He’s recorded with music royalty like Quincy Jones, been to the Grammy Awards, and even played at the famed Apollo Theater in New York.
But Furman alumnus Rudy Currence ’02 says having his song “I Belong Here” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s gospel music chart was a “career high.”
“Not only did it go to No. 1 gospel song for two weeks,” he said, “but because I wrote it, I was the No. 1 gospel song writer in the country as well.”
Featuring his smooth singing style, the song was written several years ago as something of a self-affirmation.
“I’d been doing music and singing in church for a long time, and sometimes you can forget that what you’re doing is unique and purposeful and relevant,” he said. “In a lot of ways, the song was a self-reflection, that God gave me these musical gifts and they are making a difference in the world.”
But last year, he says, the song took on new meaning as humanity was gripped by a deadly pandemic.
“We all need a reminder that we are not in this pandemic alone,” he said. “So many are suffering, grieving the loss of loved ones, experiencing higher rates of anxiety and depression, maybe contemplating suicide. They need to know their lives have meaning and that they are loved because we all are loved.”
The Rock Hill native comes by his gospel roots naturally, having grown up performing at New Mount Olivet AME Zion Church and at Souls for Christ Church, where his father is pastor.
As a child of avid music lovers, he began singing at the age of 3 and started piano lessons at 6, performing with his younger brother (stage name Mykal Star) at family reunions, church functions and other local events. That grew to include bigger gigs such as singing the National Anthem at sporting events like Charlotte Hornets games.
The brothers even appeared on Showtime at the Apollo, he said, performing the Boyz II Men hit “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
At Northwestern High School, Currence was deep into chorus and band. Later, he won a scholarship to study classical voice and piano at Furman.
Currence has fond memories of his days at college, where he learned to play guitar and study music seriously, performing with the Furman Singers and in talent shows, even trying his hand at German lieder and operatic pieces.
“Furman has a very prestigious music program. And I’m grateful for the opportunities I had while there,” he said. “Furman broadened my horizons. It really stretched me.”
Alumnus Craig Price, now a professor of voice at Furman who knew Currence when they were undergrads, recalls that he was always a featured singer when they were in choir together.
“He has a fabulous voice – a pretty wide, impressive range,” he said. “He would come and play the piano and sing and he always stole the show.”
Price says the two reconnected after he saw one of Currence’s songs pop up on Facebook. And he’s not at all surprised by his friend’s success.
“His career has really been taking off in the last year or so,” he said. “He always had a star quality for sure.”
Even as a Furman student, Currence spent weekends in an Atlanta recording studio. Afterward, in addition to performing on the Quincy Jones album Soul Bossa Nostra with Ludacris, Currence said he has sung on the “The View” as well as several outlets on BET, and had a song in the movie “The Bourne Identity.” He also was a producer on Lecrae’s album “Gravity,” which won a Grammy and a Dove award.
Based in Atlanta, Currence says it’s been a blessing to be able to live out his dreams, and credits his family and friends for his success.
“I have a great support system and community of people who love me and believe in me,” he said. “I’m grateful to have them.”
With an appreciation for all types of music – pointing to such eclectic influences as Michael Jackson, Prince, the Bee Gees and James Taylor – Currence believes that music has a healing quality, and his goal is to use it to build bridges in a divided time.
“That’s a big reason why I started doing faith-based music,” he said. “It’s a business, and of course you want to be successful. But my priority is to inspire and change the world through music.”
Follow Currence on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter @Rudy_Currence, on Facebook @RudyCurrence and on YouTube.