Outside my house? I minister and I get back home. That’s my life.   

 

Fifi: You’re always happy.

Lately, you’ve crossed over from America to Africa. Although you are mostly in Nigeria. Let’s talk about this relationship very quickly.  

 

JJ: Africa and Nigeria’s been so good to me. They’ve received our ministry and I just love the passion for worship there - it’s just a passion to give God glory through all things. And what I love is, you can see people who are well-off and you can see people who are not well- off and they worship together and give God the glory together. They are not separated by class when it comes to worship and I love that about Africa.

 

Fifi: Really, have you been anywhere else apart from Nigeria?

 

JJ: I’ve been to South Africa – I’ve been to Cape Town. I passed through Johannesburg, but we’ve ministered in Cape Town.

 

Fifi: Anybody you thinking of doing a song with in Africa, apart from Tim Godfrey?

 

JJ: Mercy Chinwo, Tim Godfrey, Travis Green, Tod Dulaney, Darrel Walls from the Walls group, Benita Jones, Timothy Reddick, a whole bunch of people, who just came together and worshipped with us.

 

Fifi: Oh really, what will you call that project?

 

JJ: It’s called Miracle Worker.

 

Fifi: Well, it’s been an honour speaking with you. Thank you for coming on the Fifi Folson Gospel Diaries. Before i go, I believe that people are watching and may be inspired by you, and would want to get connected to the Jesus you have. Is it ok to just do a quick altar call, just lead them to give their hearts to Jesus?

 

JJ: Everybody out there, I don’t care what’s facing you, there is nothing you’re facing that’s greater than God. The Bible says, greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. If you don’t have Him in you, you can have Him right now. The Bible is very clear, it’s not an emotional decision. It’s a spiritual decision and it comes through your confession.

 

So you can say right now, God I believe that your son Jesus was raised up from the dead for me. He died for my sins, and right now, I make Him my Lord. If you believe that, you are now saved. I don’t care what the world says, I don’t care what the enemy says, you are saved from sin. Turn away from what held you, turn away from the things that try to bind you and draw closer to God. If you believe it, I guarantee your life has changed.

 

Fifi: Awesome. Anybody wants to find you, invite you, where can they do that?

 

JJ: It’s really just me, @ JJhairston on Instagram. We also have a website – booking@JJhairston is the email address, the website is www.jjhairston.com. Hit me up, I’d like to hear from you.

 

Fifi: God bless you for being faithful to the call all these years, and I’m asking God’s grace to see you through every life’s race with an extra pace no enemy can chase, amen. Thank you very much, God bless you.

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