Six years ago, Bryan Popin had it all: a thriving ministry, a nurturing family and a debut gospel album set to launch. Then everything collapsed, sending Popin into a personal and financial tailspin. “I Got Out,” the 38-year-old Nashville resident’s second album, bears witness to his redemption—personally, in spirit and career-wise—and debuted No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart in July. We caught up with Popin after his performance at Atlanta’s Praise in the Park, one of about 50 faith-based events he performs at annually.
You grew up a Jersey boy but unlike Springsteen and Bon Jovi, chose gospel over rock.
Yeah, I’m a product of my environment. My roots are in the church—my mom was a choir director, and I was always around, tagging along with her.
What did you listen to at home?
My mom was a traditional church person, and my dad loved soul music—people singing through their pain and real-life experiences. That combination played a role in who I am today.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
James Brown, for his grit and honesty; Stevie Wonder for his tone; Chaka Khan, the Commodores, and Earth, Wind & Fire for their funk and energizing, driving guitars. A lot of today’s music has been birthed from that sound.
You’ve been very open about your struggles and overcoming them. What happened up to that point?
I had a full-time music and ministry career and just hit a wall. Everywhere I turned, things dried up. I was insecure, discouraged and in a difficult place, and I felt like I couldn’t get out.
But you did.
I had a pivotal moment at a church service. There were so many amazing things going on musically and spiritually, yet I wasn’t worshipping. I was complaining. I heard a voice say, “Get on your knees and worship, Bryan, and I’ll figure out the rest.” I didn’t have to claim bankruptcy; I started a label, opened a recording studio and prioritized my personal life.
What is it about performing the Word of God that makes it more effective than just preaching it?
Music is powerful. It crosses barriers and relates to people. God created it as a tool to motivate us and move our hearts.