Photo Courtesy of FDRMX
Smokie Norful took time to speak with FDRMX after performing this past Saturday at the Motown Gospel Revue show hosted by SummerStageNYC. His emotionally-charged performance, featuring songs from his newest album Forever Yours, had the audience dancing and singing along throughout the whole show. We discovered that not only can Smokie sing and play, but he can cook, teach, pastor and more. Read on for the Encyclopedia of Music‘s full interview with Smokie Norful.
FDRMX: I’ve heard you like to cook for your family. Do you guys have a meal you always come back to?
Smokie Norful: Oh I love cooking for my family. I don’t have time any more though. My youngest son, because he didn’t have the benefit of me cooking, he told me one day, “Dad, all you know how to cook is breakfast – what are you doing in the kitchen?”
FDRMX: Do you guys do breakfast for dinner?
SN: We do cereal. Frosted flakes (laughs). Just me and my oldest son mostly. Breakfast is my favorite meal.
FDRMX: Did you guys ever have a flop meal?
SN: I had a flop meal when we first got married. I tried to cook dressing. Corn bread dressing. And I put so much sage in there that it would burn your mouth out. And so that was my first time trying, but of course thereafter, I’m the pro. It just took one time, that’s it.
FDRMX: You’re a history teacher, right? What kind of history?
SN: I was. I was a history teacher. American, World, Civics, I taught a little bit of everything – I floated around the department, but I was a history teacher for seven and a half years.
FDRMX: What made you choose to study that in college?
SN: Because music was so natural and I did it so often, it was so every-day all-day, that I was burnt out and I wanted a change and I like to read so I just shifted… history’s the way to go. And I had the benefit of having history teachers that made it fun, made it enjoyable, they actually made it a story, so it felt like a soap opera or a TV show, versus me actually saying “I gotta read this monotonous, dry book…” So when I was teaching school I used to bring my keyboard into the classroom and when we would do the musical periods, the Renaissance, and go through the classical periods and movements, I would teach history, but I would also sing and play. So they would all be stunned, their mouths on the ground, “Wow our teacher can actually sing for real for real!”
FDRMX: You are kind of a Renaissance man – you’re a pastor, you’re a family man, you did the teaching, you’re a singer, songwriter. How do you keep it all even?
SN: Good teams. You see like this young lady right here and this young lady right here? These are my assistants. They pull, tug, yank, hand me something and say, “Do do this,” they give me a ticket and say, “Fly.” So the only way I’m able to keep the balance and keep things going is that I actually have good teams. Having great people around me is the way that I keep and maintain the flow. The balance also comes because I keep the priorities the priorities. God, family, and everything else. Once I do that, then He honors me, blesses me, and I’m able to enjoy life. Realizing what the real important and valuable things are. That’s how I do it.
FDRMX: You’ve described your music as “urban inspirational.” You inspire thousands of people with your music, so I was wondering where does your inspiration come from?
SN: Well…. I draw it first and foremost from God. From the teachings of his Word. But then I believe that the message of the gospel is universal, that it’s for every single person. So I like to package my music in a different variety of musical stylings, as you saw today, you know we did some reggae, we did some ballads, of course everybody knows me for the ballads, sitting down to the piano, everybody knows me for that, and I don’t want to abandon that but I like to be diverse because I believe that packaging it in different ways allows me to get this message of hope encouragement and empowerment to a lot of different people.
FDRMX: Do you feel like a person has to be religious to understand and appreciate the message in your music?
SN: You know, “religious,” to me, is far overrated. Relational – I think it’s more than having a religion, it’s having a relationship with God. And when you have a relationship with God it causes you to do what he commanded which is to love your neighbor even as you love yourself, and I love people too much to leave them downtrodden, hurting, and I have the capacity to do anything – sing, write, talk, hug em, say hi, encourage em – to uplift them and bring them to a place where they understand what the hope is in life. I definitely believe that relationship is the key to that.
FDRMX: What would you want people who aren’t familiar with your work yet to know?
SN: If they like music they’re gonna love Smokie Norful. That’s number one. And if anybody has anything negative, bad, any other down circumstances, or contrary circumstances to affect their lives, then this music will definitely be the vitamin, the remedy because the message is so powerful I know it will lift them up.