MINT HILL – Flying solo wasn’t something Arnetta Murrill-Crooms ever dreamed of doing, but the Mint Hill resident says God had other plans.
Murrill-Crooms hails from a family that’s always been very involved in both music and church. Her father was a minister and her mother and five brothers all sang and played instruments. So entering the gospel music scene was only natural, she said.
Murrill-Crooms traveled with renowned gospel singer Donald Lawrence for more than a decade, performing as a member of The Tri-City Singers – a group of singers from Charlotte, Gastonia and Spartanburg, S.C., who perform with Lawrence as an associated act.
Murrill-Crooms also recorded an album with her brothers under the group name “The Murrills” in the mid-2000s. The album, “Family Prayer,” received a Grammy Award nomination and three Stellar Award nominations.
But a solo career was never something Murrill-Crooms intended to pursue.
“I’m very family-oriented. I love being with my family and never wanted to be alone,” she said. “… But there comes a time when you have to spread your wings. You have to be obedient to the call, which is what I felt I experienced – a call to stand alone.”
Murrill-Crooms reached a crossroads in her life about two years ago where she began thinking about what God wanted her to do with her future. Experiencing “empty nest syndrome” after her three children went off to college, Murrill-Crooms began taking a “very close inventory” of her life.
“Everything had come to a pause, and I just really felt like I was done,” she said. “There was nothing going on, so I began … to question, ‘What is my purpose, and am I walking in that purpose?’”
Murrill-Crooms and her husband, Oliver Crooms, who also is her manager, have three children – two sons, Brandon and Ollie, and one daughter, Ashia. Brandon is currently in graduate school in Pennsylvania studying medical science, and Ashia is in law school. Ollie has a music degree and recently launched his own record label, On The Beat Entertainment.
As Murrill-Crooms accepted the call to begin a solo career, doors began opening, and she realized Ollie could help jumpstart her career. She began working with Ollie on her album, and the two served as the album’s executive producers.
Murrill-Crooms wrote five out of the album’s nine songs and worked with three different producers: Eric Reed and Grammy winner Cedric Thompson, of Charlotte, and Carnell Murrell, of Detroit. She also recruited a group of musicians through connections she made as a member of The Tri-City Singers. The entire project took about a year and a half to complete.
Murrill-Crooms decided to self-title her album, as she says the songs are a reflection of her own personal journey. The album will be released on Oct. 15, and listeners can purchase the album via iTunes, Amazon.com or CDBaby.com. Physical and digital copies are available.
Two singles from the album – “Try it Again” and “I Am God” – have already been released. Murrill-Crooms says the two songs are two of her favorites from the album and reflect her own personal journey.
“I Am God” is a newly recorded version of a song that’s been special to Murrill-Crooms for years, as it has reminded her that “the Almighty is able to help us do more than we think.” The other single, “Try it Again,” is a new song Murrill-Crooms wrote about her own journey and feels others can relate to, as well.
“‘Try it Again’ is basically letting everybody know that it’s not too late to accomplish everything they want to in life. They can go after their dreams,” she said, adding the scenarios depicted in the recently filmed music video for the song reflect that theme.
Murrill-Crooms also drew upon others’ journeys when writing songs and recording her album. Much of her inspiration came from her role as a certified life coach, in which she uses spiritual principles to guide others through difficult times.
“I began to see God through my life coaching experience and said, ‘Well, I can use the knowledge I’ve learned and scripture and help somebody out of their despair,’” she said.
In the coming weeks and months, Murrill-Crooms plans to travel to various venues in Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Virginia for performances and conferences to promote her album. Her team also plans to continue promoting the album’s singles, as well.
Murrill-Crooms also will host an album release party on Oct. 15, a Tuesday, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Label, 900 N.C. Music Factory Blvd., suite B6, in Charlotte. Rather than charge for tickets, Murrill-Crooms is inviting guests to attend for free and instead donate the money they would have spent on tickets to two charities: Amped-4-a-Cure and the Ausie Rivens Scholarship Foundation.
When considering the future, Murrill-Crooms is most excited about the potential the album has to minister to people and change lives.
“God gets the glory through it. God will get the glory through the messages because it will be His word, but my lyrics will be a place where people can find themselves and relate to it,” she said.
For ticket information regarding the album release party, email oliver@OnTheBeatEntertainment.com. Find more about Murrill-Crooms on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ArnettaMurrillCrooms.