The Chicago Defender’s Black Month Special Edition
Todd Dulaney | @todddulaney
When Todd Dulaney left a blossoming career in professional baseball to commit his life in music ministry, he had no idea where this life-altering decision would lead him. One evening, visiting Pastor Smokie Norful’s church shook something awake in him that had been dormant outside of baseball and he wanted to pursue that renewed feeling.
Taking a leap in faith, he changed courses in his career—making a commitment in Christ and reigniting his love for music. He released his first indie Gospel project, Pulling Me Through (2011), building up steam among music lovers and last year’s release of A Worshipper’s Heart [Live] (2016) on Light Records/eOne Entertainment launched his career on another level. The Maywood native earned his first Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Album. Lately, Dulaney has been busy on the road performing and taking on other interests such as acting.
Happily married and the father of three children with a baby on the way, The Chicago Defender had a chance to talk with one of the fresh faces of Gospel music.
Who has been the most influential of those artists for you in building your own lane here in Chicago?
I grew up around the house, and my father would always play the Tommies. I never knew it would mean anything to me in my life. My whole career was pursuing baseball but my dad, every Sunday morning, would play the Tommies. I ended up recording one of the Tommies’ songs, written by Percy Bady. I never knew that it was shaping me or that I was listening to them for what would come later on for me that singing Gospel music.
You were a professional baseball player. In making that transition from professional sports to becoming a musician and full-time artist, did you find difficulty?
My whole my life all I wanted to do was become a professional athlete, that was the epitome of greatness. Once I got drafted by the New York Mets, this was it. I got my whole life ahead of me to make millions of dollars, but one off-season I came home here in Chicago, and Smokie Norful had started a church here. I went to his church to develop a relationship in my faith. From there, I saw this guy was singing and traveling. I fell in love with music ministry. When it was time to go back for baseball, I wanted to do music ministry. That was my shift.
What are some of the things you apply to being an incredibly disciplined musician? Some of the best athletes are very discipline, focused and driven in goal setting? Do you apply the same philosophy in music?
I don’t like to feel or see someone out working me. It makes something rise up inside me. If I find another person in the music business, grinding a little harder than me—I have to work a little harder. I think it’s a shame that an artist wants or expect people to work so hard on their careers and they don’t put forth the effort on their own stuff.
What does fatherhood mean to you, as a father and as a son?
My father is the greatest man that’ll I’ll ever know. He passed on but I never knew how great of a man he was until I had my own family. Everything that I saw in him, I would look at some of the decisions he made on behalf of our house, wondering if they were the best decisions. That all changed when I became the head of my own house. So, now I have respect for anyone who’s a father—any type of a father. Standing there and playing a role—my respect for that man is so high—now that I know these decisions were not easy.
What kind of advice did Pastor Smokie Norful give you on both ministry and surviving in the music business?
One thing was patience. He would harp on me during the early years of ministry with him. He said, I was moving too fast but I told him, ‘I think I could do it.’ That was the one thing he instilled in me. He said, ‘You have to wait till it’s God’s time for you to shine.’ I learned that from him, watching everything unfold and enjoying the process of it. I’m learning to enjoy the day-to-day because when it’s over—it’s over. You spend all of this time trying to make it and you’ve made it. The hard work is part of the ‘making it’.