Singer, songwriter, and producer Stephen B. Steward is an emerging worship artist whose contemporary worship styling has seen him as one of the genre’s new artists to watch. Bursting onto the scene with his triumphant debut single, “With My Whole Heart,” the high-spirited collaboration with GRAMMY® winner/gospel icon Andraé Crouch not only landed him a hit on the Billboard Top Gospel Singles Chart but four 2013 Prayze Factor People’s Choice awards.
ENTER YOUR GATES, the tune’s parent album, plays host to a collection of gems made up much like “With My Whole Heart.” Featuring ingredients of fulfilling testimonies, a dash of his unmistakable baritone, and crafted worship numbers ranging from contemporary to traditional, the album’s eclectic recipe combines flavors sure to meet the tastes of all praise-and-worship music lovers.
Before Steward was bringing his unique brand of praise and worship to the masses, the singer/songwriter was born 9th of 12 children in the small town of Smithville, MS. Beginning his musical quest from his home church choir and school bands, the path of honing his craft would see him spearhead worship groups and minister to local youth in the rural community. Time would later yield the transition to artistry on the hems of intimate conversations with the Lord, he recalls. That very fellowship would attribute to his desire to minister in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. As the seed of writing and singing songs of worship would later cultivate throughout his college years, the fruit of such experiences would sprout the one time small-town boy into a Psalmist.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Mississippi College, Steward relocated to California where he met and married Onesha, his wife of 28 years, and started a family. Becoming the proud father of two children, Stephen II and Erica, acted as further inspiration to accept the call of leadership and ministry at Exalted Word Tabernacle of Praise Church in Lynwood, CA. There, he served as worship leader for over 18 years under the leadership of Pastor Leroy Toliver.
Yet, while rooted at Exalted Word Tabernacle of Praise, Steward could still be seen branching out to extend his seasoned worship leadership to a number of worship workshops he fronted in conjunction with numerous Christian artist & songwriter seminars he’s attended in California, Colorado, Alabama, Mississippi, and more. Currently, the Stewards serve as members of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena led by Pastor Che Ahn.
Meanwhile, Stephen, when not singing and writing, is a celebrated athlete who has also made a career in law enforcement as a parole officer. But, throughout his many life callings, none have received the answer than his call to ministry. It was the pursuit of that province that led to the birth of ENTER YOUR GATES.
An energetic worship experience that takes off full speed from the listener’s first press of “play”, the album starts with its enchanting title track “Enter Your Gates.” Navigating listeners through inspiring narratives of worship, the journey is guided by a prominence of scriptural references. From the Psalm 100:4-inspired “Enter Your Gates” to the John 14:6-derived “The Way, The Truth, The Life,” ENTER YOUR GATES lets the Word lead the way. And, lead it does.
Entering praise pathways where tunes like the album’s animated “The Sound of Heaven” rings as a hand-clapping celebration, elsewhere numbers like “Sing Alleluia,” “I Feel Your Presence,” and “I Repent” employ modest instrumentation to keep the message at the forefront. As all of the aforementioned feature simple, elegant arrangements led by piano or string, the songs opt to leave behind the gloss of numbers like “With My Whole Heart” and instead are carried by Stephen’s supple baritone.
The likes of the aptly titled “Something Special (ft. Adetomi Akinbode),” “Jesus Reign (ft. Candace Moore, Gromyko Collins, Carol Dennis-Dylan, and Belle Johnson),” and “I Sense Your Presence (ft. Candace Moore)” see Stephen team with gifted musicians and singers to impart a worship session strengthened by numbers. But, one of the album’s most notable standout tracks comes in the form of its official second single “Purify My Soul.” A prayer-filled petition for purity, the song’s contemporary decorations only accent the heartfelt lyrics. Calling by name the temptations we face everyday, the song’s bold subject matter make it a daring record for Stephen. Yet, through its vulnerability, comes its beauty.
It is a musical portal on hand to help listeners enter a place of pure praise and worship.