New Direction


Like the invention of the assembly line, antibiotics, and the internet, most great achievements are born out of great need.  In the case of award-winning gospel group, New Direction, the urgent need was to get young men and women off the tough streets of Chicago and into the life-building community of the church.

In 1994, Jeral Gray, Sr. had just been laid off from his job at a Chicago chemical plant.  Rather than despairing, he sensed that he was being unleashed for a higher purpose.

Jeral recalls, “I had been doing music part-time for most of my life and saw the amazing musical talent in the community around me.  I saw the opportunity to help these young people devote their gifts—and lives—to Christ.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I followed God’s call and have never looked back since.”

The youthful group he founded took its name from its purpose:  to provide a New Direction for young lives through innovative, high-energy gospel music.  In creative partnership with his older brother, Percy Gray, Jr., they launched the group’s self-titled debut, New Direction, on Word Records in 1999; followed by Get Your Praise On a year later.  In 2004, Gospo-Centric Records released their best-selling project, Rain, followed by Send the Praise in 2006, which unfortunately “got lost” in the sale of that label and the resulting staff transition.  By 2008, New Direction had become one of gospel music’s premiere contemporary and hip-hop choirs, earning more than a dozen Stellar, Grammy, and Dove Award nominations as well as a 2007 Stellar Award for Contemporary Choir of the year.

In July 2009, New Direction debuted Destiny on Nashville-based New Haven Records, which is distributed to the faith-based market through Provident-Integrity Distribution and to the mainstream through SONY Distribution.  Their fifth project takes this Chicago-based vocal powerhouse to new creative heights, weaving an irresistible tapestry of passionate ballads, hip-hop jams, soul-infused jazz, and high energy praise and worship.

Ken Harding, President of New Haven Records, commented, “We are honored to have this renowned, best-selling group in the New Haven family.  Having worked with Jeral and Percy Gray on previous recordings by the Chicago Mass Choir, Joshua’s Troop, and Lemmie Battles, we knew the musical creativity and spiritual integrity that would be reflected in New Direction.”

The project opens with the infectious, hip-hop flavored title cut, “Destiny,” which brings New Direction fans up to date on their journey:  When we started out, very young and willing/So excited about all the wrong things/But we’re older now, somewhat wiser now/We understand just how to get to our destiny/We’re determined to be what He called us to be!

The CD rolls right into “Lord You’re Worthy,” one of the project’s tandem debut radio singles.  Soloists Percy Gray, Jr. and Tina Love take their listeners to church with a hand-clapping, horn-stabbing, key-changing worship chorus that will soon be making its way into churches all over America.

The other debut single is “Start All Over Again,” a mid-tempo, retro R & B groove featuring soloist Kymar Carter I see brand new mercies every morning/Thankful I can start all over again/And even when I mess up, God is faithful and I’m just glad He lets me start all over again, offering the timeless hope of the gospel.

Producer Jeral Gray predicts Destiny will be a landmark release for the group; “New Direction is amazingly versatile–moving from passionate ballads to hip-hop jams to high-energy praise and worship.  Just when you think you’ve heard everything, they take you to a whole new level.”  These songs and more were recently premiered in June at Chicago’s GospelFest, to a wildly enthusiastic audience.  Critical and fan response has been strong: Destiny entered the Billboard Gospel Sales Chart Top 25 in its first week of release.

It’s safe to say that fifteen years after Jeral Gray, Sr. allowed the Lord to turn a need into a blessing, New Direction is just beginning to fulfill its Destiny.

Awards and Honors
2007 Stellar Award Nomination:  Contemporary Choir of the Year
2005 Stellar Award Winner:  Choir of the Year
2005 Stellar Award Nomination:  Choir of the Year
2004 Gospel Award Winner:  Contemporary Choir of the Year
2001 Grammy Award Nomination:  Get your Praise On
2001 Dove Award Nomination:  Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year
2001 Stellar Award Nomination:  Special Event CD of the Year” for WOW Gospel 2000
2000 Dove Award Nomination:  Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year for New Direction
2000 Dove Award Nomination: Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year” for “Lighthouse”
2000 Stellar Award Nomination:  New Artist of the Year
2000 Stellar Award Nomination:  Choir of the Year
2000 Stellar Award Nomination:  Contemporary Choir of the Year
2000 Stellar Award Nomination:  Rap/Hip Hop Gospel Album of the Year” for New Direction