Gospel Soundcheck

Here’s a special Christmas present, just for Beliefnet readers: The premiere of Ruben Studdard’s new Christmas song, “Christmas In Your Arms”!
The song doesn’t release until December 8th, when you can buy it on iTunes, but you get to hear it here first!

The song has special meaning for the R&B singer, and so does Christmas.

When he comes to the phone for our interview, Studdard is singing. “I’m just writing a song for the saints,” he says. He’s only into the second phrase he says, but adds, “I’m feeling real inspirational these days.” He bursts into song again: “I love the Lord, He heard my cry.”
Spiritual inspiration isn’t something seasonal for this R&B star, who says, “The older I get the closer I grow to God, and my relationship gets stronger because I understand a lot differently than I did when I was a child, of course.”
Studdard has been involved in his church his whole life – the Rising Star MIssionary Baptist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, to be exact – and that’s where he got his musical start. He says sInging with the choir and in front of the church congregation helped prepare him for his professional singing career.
“I can even remember as a child singing a solo,” Studdard laughs, “and being so afraid that I had to hold onto the piano and stand on the side of my choir director to just make it through a song.”
It was at church that he was encouraged to sing, and it’s his church family that still keeps him grounded.
“I always know that there’s a place where I can go where they won’t be calling me Mr. Studdard or beating around the bush when they think I’m doing something wrong,” Studdard says. “Everybody needs some people in their life that’ll be just completely honest with them. Because the world, they’ll chew you up and spit you up and smile in your face when you’re doing good and bad. And my church is just not that place. You know, you’re doing something out of pocket and they’re gonna let you know.” He laughs. “I appreciate them for that and I just love them.”
And it’s not just at home that Studdard has that spiritual support. “The one thing that I prayed about before I went on [American Idol] was that God would introduce me to people that grew up like I did.” Right away, he made friends in L.A. who were Christians, and when he won the competition, he took his band on the road, a group of Christians with whom he’d been playing gospel cover tunes. His road manager is his best friend from childhood.
But Christmas is when his philosophy – “My whole life is based on family” – really kicks into gear. From family Christmas parties to Christmas morning breakfast at his aunt’s house to the church Christmas pagents, he’s surrounded by family and friends.
“I really feel like even though I didn’t grow up in the richest of situations,” he says, “I feel like I won the birth lottery, because I have so many great people around me.”
And that’s why his new Christmas song, “Christmas In Your Arms,” is so special to him. It’s a remake of an Alabama song – Studdard is a huge country music fan, believing that country is “the only industry that hasn’t lost the heart of the people.”
“I really wanted to just put something out that everyone could just listen to and it would uplift people’s spirits,” he says. “The song is just saying, basically to your wife or your family, that it doesn’t matter where I spend Christmas as long as I spend Christmas in your arms.”
Ruben Studdard’s latest album, Love Is, is in stores now. For more about American Idol’s “Velvet Teddy Bear,” visit Ruben Studdard’s website.
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