Most young people who are part of a family group in the southern gospel industry have been born into the music, and this story is no different for Emma Carter from the Jay Stone Singers. Music is in her blood. Emma says, “Music is the most consistent part of my life. I was born into a musical family, and it’s something I’ve never parted from.” And this is clearly heard when you listen to her pure, pleasant voice and close-knit harmony. “Singing has always been second nature to me, especially singing harmony. I’d rather sing fun harmonies than the lead,” she admits. The music flows from her grandparents, who first started the Jay Stone Singers, and then through her parents, who took over singing with the group and began traveling full-time in 2010. “My papa, Jay Stone, started the group with my mammer, my mom, and my uncle in 1976…It has always been a family-oriented group with others who have come and gone along the way. For about the last decade it has been my mom, dad, brother, and myself, or some combination of 3 of us…As they say, the rest is history!”
As if full-time gospel singing is not enough, try adding on playing six different instruments, attending college, and handling other aspects of their ministry. Emma explains, “I love to help out in any way I can — mostly handling social media, setting up the product table, finding the nearest place to eat food after church, and setting up the sound equipment…I’ve played up to six different instruments over the years, but mainly just guitar now.”
It takes dedication, but Emma is genuinely committed and fully equipped with the ability supplied by the Lord. Emma says, “I am always seeing God’s provision in our ministry. He always knows what will happen down the road, and it’s evident all the time that He’s been orchestrating the way for us.”
What is the most rewarding part of traveling and singing? What is the most challenging?
– The most rewarding part is encouraging someone, making a new friend, someone finding the Lord, and being fulfilled by answering God’s call. It can be physically and emotionally taxing at times, especially since I’ve attended college full-time the past four years. However, it’s always worth it.
What is your favorite place to eat on the road?
– That’s a loaded question. It would take my entire lifetime to come up with an answer to that. I’ll just say if it’s spicy, it’s my favorite.
What is the top thing on your bucket list?
– To write songs. I’ve felt such a desire to write music for several years now.
If you could have the voice/talent of anyone in gospel music, whose would you have?
– That’s a tough one. I’d have to say Becky Bowman.
What is one embarrassing/funny/scary/fun memory while on stage?
– There was one Sunday morning that I could not stop yawning for the life of me. I got so tickled on stage, which is a terrible situation because I can’t stop laughing once I start.
Which person has had the greatest impact on your life and singing career?
– Again, another loaded question. I obviously grew up listening to southern gospel music. I also grew up listening to country music a lot which has had a great influence on the sound I like and my singing. I tell people I have a confused voice because my three biggest vocal influences as a child were Shania Twain, Celine Dion, and Charlotte Church.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on continuing to sing?
– I’m a Senior at Methodist University in my hometown of Fayetteville, NC. I am obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a Minor in Biology. I’m applying to Physician Assistant school this spring, which is a Masters program. So if I get into that program, I will have roughly 2 and a half more years of school. Of course, singing is always going to be in my life.
Looking back on your own life, what advice do you have for the “next generation”?
– Do what makes you happy, do what makes you feel alive, and don’t be afraid to create what you love.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
– What’s free time?! I’m just kidding. Right now, with school and work, as well as singing, free time isn’t something I have a lot of. However, when I get a moment, I do love working out, reading positive books, and listening to music.
If you could bring about one change in gospel music, what would it be?
– More open-mindedness to new sounds!
What is playing in your CD player/phone right now?
– I feel like this is SUCH a nerdy answer, but it’s the truth. It’s an instrumental studying playlist on Spotify!
What advice do you have for any aspiring gospel artists?
– Be 100% authentic. You don’t have to be what you feel like everyone likes or expects. Your trueness and “you”-ness will far outshine anything you can imagine. God has given us our own beautiful talents and abilities for a reason. Trust yours!
What are some of your favorite gospel groups?
– How am I supposed to choose?! If I had to pick a few — Karen Peck and New River, The Erwins, The Shirey’s (one of my best friends in this world), The Isaacs, and High Road!