Joe Mettle on Worship, Winning, and the WIND OF REVIVAL

My suspicion that his name educes a “poster boy” perception ricochets against a lively chuckle. Joe Mettle, the decorated Ghanaian gospel minister, is reticent about this notion, and dismisses...

My suspicion that his name educes a “poster boy” perception ricochets against a lively chuckle. Joe Mettle, the decorated Ghanaian gospel minister, is reticent about this notion, and dismisses it strictly as that—a vexed perception latched onto by many. 

“Don’t you think it’s a perception?” he tosses back in a modulated speaking voice, his marked cheeks nestled in a stable smile. 

I notice, when it lands on my side of the table, that the question has assumed a rhetorical attribute. 

I too, let out a chuckle.

“I believe that there are so many amazing people out there,” explains Mettle, attired casually in a black t-shirt, denim pants, and shoes, his back facing a piano. They may not be as loud as he is, but the “Bo Noo Ni” man is certainly not the only person doing exploits, he believes. From a corner of the table separating us, near the blue window blinds to his left, a flask bearing the name of colleague minister, Jeshurun Okyere substantiates his point quietly (The table also serves as a tenement for a triad of Apple products: a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone).  

Mettle’s modesty, present in the greys in his neat beard and attendant in his every response during our dialogue, does not surprise me. In a way, I anticipate it. Throughout his career, he has continually emitted temperance, even in the face of loud reproach, which often rears its head in the eve of the Ghana Music Awards (the high-status scheme crowned him Artist of the Year in 2017). Responding to critics of his merit of that particular trophy in an interview, he dropped the following classic line: “As children of God, sometimes we get things we don’t deserve.”

Reverb Studios, the snug Weija workplace where our conversation ensues, sprawls with poignant paintings and profound photos, precious plaques and peaceful aeration. It is a far cry from Mettle’s realities as a hapless twelve-year-old who had to tail Florence Addo, his mother to peddle Waakye and Waakye leaves, brooms and canes to get by. Mettle’s story is nothing short of a miraculous adventure. The eldest of six children, the singer, who dropped out multiple times in his quest to attain a secondary school certificate to aid his initial desire to study Architecture credits God exclusively for transforming the trajectory of his story. 

While Mettle (born Joseph Oscar Mettle) trained as a marketer, he considers his current vocation of worshipper as a calling—one which saw him serve as a backing vocalist for doyens Cindy Thompson, Danny Nettey, and Reverend Tom Bright Davies. Mettle also offered lead singer duties for the Soul Winners band, before founding the Joe Mettle Ministries. 

Tempted as I am to ask my next question in its entirety, I don’t, for it’s clear to me that he hardly wants to be the centre of plaudits: “As a worship specialist, how would you define a worship song?” I edit the first part out and float the second.

To Mettle’s mind, a worship song is one that adores God and extols His supremacy. He also notes that it is sometimes our “responses to who God is to us. I don’t just see You [God] that way but I also intend to open my mouth to say it to You.”

He expounds further: “the understanding of what or the understanding of who He is. You wouldn’t be able to speak well of someone if you don’t know them.” He briskly recalls a saying that will be helpful here too. “The depth of a man’s worship depends sometimes on the depth of their knowledge of the God they speak about.” The more one knows and understands his Maker, Mettle holds, the more they speak about Him.

And worship could take different forms—not just in music, adds he. One’s life can illustrate worship onto God. “Somebody sees your life and glorifies God…it’s worship.”

Additionally, contrary to a prevalent misconception, tempo does not determine a worship number. One can decide to play a fast worship song or a slow one, and they’re both valid. Mettle has a theory for why this perception too has gained cultural prominence over many years. During worship, due to the intensity of what one trying to say, one “connect more when a song is slower and calmer, but it doesn’t mean that if it’s fast, it cannot be a worship song. He observes that people tend to “concentrate more” if a song arrives as a ballad. Certain messages sometimes don’t sit well if they’re fast-paced.”

 In the arrangement of songs, certain lyrics must be slowed so people can hear what one is saying. “Those are the things that come into play when arranging music,” says Mettle, “but that doesn’t mean that its worship because it’s slow and its praise because it’s fast.”

When he’s deeply invested in a point he’s sending across, which is frequently, Mettle motions with both hands, and aims a serious look at his interlocutor. Otherwise, he simply leans back and folds his arms over his chest. A lighter patch of skin (which I suspect is a birthmark) orbits his right wrist.

We discuss the intention for Wind of Revival, Mettle’s recently-released fifth album, which he submits is to “stir up our minds.” He articulates this with a cool smile, but his eyes hold solemn clarity, like he’s revealing higher information. The album is hinged on a vision God dropped to his team, he explains, after which he proceeds to refer me to the passage from Acts chapter 2, which narrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The first four verses read thus: 

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

“Revival is change; revival is renewal; revival is resurrection. That’s what the album is doing,” echoes Mettle with conviction. “It’s to stir up the spirit of prayer and hope. Our God is still at work in the lives of men,” and that’s what the song is doing and that’s what this album seeks to express, per the singer. And Wind of Revival caters, not to a particular situation, but “everything in life—every situation that is not good and requires revival; new life.”

A self-released 13-track set, Wind of Revival was led with the singles “My Everything” and “Mehia Wo Yesu.” Notable guest appearances include Calvis Hammond, Jonathan Nelson (U.S.A), and the unknown Akosua Kyeremateng. 

On his previous release, the God of Miracles album, Mettle effectively anointed protégé Luigi Maclean, who has gone on to chalk remarkable feats, including a 2019 nomination for VGMA Male Vocalist of the Year. Kyeremateng’s name on this new CD provokes a somewhat obvious two-part inquiry. Even before I can get it out fully, he pre-empts the question wholly, for he cracks a wider smile.

It is his fervent expectation that everyone on his team will tap from his “vision and my prayer intentions,” and subsequently “spread out and also be a blessing to the world,” too. There’s only so much he can do as an individual, but he’s keen on empowering all his mentees. It is not a human decision to select anyone at a given time. Secondly, Maclean’s feats in no way put pressure on him to produce another instant star. It all comes down to divine direction. “It’s more of how I am led and what I feel in my spirit to do at that particular time.” Interestingly, sometimes, the individuals themselves are reluctant about stepping into the limelight, he laughs, but God always has a way of “breathing” unto projects and causing them to become a blessing.   

Besides, “every individual is unique,” he adds, though he holds back from confirming if Kyeremateng, like Maclean, is signed to Reverb—at least for now. 

Thus is the modus operandi at Joe Mettle Ministries: taking steps chiefly by the leading of God, and not merely pandering to “industry” formulae. 

 “My whole journey is a calling to me,” Mettle reiterates. “I am inspired by God to do the things that I have to do. I am led by God […] it’s more of calling to me than work.”

This should not be misconstrued to mean that he “doesn’t care,” Mettle must add. “I am a marketer by profession,” he reminds me. “In addition to spirituality, I study the market, and I know when this is going to be useful and when it wouldn’t be useful. It informs his investment pickings too: “if you shine more light on this, how it’s impacting lives, it would spread more and touch more.” 

There are songs that by themselves possess a unique mandate. “You don’t force it, you leave it and it will do what it has to do. It may not blow up like others, but it would still do what it has to do. 

That he’s his own management is further reason to insulate himself from external stimuli. Funding for all projects is raised in-house, and so, it is unjust to compare the rate of his ascendance to another’s. Here’s a nugget he can let me in on, though: “the more the brand grows, the more you get the ability to capture things that you couldn’t capture before.”

Mettle is aware that people would always harbour curious opinions about “these things.” The most important thing, he maintains, is to keep one’s spiritual focus. 

Timing is gold. Being led to realise that it’s time to do something—not because people say you need to do it, is what his approach can be summarized into. Else, if you follow ill-advice and your back breaks, “you are the only one going to face the consequences.” As a ministry and brand, therefore, Mettle would rather move according to the “pace that our strength can take us.” 

From here, we plunge into debates surrounding the commerce of gospel music. 

Here too, a genuine heart is the technique. 

Sure, he preaches the gospel in his music, but he’s also putting out a product. At the end of the day, it costs an arm and a leg to publish music. The musician must recoup so he can do more, he argues. “I wouldn’t be able to go out and say I have oriented a CD with my money and I am giving it for free.” The reason is simple: it’s not sustainable. “The gospel is the message—that is free. But the package is what I am charging for. I am not selling the message to you, I am only selling the medium of the message. The word of God is in the Bible. The Bible is for sale but the word of God is not.”

Before Mettle clasps his fingers around my mine for a farewell handshake, he takes me on a tour around the property that caters comprehensively to rehearsal and recording needs, musical equipment rental, as well as music and marketing consultancy services. Mettle also shares with me what his future presents. It’s “huge,” “scary,” and “glorious” all at once: There’s an imminent world tour, new acts to ready, and even more music in the offing. He sighs a hopeful sigh, and rises from behind his desk.

Mettle headlines the ‘Wind of Revival’ London Concert 2019 at the Oasis House, Croydon on Wednesday November 16. Wind of Revival follows the following works by Mettle: My Gratitude (2011), Sound of Praise (2013), The Encounter (2015), and God of Miracles (2017). Get it here.

Pop writer from Accra.