Grammy-winner Kirk Franklin ‘very much connected to’ Fort Worth. Here’s what he has to say

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Gospel superstar Kirk Franklin is bringing joyful noise to North Texas this month.

Franklin, 54, was born in Fort Worth and raised by a great-aunt who took him to church every Sunday. It was during these repeated visits that Franklin’s musical talent started to show.

At 11 years old, Franklin was appointed choir director at Fort Worth’s New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church. Franklin was paid $25 a week for the job, which he describes as “major money” at the time.

“I just remember being enamored and just overwhelmed by those experiences,” Franklin said about his time at the church.

With his early start, Franklin pursued music as a career.

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In 1993, Franklin released his first ever album as part of the group, Kirk Franklin and The Family. Franklin continued working with various music groups in the 1990s before going solo in 2001.

By 2002, Franklin released his debut solo album titled “The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin” to much acclaim. Over the next two decades since, Franklin released several albums including his latest, “Father’s Day,” coming last year.

In total, Franklin has taken home 20 Grammy Awards in his career.

Ahead of his “Exodus Music and Arts Festival” in Irving from May 25-26, Franklin spoke to the Star-Telegram about his career and the upcoming event. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Star-Telegram: I was speaking with Rev. Kyev Tatum Sr. last year after you won three Grammy’s. He was telling me that you started playing piano at 4 years old and led the church choir by the time you were 11. What do you remember from those days of being at New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church?

Kirk Franklin: Well, I just always loved music. I always love doing what I did in front of people and feeling that connection. Even though it was gospel, making people smile and kinda laugh and dance and enjoy themselves. I’ve always kinda had that on me. I just remember having a chance to do that. Then what I also remember about the church is that it had a robust youth community. It was often the first time I was around kids that were my age or older than me a little bit. I was able to kind of tap into this whole new ecosystem of youth and church that I hadn’t been close to before. That was fun as well.

But at the same time, it was a job. I was getting paid $25 a week, which was major money. I just remember being enamored and just overwhelmed by those experiences

ST: The reverend also said the church renamed their sanctuary after you as the “Kirk D. Franklin Chapel.” Speaking of Fort Worth, how often do you come back here?

KF: I’m in Fort Worth all the time. It’s very therapeutic for me to go. These are things that are very much a part of my structure, part of my mental and emotional health process. I’m here in Riverside two to three times a week. We just did a major photo shoot down by the Trinity River just 48 hours ago. I am very much connected to where I come from. It’s very much a need.

ST: I wanted to get your thoughts on your journey as a musician. Your first album “Kirk Franklin and the Family” came out in 1993 and you released your latest album “Father’s Day” last year, where you found out the identity of your biological father. It seemed almost like the culmination of your 30-year journey as a musician. As far as the next 30 years go, where do you see yourself going musically? What gets you excited about making music?

KF: I think that music is an ever growing and ever evolving expression. Whether that expression is your faith or your life or your trials. I think I’m just on that never ending journey of trying to find the next way to express myself. Trying to communicate what I believe or at times when I don’t believe or at times I struggle with believing. I try to be very intentional in the language.

ST: Arlighty, the Exodus Music and Arts Festival is nearly here. What can you tease about it? What are you excited about?

KF: Well, man, I’m just extremely excited to be able to just communicate to the community that I live here about how important they are to me. Something this transformative in my life is something epic. To have the biggest gospel outdoor festival in the country be in my backyard, is something that I would have never believed possible. I just have a lot of gratitude for it happening.

ST: And you’re performing on the second day of the festival. Any teases about that show?

KF: Just continue to do what it is that I try do to. Try to bring some surprises too. Try to bring some fresh moments to it, so that people can feel good about it. Just really try to be consistent in that space.

Kirk Franklin’s Exodus Music & Arts Festival is May 25-26 at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving.