There are so many great quartets in gospel music, and because of that, there must be something special about each group that makes it stand out from the rest. I had the privilege of interviewing Carolina Quartet, and they most definitely have that “special thing” that makes their ministry distinct, with their country sound and sound hearts set on singing God’s praises.
Stacy Compagner: Help us get to know you guys by telling a little about your group and how you got started.
Scott Whitener: Doc and I have been singing together for 25 years. It all started with a group called the Melody Masters Quartet who were very popular in the late 1990s into the early 2000’s. We had a lot of success in the southern gospel market and played at most of the major concerts and conventions.
We left the road in early 2002, and after several years apart, came together in 2006 to begin Carolina. It’s been a 13 year journey, carving our own path. As of the past three years, the two new guys, Riley Dotson and Chris Parker, have helped to further define our sound into a more country style of music.
SC: You all come from unique walks of life that all still center around gospel music. How do your different backgrounds contribute to the group that you are today?
Chris Roberts: I have been a worship pastor for 30 years, recently retired, and ready to once again blaze a trail with Scott and the guys after all these years in a part-time endeavor. Scott is still pastoring for now, however, there will come a day when we will once again make our living from singing together.
Both Chris Parker and Riley Dotson continue to work at secular jobs. Parker works for a firm in Charlotte that does high resolution graphics for highway improvements and building, while Riley works part-time for Fed Ex while pursuing a degree in Real Estate.
From a musical standpoint, church music has always been a part of my life, while Scott’s background is very diversified, from singing in Beach and Top 40 bands as a young man, to breaking into full-time Gospel Music with the Singing Americans, to leading worship in several churches, as well as the one he pastors now. Chris Parker also played the country and rock band scene across the Southeast before settling down with his dad’s quartet, Arise. Riley’s roots are deep in Bluegrass, as his dad is an accomplished musician and singer and has toured nationally for many years. So yes, we are a very diversified group, and yet we pride ourselves on the harmony we make together!”
SC: You guys have a unique country style to your music, how do you find that asset benefits your ministry?
Scott Whitener: In 2006, when Carolina was born, we felt it was really important for a bit of a style change to carve our own path. With the change in personnel, it became evident that a more country style blended better, and we knew that the style would give us more opportunities to broaden the aspects of ministry. Since then, we’ve been able to sing in places where straight-ahead southern gospel doesn’t get an opportunity often. We are grateful for that. We have been working in private corporate functions with the national American Legion and have been able to take our brand to Main Street in small theaters across the country. We still love southern gospel as much as we ever have, and our friends that sing and play it! We always want to be a part of that and continue to support it and promote it with our industry friends.”
SC: You released a new CD, tell us about that album.
Chris Parker: “The new record, American Morning, is more of an Americana project. Songs of faith, family, and freedom. Songs that speak to all walks of life, some of which take us back to the great memories of our childhoods and better days. Several of the straight-ahead Gospel songs on the recording are making their way to radio. ‘I Don’t Have To Stay’ is still on the charts and performing well, and ‘Saints Sing Their Way Home’ is the upcoming release from the good folks at BerryHill Records and Main Street Entertainment. We also released ‘Everyday American’ to country radio, and in the live forum it’s the polarizing song of the night. We are thankful for such a great company, and for the watch, care, and direction that they provide. Michael Sykes produced the record, and Q. and Dani Phillips manage me and the guys from a company standpoint. We went into it as a big family, and it has proven itself to continue to be family!”
SC: How have you seen God at work in your ministry?
Riley Dotson: We see God at work everywhere. On our bus, in the concert venue, at churches, outside events in secular arenas, and even when we’re just sitting around with the record company talking about the future. Ministry is often a misused word, but it’s real if God is leading it, and when we do what we do for the glory of the Lord, it always pays great dividends. We are grateful to be able to serve the Lord together as brothers first, and as a singing group second.
SC: Life on the road can be a bit difficult, but it can also be very rewarding. What are some of the highlights of getting to do what you do?
Scott Whitener: I guess our relationships out there with our friends in the business, and our friends and fans in the seats is what makes it work. It’s always great to sing with our buddies, and to raise the roof in Jesus’ name, and it’s also wonderful to be able to take a few minutes with our friends, supporters, and fans. As we travel across the country, we see God’s handiwork all over this great country, and it helps to break the boredom of mile after mile.
All the guys “chime in here”: We just believe that a balanced life and career can only be found in Christ. Number one, we are Christians — Christ followers. That must be first. Secondly, we are family guys. We love our wives and families. Thirdly, we love one another. And because we have harmony on the bus, it’s easy to make harmony off the bus! Fourthly, we are entertainers. Christian entertainers, and all these things fit together to bring balance into our lives, as long as they are grounded in Christ and as long as we do what we do for His glory.
SC: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Our advice to anyone starting out is just to make sure that, “In everything you do, do it for the glory of Christ.” (Colossians 3:17)
SC: What is your favorite song to sing in concert and why?
Unanimously, all the guys agree that Amazing Grace is still our favorite song to sing every night. We generally pull the stools out, get cozy right up on the front of the stage, and we share that song from Parker all the way to Doc in four different verses.
To find out more info on Carolina, visit them at www.carolinaquartet.com.