To watch Contemporary Christian Gospel singer/songwriter Latice Crawford make second runner-up on BET’s Sunday Best or in the video of her 2014 major label hit “There,” one sees a confident and stunning young woman with thin model poise and short-cropped hair, from whom a soul-stirring voice is shared. A cadre of fans and followers would come to know that the power in the Bronx, New York-native’s voice and her unique approach to singing stem from Latice often not having a band to support her so she had to carry the full intent of the songs herself. To the power of her testimony and especially the songs she composed herself; those reside within a life story of struggles and triumphs, and a burning desire to share the extent of both in her lyrics.
Thus the thrust of Latice’s stunning 2016 sophomore recording: the five-song EP, Diary of a Church Girl, released via an exclusive licensing partnership with EchoPark ARTS Entertainment and distributed by Caroline Distribution, the Independent Services division of Capitol Music Group (CMG). Self-penned and nakedly autobiographical, the project resonates with authenticity because Latice’s goal is to connect to listeners in personal sometimes painful ways that transcend traditional gospel song storylines.
“Writing has always been my passion,” Latice states. “I was never planning to be upfront. I was even told, ‘The money is in the writing, stay in the background and get the coins!’ But I come from a family of musicians. My grandmother, the late Glorya Dove was an opera singer who insisted her children and grandchildren sing, too. When we all sang together, we were well-known locally as The Singing Doves. My family also included highly sought-after singer/musicians Ruth Schofield and Derrick Schofield. Growing up Apostolic as the middle sister of three in the Holy Tabernacle and Morning Star churches where my father, Arnett Crawford, was an elder in both, I graduated from the children’s and youth choirs to become a soloist and praise and worship leader, which in turn led to recording sessions. It was my boss at the Police Athletic League where I worked for 14 years that told me, ‘If you don’t try out for ‘Sunday Best,’ you’re fired!’ I wrote all the songs on my first CD (Latice Crawford—
RCA Inspirational—2014), but they weren’t saying what I wanted to say. Everybody knew ‘God is good,’ ‘Jesus is coming back’ and ‘He can save you.’ I wanted to write about things that happen to church people that church people never talk about.”
“Diary of a Church Girl are songs from my life and relationships—the good and the bad: an emotional journey through the eyes of a human being who happens to be a Christian.” “Author,” the EP’s sweetly orchestrated and lyrically fortifying first single, speaks to the central theme of allowing God to work through you in your darkest hour. “Being faithful to what my parents always taught me about God being The Supplier and The Deliverer, I was always a ‘silent sufferer,’” Latice shares. “There was a time I was eating out of the garbage and nobody knew. When I was going through all that is when I really found out who God is. ‘Author’ started out as me literally having a ‘why me’ conversation with God…like, ‘God, man…seriously!? What’s going on?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about all that—you work on being better. That way when your situation gets better, you are able to see it. You have no idea what I’m working on for you. So prepare yourself by learning more about this music industry so you can better understand what’s coming up next for you.”
“At my lowest point,” Latice continues, “I felt like a piece of paper somebody ripped out of a notebook, crumpled up and threw into the furthest garbage can they could find. But that’s exactly where God needed me to be for him to show me, ‘In your imperfection I’m still here. I’m going to open you back up, smooth you out. You’re going to have some wrinkles but that’s okay because now I’m going to use you. Even when the world crumbles you up, what I wrote on you does not change.’”
Each song on Diary of a Church Girl has a corresponding story that Latice elaborates on when she performs them, in interviews and with people that come to her aching to know what inspired them. “In this day of social media, if people don’t see the person behind the songs—know what you cry about—they don’t want to buy your music,” Latice states.
Breaking down each song, Latice says, “‘Choose Me’ is about the desire to be accepted by other people then realizing the only One you need to be accepted by is God. ‘Look at Yourself Again’ is about me getting the courage to not look at what others say about me, but what God says about me. When I wrote ‘In Love With You,’ I was walking through Hallmark trying to find a card for the person I was dating—someone who wasn’t even faithful or loving me right. I thought I was doing the right thing, but it was out of habit. I turned that thought around into thinking about our relationship with God…how every day you should strive to make that relationship ever-better. ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’ is the finale for all the songs that came before. Your storm is over, now, what are you going to do?”
Latice collaborated on all five songs for Diary of a Church Girl with producer, Bruce Robinson, who worked with her on most of her first CD including the single “There.” From the soulful guitar plea of “Choose Me” to the old school piano nostalgia of “In Love With You” to the feel good sway of “Look At Yourself Again” to the big hand-clappin’ finish of “Whatcha Gonna Do,” the duo shaped specific sounds and vibrations that amplified the arc of each story—none sounding like another. “I have an old soul,” Latice confesses. “I like funk and jazz. Bruce is from down south and we really ‘get’ each other. For every song I write and arrange, the music has to promote the same emotion. From the keys to the instrumentation, the songs ascend or descend the same way as the stories.”
One of the most tremendous personal challenges Latice has faced is an ongoing battle with
Social Anxiety Disorder resulting in debilitating panic attacks she has suffered since childhood. The attacks were so severe that she completed high school through a home school program; too terrified to come out of her house and too ashamed to face her fellow students. The issue followed her into adulthood as a woman, wife, parent and artist, and has become a face forward element of her testimony and music ministry.
“In church, I was told that this thing inside me was ‘the devil’ but it’s not,” Latice insists. “It’s a condition I had to educate myself about so I could be better—for me, my son and my ministry. It’s not about the things from which God delivers you, it’s the things he protects you through to make you grow. Sometimes you need to be in things to become stronger.” In a confessional magazine editorial, Latice additionally shared, “By identifying my condition and talking about it, I gave God the opportunity to show the non-believer—or the person that thinks they have to be perfect before they can come to Him—that God will work with your imperfections and use it to bless other people.”
Latice, whose current church is Grace Memorial Community Outreach where her father pastors and her mother Sharon worships, concludes, “When I recorded Diary of a Church Girl, I had no expectations. I did it for me—to prove that I could share some things that were on my heart. I believe people hear my sincerity and transparency. When it debuted at No. 15, it was the only EP on the Billboard Gospel chart. To see so many people commenting online and that the songs are so relatable is amazing. That showed me it doesn’t take God to come off the mountain to save the universe. It takes us to let Him work through us and our imperfections—and in those imperfections, He is still there for us.”