DANVILLE – As a youngster, Danville native Bryan Wilson made his recording debut in 1994 with the Mississippi Children's Choir singing "His Eye is on the Sparrow."
His high notes as a 12-year-old won him gospel music Dove and Stellar award nominations as well as two solo CDs and tours with other gospel artists, but a voice change and timeout to concentrate on his education left his career on the back burner.
And now that Wilson has a degree in religion and philosophy from Claflin University and is working on a master's of divinity from Princeton University, his recording career is on the front burner. He has new management, has started his own production company with partner Bill Carpenter and has begun a promotional tour for his new CD that includes interviews, radio shows, TV and concerts across the nation.
"We started our own company because of the way the recording industry is going today," said Carpenter, who was working with CeCe Winans when he and Wilson met. "They are cutting jobs, losing money to downloading and bootlegging. You've got to go out and promote yourself or it doesn't get done."
Carpenter knows from experience that if Wilson can get an even moderately successful catalog of songs he's written and either recorded himself or had other singers record, he will have a secure income, which allows him to continue to write and expand his career.
Wilson's "A Second Coming" CD hit the store shelves Jan. 15 and Wilson will return to Danville to share its songs during the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day events.
"I'm very fired up about this CD," Wilson said from Atlanta, where his promo tour kicked off. "It's my reintroduction to the gospel music scene, my second coming into the business."
This CD has a number of firsts for Wilson.
"It's my first time producing. I'm kind of nervous about that, but I've had help from my family and friends and that made the process much easier."
When songs didn't come his way for the CD, Wilson wrote his own songs for the first time.
"I can play a little piano," he said, "but truthfully, I sang into a karaoke machine, taped it, hummed the melody and said the words, played a little vocal box drums and sent it off to Kris (Doc Sizzle) Bell. He put the songs that I wanted together. He was an unbelievable asset."
Bell is a producer and a childhood friend who has worked with a number of gospel artists, including John P. Kee, a Christian Music Hall of Famer.
"It's the first time I've recorded with my mother," Wilson added. "She sang backup and so did my brother Aaron."
"He and I used to sing all the time. The bathroom was our studio. We used to fight over the mirror for who was going to be on TV," Wilson said, laughing.
Though Wilson released "Bryan's Songs" in 1996 and "Growing Up" in 1999 under the Malaco record label, this is the first promotional tour for the 26-year-old.
"It's going good, but it is very tiring," Wilson said.
He performed in concert on Monday night and got to bed around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning only to have to be up at 5:30 a.m. to do an 8 a.m. morning show.
"I'm telling you, that pillow was holding me down," he said.
"My life would make a great reality show right now."
That possibility isn't such a stretch as Wilson will record a live CD with musicians from Danville and Champaign-Urbana who played on "Second Coming." The concert is set for the Salem Baptist Church, 500 E. Park St., C, on Monday evening. The live recording will be released with an accompanying DVD.
"Plus we'll add footage from the promo tour, so it really is my life right now," Wilson said.
Wilson will appear at the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Banquet at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Days Inn, 77 N. Gilbert St., Danville.
Tickets are $20 and reservations are available by calling 431-2280. He will also perform at the MLK service at 11:30 a.m. Monday at St. James United Methodist Church, 504 N. Vermilion St.
"The MLK Mass Choir is one of the places I got my start. It was the largest crowd I sung to back then," Wilson said. "It's awesome to be able to come back where I was born to perform on this special day. Gospel artists used to go on tour like I am now and couldn't stay in the hotels and had to use the back door to places. It's of great significance to me to celebrate the equal rights Dr. King worked for."
Wilson said his friends and family and others from Danville have been nothing but supportive of his efforts.
"It's fitting that I come here to start my career all over again," Wilson said. "The CD is 'Second Coming.' It's not only about my new career, the songs are meant to bring the second coming of Jesus Christ to the audience."
The first single released to gospel radio from "A Second Coming" is "My Soul Boasts in the Lord."