Youngblood, Sweat and Tears

From Small Town to Carnegie Hall: Chart-Topping Singer Navigates Music Industry

Inspirational soul singer Joseff McKenneth has celebrated a number of successes in the music industry. He has performed solo on the prestigious Carnegie Hall stage, won the national singing competition “Voice Your Inspiration” and landed a record deal with RCA Inspiration. That deal came along with the opportunity to work with legendary musician Ray Chew and his wife Vivian.

It was this collaboration that led to McKenneth’s hit song “Trust”.

The journey begins at home. His path to reaching this level of success included a few lows, but mostly highs through the music industry. Like so many great singers, McKenneth’s musical background began in church. He developed his powerful singing voice growing up in a small town in South Carolina singing with his ultra-talented family. He continued to develop his gift well into high school when during his freshman year he sang his first solo. McKenneth then decided that he wanted to pursue music professionally. He attended Claflin University and studied voice. After graduation, he set his sights on New York City where he studied music and theater at New York University. “God pointed me in the direction of where the opportunities were,” he said. McKenneth did manage to land some opportunities on Off-Broadway shows and other local theater shows in the City.

And the winner is. McKenneth released his first independent recording project in 2012. He would go on to release four projects before he entered the “Voice Your Inspiration” singing competition held by Ray and Vivian Chew. Ray Chew’s credits include musical director of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”, Fox’s “American Idol”, “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and BET’s “Sunday Best”. McKenneth beat out thousands in the competition. The top prize was a record deal with RCA Inspiration. He worked with Ray, Vivian and their team to release the single “Trust”.

In 2018, McKenneth got the opportunity to perform the song at Carnegie Hall. He had performed there once before with his college concert choir. But this was his first time performing there as a solo artist. “It was exciting. It felt like home. It was definitely a defining moment,” said McKenneth. “Trust” hit number one on the R&B Soul and Gospel charts of the online streaming chart Band Camp, which all count toward points on the Billboard music charts. The song even started getting buzz in the dance and House music scene.

Trust the process. McKenneth journey to success was not a straight line. He did experience some peaks and valleys along the way. He said his adversities were more mental than anything. Without going into great detail, McKenneth said he was burned by his first production company and management team. He said he depended on people instead of relying on his talent. Looking back, McKenneth said he wished he had gotten an entertainment lawyer to help guide him. “Everything works out for the greater good, but it’s better to have someone to help protect you,” he advised. He said early during his career, music executives wanted to mold him to be like other successful artists such as Usher and Chris Brown. Comparing artists is a common practice in the music industry but McKenneth fought to be an individual artist and carved his own path saying, “You have to be yourself… to be authentically and passionately yourself”. “You’ll have to live with yourself when the lights are off.”

Advice for Staying Sharp. As an entrepreneur, McKenneth has worked to perfect his craft. Many artists like McKenneth and other entrepreneurs tend to immerse themselves into their art without paying attention to the other side of the industry. McKenneth urges artists to gain a deeper understanding of the industries they are a part of so that they can avoid certain pitfalls. “Learn the nature of the business you’re in. Learn the ins and out of it. Be a student,” he advises.

The Beat Goes On. McKenneth is inspired by life and its many complexities. He said that’s what allows him to be a great storyteller in his music. Right now, he is finishing up a new project he’s hoping to release December 2020. It’s an extended play or EP of about five songs. The Covid-19 pandemic put him in a place he describes as a “creative cocoon” where he was able to solidify the direction of this project. He says this EP goes back to his days of concert choir in college. He calls it an expanded version of gospel where the songs are more meditative.

McKenneth’s ultimate goal is to live a sustainable life by just recording and performing his music. He longs to build a following of one hundred thousand loyal “super fans”. This would give him more leverage and a wider and stronger reach. Streaming is a big part of album sales and having fans who can buy and stream his content at the ready would bring in the residual income needed to sustain his life as an artist.

Through it all, McKenneth is grateful for his experiences and all the exposure he has gained. These experiences have set him up for what will hopefully become more hits and success in the music industry. To learn more about McKenneth’s latest projects and to connect with him, visit


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