Marcus Petitt is an emerging musician who has performed before numerous audiences in Seattle and Los Angeles. With roots in contemporary music, Marcus performs a variety of genres, including gospel, jazz, R&B and classic soul. He advocates for positive values and incorporates these into his musical compositions. A recent graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music, Marcus is a gifted vocalist, keyboardist, composer, director, and arranger.
Who are you and why are you here?
My name is Marcus Petitt and I’m originally from Seattle, Washington—born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. I am here to tell everyone what God’s been doing in my life, spiritually and musically. My journey to LA and my new status as a resident of California has really transformed me. It’s been a blessing and I’m just watching God work.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
As an artist I really strive to bring encouragement, love, and show light through music. I was raised in a traditional church environment and that comes across in a lot of my music, but I do understand the times and I do understand the need to adapt to the era. I try to bridge current music with a little bit of the old school and traditional. I focus a lot on the personal struggle and how, with God, it’s possible to overcome no matter what you’re going through in the moment.
When did you fully realize the calling that was over your life? Did God reveal it all at once or did it evolve over time?
That’s a good question. I feel like I’ve always been surrounded by music. I come from a fairly musical family and so being exposed to music was not a big issue; it was kind of a natural thing. I think God revealed the calling, I would say it was probably, truly, honestly, around 17 or so, right when I was finishing high school. I don’t think I really accepted it until more recently. As far as the greater calling that’s on my life involving music and ministry, I guess it is something that’s evolved over time.
Can you explain why it took you some time to say “yes” to the calling and where the hesitance stemmed from?
It’s very hard, especially in entertainment and music, to make the transition from consumer to creator. Being on the other side for so long, looking up to great Gospel and music legends that I think so highly of, I thought that I had to have certain things in place to begin. I was just putting up all these different barriers for myself, but in all honesty, when God gives you something, He’s gonna provide you with everything you need. And that’s what I’ve come to realize as of recent. It’s not necessarily about what you have set up in place at the moment, but that you’re willing to be obedient and fall in line with His will for your life.
You mentioned “the greats.” Who are your influences and role models in the industry?
On the Gospel side of things, Richard Smallwood is one of my favorite composers of all time in regards to how he’s blended a variety of musical styles. I really respect and honor him for that. He’s integrated styles that haven’t traditionally been blended in church. Often times, we get so contemporary that we forget that there is a classical side. I love the richness that he brings to classical music and the way that he blends the two. I also can’t go wrong with Walter Hawkins and the whole Hawkins family, for that matter. What they’ve done for music and the choir sound that’s still with us today is definitely to be regarded.
On the secular side of things, but still very spiritual, I love Mr. Stevie Wonder because he finds a way to show God’s love. Even though he’s not necessarily proclaiming it outright, it’s still very present in his music and in his lyrics. I believe he’s saved some people without them even knowing that he has. I really admire the way that he’s able to craft music in a way that touches both people who consider themselves spiritual or religious and those who do not.
As a man of God, do you consider yourself to be a “Gospel musician” or are you just a musician who loves God? How are you planning to market and categorize yourself, if at all?
I’m still dealing with that, honestly. I know that God has given me a vision for music and ministry, as well as a heart for it. I’m trying to decipher where He is taking it and what audiences He wants me to reach with it. As I mentioned, I was raised in the church and so my heart is there, right there in the Baptist Church. But I do understand that there’s work to be done outside the four walls of the church and so I’m still working through that. I am first and foremost a Christian who loves music. I’m still trying to hear God’s voice and figure out where and how He’s want it to unfold. I believe that it will market itself as that becomes clearer. As of now, I’m not able to completely state that I’m a “Gospel artist” per se, but I do understand the work of ministry and that will be at the forefront regardless.
How have you dealt with the uncertainties that come with being a musician in LA?
LA’s a big city. There are a lot of people trying to make it, whatever that means. It can be very daunting at times, but as I continue to follow God and see how He’s using the gifts that He’s given me to reach other people, I’m reassured that this really is where I need to be right now. There aren’t very many places like LA as far as the music scene is concerned. The impact that you can have on the community and the opportunities to do so are unparalleled. I’m honored to be here and it’s a blessing to be surrounded by the communities that I’ve been a part of for the last four years.
Can you talk about self-doubt and your experience with it? It makes sense as to why people who aren’t excellent at their craft would doubt themselves. But for people who are actually talented, how does self-doubt still work and how did you get over it? Or are you still dealing with it?
I don’t think it’s completely over yet. [Laughs] There are moments when I feel everything you’re saying, but there are also moments when I feel like I don’t have everything together. Self-doubt is definitely something that the enemy uses to try and make you believe that the dream that God’s given you is impossible. But I am a firm believer that if God said it, it’s going to come to pass.
In fact I just wrote a song about my whole experience with doubt; it’s a direct testimony of my own. You just have to stay prayed up and really believe in your heart. If you are really connected with God and you believe that He’s given you something, you have to stick with it. And I understand that it’s easier said that done, but in the end He’s gonna ask you, “What have you done with the gifts that I’ve given you?” And if you’re sitting on them, that’s not what He’s called you to do. The more that I think about that, the more I realize that this gift is real and it’s something that is only sent from above. Out of respect and honor of even being allowed to have this gift, I have to utilize it in the way that God wants me to.
If you are in a period of self-doubt, continued to stay prayed up and God will help you through it. But first, you have to acknowledge that it is an issue, that it’s something that you’re dealing with. Then, you can push your way through it with God and with a community of accountability. Hopefully you have a network of accountability around you.
What’s the name of the song you wrote on self-doubt?
It’s entitled, “He Will.” It’s a working title.
Speaking of songs, what was the inspiration behind the songs that will be released shortly with the Saved by Grace Gospel Choir? What made you want to write and rearrange them?
I’m really excited for the new project that’s coming out shortly. Shoutout to the USC Saved by Grace Gospel Choir! It’s an amazing ministry and I’ve been blessed to work with them and be a part of that ministry for the last four years. I’m very proud and excited that this project will be released next week.
The inspiration for the songs go back to a statement that God gave me a while ago. He showed me that one of the concerts SBG did would be about Him; the theme would be surrounding Him, but in a contemporary style. Hymns were definitely a big part of growing up musically. I understood them and they were beautiful, but sometimes after singing them for decades and centuries, the music didn’t necessarily translate, but the words were still so powerful. I believe that a lot people had those same experiences, but because they had no way of gravitating to the words without the music, a lot of cultures were disbanding hymns, which I don’t believe should happen. So I took the task upon myself to recreate musically and arrange it instrumentally in a way that would still be relevant and more contemporary, while keeping the words and the message the same. A lot of the struggles they were going through in the 1700s are still with us today. There are things that we should continue to uplift and remember.
I decided to rearrange two songs. One song called, “It Is Well,” stems from the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” The other song is entitled, “Tis So Sweet.” As you probably guessed, it stems from the hymn, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” These were specifically relevant to what I was going through at the moment of graduation. There was a lot of uncertainty ahead. Not only was it fitting for the theme and for the choir, but it was also a way for me to reassure myself with God’s word through music that it is well with my soul and that it is a sweet thing to trust in Jesus. When He says it, He means it and it will come to pass.
I’m very excited that SBG is the first ministry to debut both of these songs. You can go to iTunes and Amazon to share it with your ministry and ministries across the nation. They are some powerful arrangements if I say so myself.
Will the sheet music be available as well?
Yes, it will be available so that music leaders can bring them to their own ministries and continue to keep the spirit of hymns alive.
So, what’s next?
God only knows. I had a plan and that plan has already changed within the last month. I’ll be doing some music teaching and I will continue writing and arranging music. Ultimately, I would love to have my own CD and music project out within the next couple of years, showcasing the various songs that God has given me.
I also just quasi-began a new ministry that debuted last weekend with the working title of Marcus Petitt & Eclectic Praise. I’m really excited to see what God may do with that. Right now, I’m still living in LA, just trying to be obedient and utilize every opportunity that God sends my way.
Do you give music lessons?
I do! If you want more information, you can visit www.marcuspetitt.com. I give voice lessons for all ages and all levels of musical ability.
Any last words to leave with the people?
No, I think we’ve covered it all, Ms. Makiah-isms. Make sure you purchase the new project from the SBG Gospel Choir. All proceeds go towards the SBG ministry so that they can continue doing the work God has called them to do.