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‘Oakland Bay Darling’ Lena Byrd Miles is Rooted in Gospel; June is Black Music Month

Lena Byrd Miles is one of the most sought-after vocalists in contemporary gospel whose signature-controlled acrobatics command attention. Her voice is powerful yet calming, and smooth like butter, guaranteed to give you chill bumps.

Miles, who most know from her debut single “This Is the Day,” has released her second single and video “Watch Me,” on My Block Inc.

“Watch Me” is an effortless yet powerful song that encapsulates conviction, hope, and faith co-written by Miles and multi-award-winning producer Warryn Campbell, produced by Campbell, and co-produced by Michael Bereal.

June is Black Music Month or African American Music Appreciation Month.

Sidney Madden, music journalist and co-host of NPR’s podcast ‘Louder Than a Riot,’ said, “Every genre that is born from America has Black roots.” (NBCnews.com) 

To understand Miles, you must understand the roots of gospel music and how it shaped and formed her.

Let’s take a condensed walk down gospel music memory lane, shall we?

Gospel music has been a source of inspiration and solace for millions of listeners.

We can trace it to the early 17th century where most of the singing was a cappella. It had a direct influence on Soul, Blues, and Rock-and-roll in America.

In the late 1930s Thomas Dorsey, blues and jazz composer and son of a preacher, known as the ‘Father of Gospel Music,’ changed the traditional structure of gospel music.

After suffering an unknown illness, he stopped playing music for two years before he had a revelation. This revelation would start a career in the gospel music industry. His music would become standards performed by a mixture of artists including Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, and more.

In the late-fifties, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles blended Gospel and Jazz music into a sound that was an introduction to the Soul Music of the 60s.

In the 1960s gospel music became mainstream when Aretha Franklin brought the style of her music, and the rest as they say is history.

Since then, gospel music has grown into several subgenres and continues to introduce the world to incredible emerging artists and creative styles.

Enter, Lena Byrd Miles. Born in San Leandro, Ca. and raised in Oakland, she is the soulful and extraordinary vocal prowess who, like Cooke, Charles, and Dorsey, blend gospel and jazz.

She illustrates the blend in her new single “Watch Me.” A powerful lyrical message that floats over changes of traditional gospel and jazz vibes sprinkled with a hint of R&B.

Singing since she was 4 years old and deep-rooted in the church, it doesn’t come as a surprise that her singing career launched at her grandfather’s church. Nor is it a surprise that her parents were instrumental parts of the church as well.

“Both my parents still serve at the church I grew up in,” says Miles. “Mom is the minister of music/organist. Dad is an ordained Elder/bass & trumpet player.”

Her gift has opened many doors to perform, write, collaborate, and tour with well-established heavyweights in the gospel music industry.

She was “privileged” to sing with the legendary Edwin Hawkins as part of the New Edwin Hawkins Singers—where it all began. She has also worked with Deitrick Haddon, PJ Morton, John P. Kee, Tye Tribbett, Lala Hathaway, Doobie Powell, and the late Thomas TC Clay, to name a few.

In 2017, Miles caused a snowball effect—she sparked the interest of Grammy® Award-winning producer and My Block Inc. President, Warryn Campbell.

This led to her inking a deal and joining the roster of label mates as multiple-award-winning duo Mary Mary, Erica Campbell, JoiStaRR, Toni Estes, Jason McGee and the Choir, and vocalist Jason Champion.

Warryn Campbell says “Artists like Lena Byrd Miles aren’t born every day.” “She is very special, and her gift is supernatural. He adds, ‘Watch Me’ is impactful on impact. One listen and you’ll fall in love with the girl with three names; Lena Byrd Miles.”

Gospel music transcends culture, race, and nationality. Because we can find elements of gospel music in artists across the world, the genre will continue to grow.

Miles received the torch from the legendary Hawkins family, which has afforded her to continue the journey of gospel music and pave the way for others.

Like Aretha Franklin, Gospel goes with Lena wherever she goes. It’s a constant with her. She’s deep-rooted, and that is the way she likes it.

“… I just want to make sure I glorify God through me as best as possible… I want to be as effective as I can be with the time I’m given.” Lena Byrd Miles.

Connect with Lena on all social media platforms @lenabyrdmiles. “Watch Me” is available on all digital platforms. View the “Watch Me” video here.


About Author

Phyllis Caddell is the CEO and Founder of PCPR Communications (www.pcpr.co) located in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of Do-It-Yourself Publicity for Those Too Cheap or Too Broke to Hire A Publicist and an adjunct college instructor. She can be reached at pcpr.co.

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