If you haven’t yet heard the compelling voice of Kim Harley, do yourself a favor and download her single ASAP! Kim Harley is no rookie in gospel music. Her journey began years ago, yet she’s just getting started.  Classically trained with a gospel soul background, Kim has cultivated a distinguished sound like no other. Her dynamic vocals speak for itself. Today we took some time to chat with Kim, as she reveals why she chooses Christ, every single day.

Shenelle Wallace: Congratulations on the release of this project. It’s been climbing the charts and still going. How does it feel?

Kim Harley: Oh my God it’s sort of surreal! This road has been long, it’s been trying, there’s been some ups and downs. But I’m excited and prayerful, as well as grateful.

Shenelle Wallace: Your voice is so unique. It’s powerful and strong, and pretty rare from what we hear today. You’ve even been compared to the great Mahalia Jackson. When did you first realize that you could sing?

Kim Harley: I don’t think I realized it, I think my mom actually realized it, and then she started to cultivate it. So thank God for her! I remember her giving me songs at a young age, in elementary school. My first solo was “That’s What Friends Are For.” I was in the children’s choir, and around the house my mom would have my brothers and I singing in harmony. She loved music, and it was like a rite of passage, like, this is what we do! She was our first choir director and our first vocal coach. She heard the gift and sent me to different people to have them hear me. She wanted to make sure I didn’t have a voice only a mother could love (laughs). But they were like, no, you can do this! I thank God for both my parents who saw their child had a gift, and did all that they could do to make sure that I was going in the right direction.

Shenelle Wallace: A lot of gospel singers grow up in church, and I’ve heard some of them say they did not enjoy that process. Meaning the restrictions, the constant service attendances, but here they are years later, singing gospel music. What was your experience like being raised in a Christian environment? 

Kim Harley: Talk about restrictions! I grew up Pentecostal, I couldn’t wear pants, I couldn’t go to the movies, or wear makeup. I think I saw my first movie at 16. We were in church a lot! They had tent meetings and we had church during the day, in the afternoon, and then they had night service. Around 12 or 13 years old, I became the praise and worship leader at a church in Coney Island. That was the beginning of me really singing in a youth leader position. That church later disseminated and we started going to CCC. I came kicking and screaming like, why are we going to this church? (Laughs) I was dealing with a lot of church hurt at the time, and I actually left the church for a while. My parents were faithfully still going, but I was like, I’m not with that. I would come to the Christmas shows, and things my brothers were involved in but I was over church, the politics, and hypocrisy. During my college days I barely went to church at all. I call it my 7 years of wilderness.  I went through different things. I became a young mother and a single parent during that time. Just working through adulting and finding myself while getting my education. I didn’t come back until I was about 28. But thank God for foundation. I still prayed, but I felt like I didn’t need to be in church every Sunday.

Shenelle Wallace: It’s interesting that the title of your single is I Choose You, hearing all that you went through. In the end, you still chose Christ. Talk a little bit about the internal conflict where you don’t want to do this anymore, but you still find yourself drawn to Jesus.  

Kim Harley: When I wrote this song, I was in a bad place, like, what is happening? What is going on? Those words came forth because it was how I was feeling. But with everything that happened, God was still good. If you put your faith in man and not in God, you’re going to be disappointed. I saw and experienced that. We have to be reminded that God wants our trust in Him. Once I came to that resolve, I said God, if you never do another thing for me again, I will still serve you.

Shenelle Wallace: Choosing to follow Christ sometimes is met with an “It’s a hard road”, or “Take up your cross.” And yes sometimes things do get rough, but what are the benefits of a Christ centered life?

Kim Harley: The confidence in knowing that He is there. The confidence that we win in the end. I’ve been through things where I don’t know how I came through that. God didn’t promise that we wouldn’t go through things. And I know that’s not what people want to hear, or they may not be in the place to receive it. But I am sure that God’s presence is in my life. That is what keeps me. That has definitely been my testimony.

Shenelle Wallace: Choosing God today has been a bit of a controversy, especially with the divide in the church stemming from politics and what appears to be seeing everyone’s true colors. What would you say to those who have the wrong idea of Christ through seeing bad examples of His people?

Kim Harley: I would say to those people to continue to look to the word. Continue to keep your eyes on Christ. They say last year was supposed to be “2020 vision.” Well it has definitely opened our eyes to see a lot of misguided conceptions of people’s true feelings and beliefs of people of other races. I think we expected something else, but we saw so much more. I just say don’t close yourself off. Be open to learning about who God really is.

Shenelle Wallace: You’ve been blessed with this gift. You do praise and worship, I’ve seen you in productions, and you just released this single. What is your why in music ministry?

Kim Harley: My why has never been about wanting to make millions. I mean, those things are wonderful (laughs) you know, the byproducts. But when you think of a gift, a gift you don’t hold to yourself. This gift was given to me. You don’t keep that gift, you share that gift. That’s been my why. Even in teaching [music], people say “don’t give away all your secrets!” But I will always share the best that I can and give my all. I grew up with not having many models to follow with this different sound that I have. When someone mentioned Mahalia Jackson, I had to go and look her up. I would like someone coming after me years from now to have someone else say to them, “You know, you sound like this Kim Harley.” That is my other why. To have another generation of similar voices, being able to have me to listen to and relate to.

Stay up to date with Kim Harley on her website kimharleymusic.com. Purchase her single “I Choose You” on music platforms everywhere. Look out for more music scheduled to be released this May/June.