In our special WE LOVE CHRISTIAN MUSIC AWARDS editorial series, members of the NRT staff have a back-and-forth discussion about this year's nominees.
For Part 7 of our series, NRT Founder Kevin McNeese and News Editor Caitlin Lassiter discuss the five nominees of EP of the Year, and make their picks as to which artist will win.
Kevin: EP of the Year is pretty unique to the We Love Christian Music Awards, celebrating the short form digital releases that have really taken the music industry by storm. Typically six songs or less, it's been a way for artists to continue to engage their audience with new music throughout the year and so it's been fun for us to take these collections as their own projects and highlight the best EP releases of the year.
Caitlin: I love this category! It's one that most awards don't really put a focus on, but it definitely deserves the attention.
Kevin: It's also a category that throws all the genres together, so it's always interesting to see who comes out on top every year. This year, we have a worship leader, a pop artist, a powerful gospel/reality star, an established (and newly independent) contemporary artist and one of the biggest bands in Christian music.
Caitlin: Definitely! I also love seeing the mix of new artists alongside some veterans here. There's powerhouse names like NEEDTOBREATHE and Plumb, but also some fresh faces: Alisa Turner, Joel Vaughn and Koryn Hawthorne. I really appreciate the diversity in this category.
Kevin: Definitely! Both in style, as well as career length. You actually know one of these nominees on a personal level, right?
Caitlin: Yeah! Alisa Turner is a brand new addition to the Integrity Music family, and also a dear friend of mine. Her story is one that inspires me on a daily basis. She's faced some extremely difficult circumstances the last decade of her life, but has continued to worship through it all. That passion for praise and her determination to sing through the darkest moments pours out into the heart you hear on this debut EP. Knowing all she's had to battle to get to this point in her career and how these songs are already impacting lives around the world, I think she's definitely earned this award.
Kevin: Plumb was one of the first artists I fell in love with a few decades ago when I was first getting into Christian music, so it's really fun to see her continue to be at the top of her game with her first independent release. I remember when she first started; she was a rock n' roll band. A bit grungy. Lightyears from where she's at now. With God Help Me EP, she continues to prove that she's able to really connect with the human struggle of self-worth and reliance on God that we all need. Her voice is still incredibly strong after all these years and I love what she continues to say.
Caitlin: I love her! She's an incredible vocalist and continues to blow me away every time I see her live, but she's also one of the most relatable and genuine artists I've ever met. As much as the ability to make great music is a part of this, being able to connect with the fans matters too. Plumb has always done that extremely well, in my opinion, and continues to be one of the all-around best artists our industry has the pleasure of working with.
Kevin: Agreed. And then there's NEEDTOBREATHE, who can continue to do no wrong in my book. "Walking on Water" is one of my favorite songs from them since "HARDLOVE" and "Count On Me" just another beautiful song of leaning on each other that just makes me want to be a better person.
Caitlin: And let's not forget the other new names in this category: Joel Vaughn and Koryn Hawthorne! This isn't Joel's first project--he's actually been nominated before in this category--but I do feel like it was some of his best work yet, and helped put himself on the map for the future. I watched Koryn on The Voice a few years ago, and loved getting to see her step away from her time on the show and create such a fun, meaningful EP. Both are strong contenders in this category in their own rights.
Who do you think takes it, Kevin?
Kevin: Well, there's always who I think will win, and who I think should win. I believe the immense popularity of NEEDTOBREATHE will prove insurmountable to the other nominees. They are going to be hard to beat. And while it's an incredibly good EP, I would really love to see Koryn Hawthorne take this one. I bet that surprises you?
Caitlin: You're right; name recognition often plays the biggest part in this. Not that I don't think NTB is totally deserving of this, but I would love to see one of the smaller names win it. As I said before, my vote goes to Alisa this time, but they all have strong elements in their EPs that could push them to the top if name recognition wasn't such a big factor.
Kevin: Koryn is just a powerhouse vocal and very young. Both "Warriors" and "Won't He Do It" are unique and memorable and in today's cookie cutter world of songwriting, I like different. NTB might take it, but at least we're giving a shout-out to some strong new voices in Christian music putting together some great short-form introductions.
Caitlin: Agreed! I love that this category, along with the rest of the WE LOVE Christian Music Awards, are putting a focus on the veteran artists while still making much of the new names. There's just so much good music out there to celebrate, and I think this category is a perfect example of that!
OK, so who is your pick for EP of the Year? Vote for this and 23 other categories now through Jan. 26, 2018, at weloveawards.com! Your votes determine the winners, and you can vote as often and as much as you want!
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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