An interview with gospel artist Anita Jarrell-Robertson
About 17 years ago, music executive Vivian Scott Chew told me in a telephone interview to be on the lookout for a gifted singer who very few people had heard of but one who was about to take the world by storm with her music. The songstress Chew was referring to was R&B sensation and acclaimed actress Jill Scott.
It was around 1998 when Chew predicted how big Scott would get. And in 2000, Scott’s debut album — Who is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 — was released. That album made it to the Top 20 of the Billboard albums chart. Scott, also a songwriter, had earned three Grammy nominations for the project, which included the hit “Gettin’ in the Way.”
Now, nearly 20 years after Chew — who has long provided direction and musical support for new and emerging artists — spoke of Scott’s imminent rise from obscurity to stardom, there is another gifted singer who is on the verge of an accomplishment that’s reminiscent of Scott’s dynamic ascension to prominence in the entertainment industry.
Her name? Anita Jarrell-Robertson. And she has a voice and a stage presence that command attention. Jarrell-Robertson in July of 2014 released her contemporary gospel album “God is There,” a CD filled with tracks that minister to the core of people’s hearts. The title track — “God is There” — speaks directly to the listener whose life has been thrown into a tailspin by one personal calamity after another.
On that track, Jarrell-Robertson shares that the Lord is always present, especially in times when He seems most distant.
“The song, ‘God is There,’ was written during a very tumultuous time in our lives (my husband and my children). At that time we were fighting cancer with my daughter, Jessica. She was only about a year old and she had relapsed with leukemia for the second time, and her doctor had informed us that she probably would not make it,” Jarrell-Robertson said.
“So, we were facing a lot, we were facing her (conceivably) passing. She was our first child, we already had a second child with a third one on the way. And we were going through tough times in our marriage because of all the stress,” Jarrell-Robertson said. “We had issues with outside family members and friends with their opinions and their judgments, and we just felt alone.
“We actually had a pastor at that time to tell us that our daughter was going to die, and that we needed to let her go because she was going to die and that’s what (he said) God had told him,” recalls Jarrell-Robertson, whose family moved to Carrollton, Texas, from Baton Rouge, La. “We were told a lot of things during that season but when all that stuff was happening, it was like we were in a whirlwind and I was like, ‘Where are You? What’s going on?’ I remember being in the hospital room by myself one day with my daughter, and I looked around and I looked up and asked, ‘Where are You?’ And He answered me and He said, ‘I am there.’ ”
God’s response, Jarrell-Robertson admits, didn’t exactly soothe the pain she was feeling as her child faced such a life-threatening disease.
Jarrell-Robertson couldn’t understand how she could be serving God as passionately as she was at that time and, yet, sill be faced with such a harsh reality.
“I just didn’t understand,” states Jarrell-Robertson, who said her experience caused her to feel somewhat like Job, whose family was hit with disaster that claimed the lives of his 10 children. “And so the song actually came about because God gave me the song. The whole song was written like a conversation.”
From her dialogue with the Lord, Jarrell-Robertson said she learned that trusting God and walking by faith don’t come without trials from time to time. She learned that sometimes people go through difficult times as preparation for the places God is sending them in some cases and so that they could have testimonies to help edify other people in other cases. Jarrell-Robertson and her husband, Jesse, now share the profound testimony of their daughter being cancer-free.
The 12-track album has so many songs on it that are more than capable of capturing and suspending the attention of listeners. One such track is “Even Me,” which is perhaps Jarrell-Robertson’s most widely recognized song.
“Even Me” sends the message that regardless of how unworthy of God’s grace and mercy a person may feel he is, the Lord’s love is strong enough to cover him.
“I came to this realization that I can come to the cross even with this, in whatever mess that I’m in, I can still come to the cross with it,” said Jarrell-Robertson, who, with her husband, started Harvest Music, a record label for independent Gospel artists. “Basically, God was not surprised about the condition of my heart. I was, but He wasn’t. His blood was powerful enough to save and deliver ‘even me.’ ”
The song “God is There” earned Jarrell-Robertson the top 2014 Chosen Voice Awards honor for “Best Contemporary Song.”
Jarrell-Robertson’s music, which has crossover appeal, can be purchased on her official website, http://www.anitaworships.com. Other places it can be found include: Pandora, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and iHeart Radio.
By Donald Lee
Donald Lee is founder-pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center of Dallas. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.