Local Gospel Artist Brings Home Top Honors

(Last Updated On: June 26, 2016)

It was a night of excitement and excellence as The National & Independent Gospel Music Association presented the 6th Annual Rhythm of Gospel Awards honoring top independent gospel artists from across the nation.

Gospel recording artist, LaTonya Earl, was nominated in three award categories. Empower Magazine caught up with the Houston native as she shared an intimate account of the special Awards Night experience in her own words.


This year I had the awesome privilege of receiving three nominations in the Rhythm of Gospel Music Awards. The categories were: Worship/Praise Artist of The Year, Female Contemporary Female Vocalist of The Year and Songwriter of The Year.

I actually won two out of the three categories in Birmingham, Al., during the annual awards show. I came home with the trophies for Female Contemporary Vocalist of The Year and Worship/Praise Artist of The Year.  To God Be the Glory!

The song that I submitted for 2014 was my hit single, “That’s When I Stopped Playing With Jesus.”  This song was written a couple of years ago straight out a dream. As a matter of fact, a lot of my original music comes from my dreams. I often dream of the entire song from start to finish, music included. I wanted this song to grab the attention of the people who are “halfway in.” They are still playing around with their salvation.

The song has a really catchy beat and has become a song for all ages. The music is sort of a mix between, quartet and groove, with a tight group-like harmony. I pray that it is a timeless piece, because the message is one that needs to be repeated until Jesus returns.

One Day I Got Tired of Me
I Needed to Be What God Wanted Me To Be
Fell Down On My Knees And Prayed
I Asked The Lord To Please Show Me The Way
I Joined Church And I Planted My Feet, Lifted My Eyes Towards Calvary
That’s When I Stopped Playing With Jesus
When I Saw The Light

This is my third year receiving nominations for the Rhythm of Gospel Music Award, but it was my first time ever winning. This year was also a difficult time for me to be away from home. For the past 14 months, my family has been taking care of our mother. Leaving her for several days to travel to Birmingham was not easy to do, but family pulled together and I was able to go and stay for 4 days.

The night of the actual awards show, I sat listening to nominees being called and not really thinking that I had won anything. I was just excited to have made it to the nomination list three times. When my name was called the first time, it was like the room went silent! I asked the artist sitting next to me, “What did he say?” She assured me that I had just won an award.

Wow! Now, the long walk to the stage… I can sing all day, but I get nervous whenever I have to speak. I made it through the acceptance speech and was then whisked off for interviews and pictures. Eventually, I made it back to my seat and about 10 minutes later, my name was called again, for my second award. I fought back tears and couldn’t hear myself think as everyone was applauding. I made it through the second acceptance speech and back around for more interviews and pictures. One more category to go! When the nominees were called for my third category, the section I was sitting in all turned to me and said ‘get ready to get up again.’

I swallowed a bunch and air and stopped up my ears from the inside, because my nerves were all over the place. Whew! A fellow artist won “Songwriter of the Year Award.’ I was somewhat relieved that it was finally over when an artist tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “That’s okay. You can’t win them all.” We both laughed and enjoyed the rest of the show.

For the third year in a row, I have been a requested soloist for the Pastor’s Banquet on the last day of the celebration. Many of my upcoming invites came directly from the pastors themselves after hearing me minister before dinner. What a blessing!

Each year, I look forward to participating in the Rhythm of Gospel Music Awards. The awards show offers a platform for “Independent Gospel Artists” and gives them the opportunity to network formally while receiving up-to-date industry training and development. I am now a member of NIGMA, the National Independent Gospel Music Association. I am already preparing my song submission for 2015.

I’ve been on this music journey since 1975, when it was first discovered that I could play whatever I heard, and I’ve been making music ever since. I received most of my experience in the music ministry working behind the scenes and singing background for other mainstream artists. I always ran from the spotlight. Eventually, I began to accept lead solos for songs, and from there my gift began to make room for me.

I met my husband of 24 years, Rev. Walter Earl, at church and we’ve sung praise and worship for many years together. We have three awesome children: Britney (assistant coach at Prairie View A&M; in graduate school); Amber (college student) and DrewAnthony (recently accepted into the Briarwood School / Tuttle for children with disabilities and special needs). My family is my first ministry!

The assignment to take my God-given gift to the nation has only just begun and I truly believe that God’s best for me is still yet to come, in Jesus Name.

For booking, contact Sheila Conway at 832-736-3337 or latonyaearl1@gmail.com. The gifted gospel recording artist currently is enjoying a season of ministry with the Generation of Praise Choir at the Church at Bethel’s Family.

Houston-area gospel recording artist takes top honors at Rhythm of Gospel Awards