Grammy award-winning artist Kirk Franklin has had quite the year. Including becoming the true star of the #OmarionChallenge, recently taking the viral dance from the stage to the pulpit, the Gospel legend has been a topic of conversation throughout 2021. In the midst of that conversation, he’s announced a slew of new music, film, and television projects.
VIBE caught up with Franklin ahead of the release of his debut holiday film, Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas, to discuss what inspired him to participate in the movie and (of course) its soundtrack. The Christian crooner also discussed his own holiday traditions, his new single with Mariah Carey and Khalid, and the two burning questions we (along with the world) were dying to ask about Omarion and Plies.
As a fan of holiday movies, I enjoyed A Gospel Christmas. What led you to do a Christmas film?
Kirk Franklin: Well, the creator of the script [had the] idea to include a lot of my Christmas music. So, when I was invited to participate and saw how much it was leaning into the music that I was blessed to write several years ago, it made me excited and I wanted to be more part of the narrative [and] the architecture of the movie. They were very excited to have me be a part; that’s how it turned into Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas. [I’m] just very honored and very excited about this being my first opportunity to do something like this.
What was your favorite part of curating the soundtrack for the film? What was it like pulling from new and old elements?
With the script already written around certain songs, there were limitations, but it was also opportunities to reimagine these existing songs. So, that’s what I did. Like when you hear “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” it has a fresh re-imagined spirit to it. “Go Tell It On The Mountain” has this whole other energy to it now. That was fun.
How do you always bridge the gap between contemporary music and gospel?
I’m just naturally doing what I enjoy doing. Something that just feels within the will of how God has wired me, I guess. I’m just very grateful that there’s still a place for it, and that it’s a viable space to be able to do music and curate content [in] film and TV and other opportunities to be able to show culture how broad the genre of gospel music can be.
Speaking of bridging that gap, you, Mariah Carey and Khalid recently released your Christmas single. How did that come about?
Mariah invited me to co-write a song that she and her music producer were already in the process of working on to see if there was something that I could add to it. I showed up and we listened and played around. I jumped on the keys and said, “What do you think about this?” And she’s like, “Yeah, let’s go there. Let’s go here.” So, that’s what happened. I took all those ideas back to Texas where I live and I brought my choir together and had them put their juices and berries on it. It was a really beautiful moment.
Would you create another, more contemporary holiday album similar to that single?
If there was an organic moment to do that. [The single] doesn’t make me say, “Okay, I need to now do this.” I still like being driven by what’s intentional and what’s authentic. But with that, we’ll see what happens in the future.
Would you do another film where you have more of a blank start?
Oh yeah. I’m hoping and praying to do more, to be able to showcase incredible people from my genre. That is my goal in life, to be able to showcase the community that I believe in, and the genre that I think has so much opportunity to offer the world more hope.
The film was very traditional, focusing a lot on the characters’ traditions in the church around Christmas. What are some holiday traditions that you hold close?
I wasn’t raised in a traditional family, because I was adopted by a single mother. Every Thanksgiving as a kid, we were going to someone else’s house. So, it wasn’t this big warm and fluffy experience. My wife [though] was raised in that kind of family, but it’s not something that I naturally have. So, getting a chance to watch her and the kids and being able to be blessed to provide for them is a very humbling opportunity. It’s very humbling, because I wasn’t raised like that.
During the holidays [in my childhood], we’d be getting government help for the holidays— a big block of government cheese, and the box with the windbreaker, denim jeans, tennis shoes. Now, being able to give that to them, it is an incredible experience. It’s a new beginning for me. It’s something that I enjoy watching them have because I don’t really have templates. I just am honored and happy.
Now, we have to ask. Please explain your participation in the Omarion challenge. What inspired you to put on the trench coat and timbs?
Whenever I see a cultural moment, I think that my world can celebrate it as well. I’m always creatively motivated to have moments where these worlds collide. Instinctively, I thought it would be a fun one to do.
Also, are you feeding into the Plies twin meme? Would you ever consider doing a song with him?
Only time will reveal our true identity! If he is I, and I am him, then the mystery continues (laughs).
Catch Kirk Franklin’s ‘A Gospel Christmas’ on Lifetime this Saturday (Dec. 4) at 8 p.m. ET. Watch the trailer below.