Prolific songwriter, multi award winning singer and worship leader are just some of Isabella Melodies’ many hats. This United Kingdom based sensation is also an author of the amazing book ‘The Worshipper After The Father’s Heart’ and has 6 albums to her credit, and is the founding president of Women of African Origin in Music Ministry.
With ministry taking her to the different continents of the world and motherhood keeping her grounded, she has accomplished so much. I was wowed by her confidence, depths of wisdom and her clear sense of direction on who God has called her to be. See for yourselves!
1. Everyone has a unique story of how they were called by God. Could you share with us the story of how God chose you to minister to his people in song?
I never actually consciously set out to sing professionally or to become a Gospel Recording Artist. My salvation experience happened when I attended a church service in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in 1996. By then I was married and I already had my first daughter. Anyway, I found myself writing even more songs for and about the Lord after I got born again. Although I was not a choir member, I was occasionally allowed to minister solo songs in church. I remember very vividly when I believe the Lord showed me a very clear vision of what He called me to do. This was in 1997 and at that time, it seemed impossible because, prior to this time, I had never been a member of choir, never done back up and never really had any formal music training but I knew without a shadow of doubt in my spirit that this was what the Lord would have me do. After we relocated to the UK a couple of years later, I was made the worship leader in my home church in London and I was a worship leader for about ten years before I felt the release to go into the studio and record the songs that the Lord was giving me. I found my purpose and calling in the music ministry.
2. Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to song writing?
I am one of those songwriters that my inspiration flows from everything and everywhere. Sometimes, whilst listening to a song, I hear another sound and a new song is birthed through that. Sometimes a new song is downloaded in my spirit during a time of worship (personal and corporate), through dreams, through a life experience, when I am going through a challenging time or even when something really great happens. Songs flow from my heart at all times in all seasons. The gift of song writing is one of the most evident gifts that God has blessed me with. The truth is that the Holy Spirit inspires all my songs, they all flow from my love for the Lord and my passion for Him.
3. What is your favourite genre of music?
I don’t really go by genre, I really listen to music more with my heart than with my ears. The depth and content of the lyrics count more than the sound really. I relate to songs that speak life, songs that edify, give hope, spread love and inspire positive change. Depending on my mood, I mostly listen to ballads, but sometimes I go for more upbeat lively songs. What matters more to me is what the song says rather than the genre. Having said all that, I am definitely drawn to soulful ballads, what you would generally tend to call ‘sad, mushy songs’. You know that kind that gets you all teary eyed and almost melancholic. Yes, I am that kind of deep, sober and reflective person. I appreciate depth over hype.
4. Tell me about a season where you had to wait upon the Lord for a good while before you moved on to a higher phase in your singing ministry
Truth is, ministry is a journey that never really ends on this side of eternity. When you walk with the Lord, sometimes you don’t even realise when He has taken you from one phase to the other. It just flows seamlessly. I am always expectant so in a way, I am always in a waiting mode. Even whilst I am in motion, I am waiting on him for the next instruction. I don’t really distinguish a ‘waiting’ period anymore because I realise that I am always ‘waiting’ on the Lord for something even while doing something else.
5. How do you combine and balance your many hats, as a mother, pastor, counsellor, wife and fitness coach?
The nature of ministry is that the more you do, the more you are required to do. The bible says to whom much is given; much is expected so if you are exceedingly graced in what you do, then it is likely that a demand would be placed upon that anointing on your life. .At the risk of sounding cliché, I will tell you that the bottom line is the grace of God. I know it may sound like I just want to spiritualise things, however it is the absolute truth. Apart from the amazing grace and great favour that the Lord has showered upon me since stepping out into ministry, the only reason I can do all I do today is because of the love and support of my husband, my children and my sister. And of course, I have the support of my extended family, friends and ministry supporters.
I try to organise my time effectively and to prioritise. Anyone who knows me knows I am constantly busy and have very little time for socialising. I try to utilise my time in the most efficient way so I try to be productive with every minute I have. I am quite focused and so I am not afraid to say no to anything if it does not add any eternal value to my life. The other very important point I would make here is the need to network with others and establish good relationships. God has really placed key people in my life who are always available to support me when I need help and vice versa.
6. How do you relax after a fulfilling ministration or any tasking activity?
I spend time with family. My husband is my best friend and I have four children who are fairly grown so they are my favourite people to hang out with. We laugh a lot in my household and that is really such a blessing. We have a family tradition to go on vacation every year so that we can take time away from our busy schedules to bond as a family with no distractions. We usually jet off to somewhere warm, tropical and exotic! Just my husband, myself and our four kids. I love working out so I go to the gym, although not as much as I should! I also enjoy doing make-up for charity in my free time. I read a lot so I surround myself with a lot of books to read in my spare time.
7. Do you think there’s a difference between the anointing on a compact disk and that which is felt at a live performance?
Oh, absolutely! A CD would have gone through a lot of manipulation and ‘tidying up’ which is totally different from a live performance. Personally speaking, I feel that I sound better live than in the studio. I feel like I’m one of those people that are not necessarily cut out for the studio sound. Also, I find that it is sometimes very difficult to recreate a divine atmosphere with digital instruments rather than live instruments etc. The raw presence and anointing of God cannot be simulated so I definitely think that there’s a big difference between a studio and live experience. However, some CDs are really anointed as well. The presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit makes a huge difference.
8. Have you ever considered quitting ministry?
Not at all! I have experienced some hard knocks, setbacks, disappointments, rejection and failures but I have never once considered quitting as an option. Not at all. I know without an iota of doubt that I am doing what I was created to do, so every negative experience is part of my success story. I didn’t just set out doing Gospel music for the love of music or because I have a nice voice. The Lord impressed His purpose and calling upon me with an indelible mark which nothing can blur or erase. If anything, every negative experience fuels my passion to desire and seek God even more. I am naturally a very doggedly determined person anyway so I have never been the type to give up on anything without a good fight!
9. Please name your musical influences, both secular and Christian.
I love certain artists I grew up listening to, such as Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Anita Baker, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and Maria Carey to name just a few. From that list, you can tell I am really into love songs and ballads. From a Christian perspective, I know these may not be great examples for some people, but those were the artists I listened to at the time. After I became born again, I listened to music from the likes of CeCe Winans, Juanita Bynum, Vikki Yohe and a host of others but the greatest influences that transformed my worship experience were Terry MacAlmon and a little known prophetic worshipper named Pablo Perez. Of course being an African, I do absolutely love Sinach. I think she is an amazing gift to the Body of Christ and she has successfully remained in her lane for decades. Having said all that, the inspiration for my music is my love for the Lord.
10. What scripture would you say has had the most profound effect in your life?
John 4:23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him”. This has been the foundational Scripture of my ministry. It was mind-blowing for me to know that the all-sufficient and self-existing Creator of the universe is SEEKING someone and something. I asked myself “what do you give to someone who has everything?” And then for me to discover that there is actually someone that God (who does not lack anything) is seeking (i.e. true worshippers), I put my hands, legs and heart up straightaway screaming ‘me, me, me Lord! Mould me into what You are seeking!’.
11. Many ministers would talk about the leading of the spirit in selecting events where they minister. Are there practical steps you take to decide which events you attend or are you always audibly led by the spirit?
Firstly, it is very important to pray when one is invited to anywhere. It cannot be overemphasised that we need to be led by the Holy Spirit because I have seen a minister walk through a door alive and come out dead, and another walk through the door free and come out bound. Not every open door is a blessing, some are traps designed by the enemy to discourage, dishonour or destroy your ministry. I don’t say this lightly because I am not a sceptic. I firmly believe in recommendations so there is no harm in asking questions about a ministry or person who invites you. Are there other ministers who have been there before? What was their experience? Sometimes, in our excitement, we forget to ask the right questions and this leads to unnecessary disagreements and scandalous stories afterwards. Having said that, the voice of the Holy Spirit must be the lead. When we pray about it, sometimes God protects us by orchestrating things in such a way that plans change. Honestly speaking, sometimes I just immediately accept an invite without even praying if it’s a ministry I have known for a while and have a good relationship with.
12. You definitely enjoy ministry every day of your life. What would you say are 5 top tips to keep your joy and have a pleasant attitude.
1. Find what you love doing and what you are passionate about, and do it! Don’t do things out of external pressure. If you embark on a journey half-heartedly, you are bound to get weary and easily frustrated when things don’t go as smoothly as planned (and that is guaranteed to happen at some stage!). If the motivation does not come from within, it won’t work in the long run. The pressure of ministry can get intense and if you are not graced for what you do, you will really struggle.
2. Learn from people, get inspired by people but do not be a blatant copy cat. One of the most pathetic things to see is a minister trying so hard to look, sound, dress and/or behave like another person. By doing that, all you are really saying to the world is ‘I am not good enough so I have an inferiority complex’. The truth is that by being a copy, you have automatically undermined yourself. It’s ok to learn from people but never lose your uniqueness/originality.
3. Stop competing and comparing! You will be a much happier person when you realise that there will always be someone doing much better than you are in every area. Some people walk around depressed because they are in competition mode. By all means, watch those who are doing well and learn from them but keep firmly in mind that you are just as important to God and your purpose is not less significant than theirs. See the bigger picture.
4. Nurture healthy relationships and cut off drama queens and their drama! Sometimes in church, we are taught to tolerate everything and everyone but, remember, evil communication corrupts good manners. I am not just talking about cutting off the unsaved, I am also talking about the saved drama queens! Some people are just naturally disruptive and contentious, they lack decorum and spread gossip, and therefore they become a huge distraction so you need to cut them off before you get drawn into their storm.
5. Stop living to please people! Oh, I could say that a million times over. There are too many people desperately trying to be liked so much so that they lose their identity trying to fit into everybody’s good books. In fact, some miss the will of God for their lives because they are trying to avoid upsetting or offending people. The truth is that you can never please everybody so you might as well please God. Trying to be everybody’s friend will only bring unnecessarily hurt and depression. Don’t be obnoxious to people but don’t be a doormat either. Set your standards and your boundaries and, even if people are not pleased by it, they will respect you for it.
13. How would you describe success as an artiste in the gospel genre?
Success means different things to different people. To some people, success means ministering on bigger platforms, living in big houses with lots of cars and stuff, having a large followership and big bank accounts, being famous etc. Whilst all of these are desirable, and indeed part and parcel of our Kingdom inheritance, I have discovered that you can have all these things and still feel like or be a mess. Success starts in the mind. To me, success is walking in the will of God for your life and maximising the gifts and talents that God has given you for His glory and for His Kingdom. Success is going to bed at night being at peace with who you are and what you have done. For me, success in ministry is hearing God clearer, knowing His ways more, ability to articulate His Word and His heart better, becoming more like Him in character. If you know Him better, you will become a more effective and successful tool in His hand.
14. What do you most admire in others?
I am attracted to confidence and intelligence. I love people who are driven, who exude positive energy and who genuinely see the best in others. I am impressed by tenacity and humility. I love it when I see people who have overcome real hurdles in life and have turned them to stepping stones.
15. What practical steps have you and your husband taken to preserve your relationship?
Seriously speaking, this has become a bigger issue due to social media and people being more accessible at the click of a button. The bottom line is that we are friends, we have an open channel of communication, we feel safe to be vulnerable with each other and we do not take each other for granted. I watch his back, he watches mine and we do not get complacent with each other. He is a very confident man and he knows he has my eyes and my heart. He trusts me completely because he knows how much I love the Lord and he knows that I would not behave in a way that would compromise our beautiful relationship. We are both quite protective of our relationship and no third party is allowed in. I also strongly believe that a woman can make a powerful statement by the way she dresses and carries herself. I am a friendly person, that is my nature and I see no need to force myself to be unfriendly to protect a false image. However, I set boundaries and I set them quite firmly. I do not hesitate to put people in their place if they attempt to cross those boundaries. Myself and my husband have built in checks and balances in our relationship which makes it very easy for one of us to pick it up straightaway if something doesn’t sit right about a third party. We are both accountable to each other and we both understand that it is not acceptable to keep secret friendships. He has all my passwords (FB, Twitter, Instagram, emails, phones) and I have his. Having said all that, we are both fallible human beings, and so the bottom line is that we commit our relationship to the infallible God on a daily basis, we pray together and we trust God to protect our marriage.
16. What would be your final words?
Without hesitation, I would say how important it is to build healthy relationships, ask questions, remain humble, find a mentor and most importantly, remember who the Boss is and what He has sent you to do. There are so many voices and influences out there that, if you are not sure of what you have been called to do, you will get distracted and wander off course. People often mean well and they most likely want the best for you but every good suggestion is not necessarily a Godly counsel. You need to be able to articulate the vision that God has given you and run with it. And when you hit obstacles, as we all do, don’t depend on people, depend on God!
If you are serious about ministry, money or fame should not be your driver. Realise that if you are earnestly and passionately seeking God by doing what He has called you to do, all other ‘things’ will have no choice but to line up with His Word concerning you. It is an eternal principle. Always seek opportunities to improve yourself and ensure you learn and grow from every experience.