International Singer and Gospel powerhouse Anisa Fowler is Trinidadian born, now New York based singer-songwriter who has stepped out of the box of traditional gospel music and creates music from life experiences that we all can relate to. "You Reign" was nominated for the Maranatha Rhema Awards as ‘Best Gospel Praise Song of the Year’ (2021). Along with that nomination, Anisa also received nominations for ‘Female Gospel Artist of the Year’, ‘Outstanding Female Worship Leader’, and ‘Outstanding Motivational Speaker’. Since its release, "Covered" has been rising on the Billboard Gospel charts and has maintained a steady spotting the top 20 category of Billboard’s Gospel Indicator chart since April of 2022.
You have this great new EP that's out but first, I want to go back to your roots. How long have you been singing and have you always had the aspiration to be a professional gospel singer?
For as long as I could talk. I tell this story all the time from my mom's point of view. I grew up in Trinidad, and she would say when she came to pick me up from school—this is like four or five years old, that I would have all the kids in the school teaching them the Sunday school songs and she's like, come on let's go, Sunday school's over. So, I feel like I've been doing this for a long time, singing and teaching. I love music, and I love worship, especially, so I've been inclined to gospel music for as long as I can remember and always wanted to be a singer. I'm not sure that I always wanted to be a soloist, but I know for sure I always wanted to be a singer. As I got older, and really started to tap into the gift that God had placed inside of me, I knew that eventually it was going to be a solo situation.
Being a contemporary gospel artist, have you faced any challenges or obstacles in your career in the music industry?
Absolutely! I think there are a lot of personal challenges. When we talk to all artists, I think whether it's music or just anything at all, there are those personal things because there's so many people that do what you do. There's so many people that are in that same genre, in that same niche and there are a lot of personal challenges overcoming that Spirit of competition, overcoming that spirit of inadequacy, feeling like I'm not good enough or there's so many people doing it better. Those challenges are greater than some of the outside things. I auditioned for The Voice nine times and nine times they told me no. I auditioned for America's Got Talent. I was on that audition train and there were a lot of “no’s” that I heard along the way. A lot of “next time you're not ready yet” and that messes with your mind. It messes with your confidence but I think God has just kept me pushing, kept me going. Finally, I connected with RNU Records and got signed as an indie artist and it's been wonderful.
Based on what you just mentioned, “NO” is a part of the journey. Like you said, it can mess with your confidence. So many different Industries, especially media arts, No’s are just part of the game. It can mess with your confidence and just tremble your spirit. How were you able to handle the “No’s” and what would you tell someone else that's struggling to handle the No’s? How did you overcome the devastation or the hurt that may come with the No?
I think understanding, especially as a Christian, having my roots and foundation in Him. I kind of default to, “Okay, well God, you're allowing this “no” to happen and that means that this is just not where the assignment is. This is just not where I'm supposed to be at this moment. It doesn't change the fact that I'm disappointed, even to the point of crying sometimes or to the point of wanting to give up, but then I remind myself that God is the one that placed this gift inside of me. Wherever He gives us vision, He also gives us provision and it's important to kind of process those no's as well. What do I still need to do to prepare where the deficit is and sometimes there is no deficit but that's just not the avenue that God wants you to go down. I had to kind of just readjust, kind of say, Okay Anisa, maybe this is not where you need to be. You don't need to be auditioning every five seconds. Pause for a minute and let's start creating music. And that's exactly what happened for me.
Sometimes, the “No” is a part of the journey and sometimes it's hard to accept. I'm glad you also mentioned acknowledging, okay I'm disappointed and it is okay to work through it.
You know something else in terms of that “no” that is also an important perspective is when you hear no, sometimes we process no equals never and that's not what it is. No just means not now. No to this moment. No to this opportunity. You never want to shut down to the point that the next opportunity can't meet you. Yes there's something for you to learn in that no so that when the next door opens, you're that much more prepared. You keep pushing. You keep pressing. You keep believing because the gift that's inside of you, God to His word, says that it will make room for you. So you just gotta keep going, you just gotta keep pressing and eventually the right door will open.
One thing I had to realize, too, is that a NO is technically a YES. What's meant for me is meant for me and what’s not is simply not meant for me. I read once where you mentioned: you are not your mistakes. And also that you've experienced some failures and you want to encourage young and old to pick themselves back up and never give up or give in. What have been some of the failures that you've experienced and the lessons that you learned that have given you the tools to inspire others to never give up?
I have really come to accept that the steps that we take in our lives are not always going to be perfect and there are times that there are circumstances that we don't control. And with those, you really cannot take to heart because you really cannot control what other people are doing. In my my case, and in a lot of people's cases where we get tied up is because we did contribute to this particular fall or this mess up so we internalize the guilt and the shame of it. We begin to make those things, those missteps, those mishaps, we begin to make them identity characteristics for us. That's where we go wrong because I slipped and fell doesn't mean that I'm identified by that particular moment or that season in my life. I'm identified by what God says that I am and when we mess up, it's important that we address it but we don't have to stay there. The final destination is still available as long as you are breathing, as long as you're alive, that means that you still have the opportunity to go to your final destination. So if we kind of start to talk differently to ourselves and say: You know what? Not only do I need God to forgive me, but I need me to forgive me. When we forgive ourselves for making mistakes, we don't have to attach those mistakes to ourselves as if it's part of our name. That's not what I'm called, that's what I did. That's not who I am, that's what I experienced. That's not what I'm called to do. You make mistakes and people make you feel like you are completely unusable because of that mistake and that is so far from the truth. Every single person that God ever used in a mighty way, was a total screw-up. If we were perfect and then we also had talent, we would never give God the credit. We would walk into every room like, come on and praise me. God wants us to praise Him and so sometimes we have to have those missteps so that we can keep ourselves humble and His grace can be manifested that the more.
Your new EP, of course, is called “The Next Chapter.” You have experienced a lot and I know that you're a Female Minister of Excellence. Your ministry seems like it also serves and caters to young women. With your music, how do you incorporate the experiences that you've had? As a mentor to others, just by example and experience, how does all that tie together?
I was thinking, God what do I call this EP? I had been in a very, I want to say toxic is maybe too strong of a word, but I'm going to use that word toxic. I was in a really toxic relationship. Back and forth, got married, eventually divorced, trying to rekindle the relationship and doing all of that. I feel like I insisted on being on that particular page of my life and there was a huge shift where that individual all of a sudden got married. It was like, God, what do you mean I'm here praying and waiting and hoping and believing and they got married? I felt in that moment God was like it's time to turn the page. There is a next, there is a new, there is a better, there is a greater chapter and you have been stuck on this page. There's so many people that are stuck on a particular page because you feel like you know it's the right thing. I have three children with this person. God doesn't like divorce I should try to make this work. It's the right thing to do and I'm stuck on this page. Maybe you're going through something, and you're stuck in a business plan, you're stuck in a business deal, you're stuck in a particular location or stuck somewhere and you're thinking it's good, it's right, so I have to stay here but things are not working out. God had to do something crazy and said, listen, turn the page. That's what this next chapter is about. It's about me saying, “God you reign over everything that I'm doing, everything that I've been through, everything that I'm about to go through. You are in charge of my life. You have to be covered. Everything that I've read in your Word, you did it before, you can do it again.” These are all the titles of my songs on the EP. There's nobody like you. I don't have to feel like I'm defined by being a wife or defined by failure, I'm defined by who you say that I am. It's been an awakening kind of a thing for me and I really pray that when people listen to these songs, that they find that awakening moment for them as well and turn the page. It's time for another chapter, a better chapter, your next chapter.
So speaking of the next chapter and what you mentioned, I do want to ask you about self-love. I do feel like self-love is just the ultimate way that we can acknowledge we deserve better or just let go. How has self-love played a role in your life as you have come to a lot of awakenings to get to that next chapter?
You know there's aspects of self-love that are very natural. Like rest— if you love yourself, you need to take a nap. You need to stop, you need to pause, you need to allow your body to recoup. You need to allow that internal healing to happen. Sometimes, I mean we're going through so much and we just stay up thinking about it, dwelling on it and processing what we should have said and how. We really do need to take rest. We also need to be careful of how we speak life and death is in the power of your tongue. Your own tongue. It's really not what other people are saying to us, it's what we are saying to ourselves that kind of creates these walls and restrictions and obstacles because we keep telling ourselves we're not good enough. We're watching all of social media, which is just like everyone's best most perfect moments and then we hold ourselves up to this crazy standard. I think about when once I started really becoming active on social media is when I was like this is this is just foolishness because before you post a picture, how many times do you take the picture and then swipe through 57 different angles of you doing the same pose to pick the most perfect one? Especially for us young people, we got to take breaks from that social media thing and while you're on it really put it into perspective what you just saw is not real.
One last question, so if you had to do a playlist off of the Next Chapter, what three singles would it be? What would be the song off The Next Chapter that will hype you up when you’re ready to get some radical praise on, when you just need something to give you a sense of peace? And lastly, what's the third single that would be the one that means the most to you?
I think “Love Lifted Me” is going to be that the get your praise on single. It's got a little bit of a African fuse, with Michael Jackson fuse, with gospel. It's a super fun song and it really is to remind you that God's love is the thing that will lift you out of anything. Tapping into that because we fail each other all the time but God's love is unconditional and there is just nothing we can do to make him stop loving us. So that's the song that I think when you sing, it gets you hyped. Then for the song that is just you're having a day, you're having a moment, I think “Do It Again” is that song. We have seasons of trauma in our lives and God brought us through every single one of them. And I have to say my absolute, the song that means the most to me and I didn't think it was going to mean the most to me, but it's “Covered.” I released the song November of 2021 and in December is when I got the news of what had completely unraveled in my past relationship and it really sent me into a place of like, oh my God what do I do now? I thought when I released “Covered” that it was for the sickness and the exposure that the world was feeling and what I found out was that “Covered” was for me. God was reminding me that I don't need a covering in a man, He is the one that covers me and because he covers me I can totally be used. I'm totally valuable. I'm not to be discarded because someone discarded me. Doesn't mean that God has discarded me and I think that so many women, especially in the church, because we grow up feeling like the ultimate thing is to be found by a man. To be taught, you know, that you have that rightly responsibility to be that woman of God that's covering your husband and praying for him and leading your family. You can do all of those things still if you've gone through some kind of a trauma and relationship. Going through that, God really used that song and He still is using that song to heal me. I know that He's using it to heal others, so that's the song that means the most to me. ---(C) 2023. S. Armstrong