24 year old Donielle Rodwell is truly a walking testimony. Growing up in the Philadelphia foster care system and losing her mother are just a few obstacles that could have torn her apart. Rejected, teased, abused, and emotionally strained, she learned to depend on Jesus to pull her through. Through her dependency on him, she has learned to channel her love for God to her music. “I know that I went through so that others can come out through my testimony and God can get the glory” the singer/songwriter says. This rising artist mixes the soulful sound of gospel with the lyrical and musical attributes of Contemporary Christian into a genre she calls Christosoul. In an interview with Harry Itie, Donielle talks about her music, new project and being reunited with her biological parents.
YADA: Word on the street is that you are working on a new project. Can you give us the inside scoop into the project?
DONIELLE: Yes! I guess I can start by saying that my goal is to minister the gospel of Jesus through my story. Each song, in essence, is a piece of my life or my prayer to God. I write about where I am and what I am going through or realizing at the time. You are going to hear some worship and a little of my testimony on this project. All of us at RockSoul have been pouring ourselves into this and we are really excited about releasing it. My prayer is that the listeners are uplifted, encouraged, healed, delivered, and saved by the seed that is planted or watered by this music.
YADA: How would you describe your sound?
DONIELLE: That is tricky. Every time I try to fit it into one genre, I cannot. So I had to come up with my own term. I call it ChristoSoul. Its worship, contemporary, soul, hip-hop, and gospel all wrapped up in one. I tend to like the simplicity of contemporary Christian music and the worship centred lyrics, but I am also a classical music lover and love the musicality of soul and gospel. So, some of that is reflected in my music.
YADA: Who are the artists and producers you are working with on the project?
DONIELLE: Lee Jerkins. He’s a beast! So appreciate this dude and his dedication to doing things in excellence and simply pleasing God. Michelle has also been there to sort of mentor me and I completely value her input and expertise.
YADA: Who are your musical influences?
DONIELLE: There are so many and they may seem random but, they range from Dottie Peoples, The Afters, Jesus Culture, to Lecrae, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., J Moss, Shirley Caesar, etc. I just love music and admire great lyrics. But these are the people that I either grew up on, or listen to the most.
YADA: How did you join Rocksoul?
DONIELLE: I was actually at a non-profit event for House of Chayah, Inc. We did a fundraiser Concert and Michelle and I were both on the program. After the concert, Lee and I talked and I guess he loved what God enabled me to do. From there I got to know Lee and Michelle better and the rest is history.
YADA: What are the challenges of being a Christian artist?
DONIELLE: For me, being a Christian artist is about ministry. When I was 15, I made a promise to the Lord that I would glorify him with my gifts, and where ever he took me, I would be satisfied. I stand by that to this day. So what concerns me as a Christian artist is the mentality we can sometimes have. I think that it is easy for people with certain gifts and talents to lose sight of God and realize that he is the one who allows us to do what we do. When I come face to face with this, it hurts me and scares me a little; keeps me on my knees and in constant fellowship with the Lord because I never want to begin to think that I am greater than I am.
YADA: You were recently reunited with your biological mother and family. How did that come about?
DONIELLE: Well, growing up, I knew them. They would occasionally visit. My mother, at the time, was not in the condition to really be there, but she did the best that she could. Basically when I turned 18 and went to college, my mother was doing well for some time, and God began to build our relationship. I finally got to really know my mom’s side of the family and I thank God for that. He saw fit to give me two families.
YADA: What non-music projects are you involved in?
DONIELLE: I do non-profit work for an organization called House of Chayah, Inc. My godmother, Debra Smith is the founder. They help mentor inner city youth, volunteer at the Youth Study Center, and host monthly rap sessions as an outlet for young teens and adults to come and talk freely. It is a place of restoration. I help with the fundraisers and worship team. We go on outreach trips to places like California, Virgin Islands, and Georgia each year. You can check us out at www.houseofchayah.org.
I am also one of the praise and worship leaders at Bethel Deliverance Church NE. I love my church and help whenever they need me. That sums up my non-music projects.
YADA: Are you going on tour soon?
DONIELLE: I never know what Lee has in store for me, but as far as I know, I am not.
YADA: A final word for our readers
DONIELLE: Love God! Go hard for him! That is what I hope you will get from my music. That God is a healer, deliverer, Saviour, lawyer, and so much more! That is what’s most important. Love you guys.
Current songs on your playlist
- Free by Kierra Sheard
- Killa by Lecrae
- That’s what love is by Michelle Bonilla
- Break Every Chain by Jesus Culture
What music album changed your life?
- Da’ T.R.U.T.H “Moment of Truth”
TV show you are watching
- One Tree Hill
Last movie you saw
- Good Deeds (Tyler Perry)
- Chinese Food (all of it)
Favourite chill-out spot
Watch Donielle and Michelle Bonilla cover Lecrae’s Jesus Music
Mobile and iPad users, click here