“Ah tell yuh ah safe on the inside
Nobody going outside
Ah say safe on de inside
Ah leaning on the Lord side, today
Ah not going to turn back again
In Christ I go stay
It have nothin for me outside dey.” —Michelle Sylvester
You don’t have to be a believer to feel the passion behind those lyrics from gospel singer Michelle Sylvester.
Sylvester puts her testimony about quitting mainstream soca to devote her life to Christianity in her latest single “Safe on the Inside”.
The 2005 Groovy Soca Monarch delivers the repetitive chorus with enough conviction to stir the most cynical of religious skeptics. And, when calypso icon Denyse Plummer tells of walking a similar path on the song’s second verse it is clear, mainstream or not, they have a bonafide hit song on their hands.
“Denyse and I been wanting to do a song together for some years now, since we been in the kingdom together. But you know timing wasn’t right, I guess, because with God everything is timing and we just never got around to doing it,” a zen Sylvester told the Kitcharee, during a WhatsApp exchange, on Thursday afternoon.
Sylvester said she was approached by songwriter B’jorn Pierre during a virtual praise event and told by the lyricist he had a song for her and Plummer. Soon they were in the recording booth with Garth Sinnette of Action 1 Studios and shooting a music video with TS Media, she said.
The gospel radio host said while she walked away from secular stages, she still has a great love for soca music and is simply more aware of the message she shares.
“I believe music definitely has that power to change people’s behaviour. It’s a universal language and according to what you feed it goes straight to your spirit, it sets your mood, it sets you to be and do things and put yuh in that feeling. Once you start thinking a certain way the behaviour and action follows.
“I also believe that what’s going on in the world today, the song is called ‘Safe on the Inside’ and although we as believers meant safe on the inside with Christ it also works with the pandemic. That’s one of the reasons people love it, it speaks to the pandemic we safe on the inside and nobody going outside,” she said.
Not an easy transition
Sylvester says stepping away from the warm glow of the soca limelight was not an easy task. There were times when she doubted the wisdom of the decision. Still, the gifted vocalist says she has no regrets.
“In the earlies I had some challenges in understanding why I really made this move? My life was one way; financially I was at a certain place, travelling all over, not that this cannot happen and will not happen in Christ, but I had the challenges in the earlies where I was not doing the shows and getting booked for certain events and ting,” she revealed. It didn’t help that her decision was being questioned at every turn by fans disappointed and confused by her choices.
“People always asked what happened, but it was just me having that encounter with God and deciding I want to go to church. Now Christ uses us as we are eh. Yes it have things that you have to drop, but the God I serve doesn’t force things upon yuh.
“I was in the fetes, I loved doing what I did, I love the entertainment part, of course the money and the travel and all that goes with it, but to make the decision wasn’t hard. I would be singing doing my ting and yet still when I come off that stage I ready to go home yuh know, I done do what I came to do and I ready to go home.
“I remember Nadia (Batson) and Ms Alysha (Alleyne) always saying they used to hide from me. I didn’t know they used to hide from me because they done know when I come off that stage I ready to go home. I would grab a chair and sit in a corner waiting for them and that was another inside joke where I must find a chair to sit down every fete I go. So I was in but not in it,” she said.
Letting go and letting God
Sylvester said her ultimate goal remains “to bring souls to God’s Kingdom” with her music. By being honest with and sharing her testimony she hopes she can help others to achieve the deep level of internal peace she now feels.
“Yow, we are in a good place and this is not coming from a make believe or superficial place. We really are in a good place we feel safe, we feel secure, although challenges do happen to us all. Not because we are believers we exempt from that, but its treated in a different way and you really feel the peace that comes from it.
“Yuh might be trying different things when yuh in your situation; you going here, there looking for that help and peace. But I doh think it have that peace out there yuh know. That peace is in Christ. Even if all might not be well in Christ its dealt in a different way. Its not something easy to explain yuh have to be in it,” she said with an audible smile. Sylvester said she was pleased to see her soca friends not only continuing to be creative in the midst of a pandemic but also delivering positive messages atop danceable melodies.
“I hear my brothers and sisters putting out some amazing stuff, still have some awesome stuff ourt there form Nadia and Patrice, some nice positive music you can dance and have a good time to. That’s what we do. As creatives we find ways to create. We missing being on stage and interacting with audiences. but we doing we thing,” she said proudly. As for her future plans, Sylvester says while she is prepared to do the work, her path is ultimately left in the hands of her God, who she believes guides her daily steps.
“I’m at a place and have been at a place where I just allowing God to take the wheel. I doh fight up with things again, I not stressing bout tings too much. I just allowing God to be God in my life and just do what he want to do with me. I think Covid showed us exactly how that does work. We planning and going down with we plan, but the Lord have his plan for us. And I prefer over the years him to take charge and take lead.
I will continue to write meh music, continue to put out new music. And I’m hoping for the borders to open again so I can go out there and do my ting. But, to say I have long-term plans, to be honest, not really yuh know, I just going with God,” she concluded with another audible smile.