Detroit is known for churning out the great soul and R&B singers. Also known as the home of Motown, Detroit is the place for great Gospel talent as well. One of those shining sacred artists in Motor City is Gospel Recording Artist Ellen Hayes. A flat-footed singer that can belt out notes that shake the soul, Hayes has been inspiring believers for decades. The gifted alto epitomises church with her mastery of traditional Gospel music and contemporary Gospel music. The multi-talented organist, pianist, vocalist, songwriter, choir director and four-time Rhythm of Gospel Nominee is getting ready to shake up the world of Gospel with a long-awaited release, We Owe It All To You.
Originally hailing from Ecorse, Michigan, Ellen was raised in Detroit, Michigan, after her father, a pastor, was called to start a church there. He moved his family, including his wife and ten children, into the upper floors of a converted bar and that’s where Ellen’s father began his ministry work. Deeply involved in the inner workings of the church, she was very active. Ellen is grateful for the lessons she learned growing up in the church and how it shaped her as a Christian. “When I was growing up, I couldn’t see the value of it,” Ellen explains. “But when I grew up and started having children, experiencing life itself, there were so many times that I realized that I needed the lessons I learned in church. And I came to see how important a relationship with the Lord was.”
It was in the church where her love of music began. Her mother, a musician, played for the church and helped with the choir. A gifted pianist and vocalist, the notes that flowed from the piano as her mother played soothed Ellen’s soul. Enamoured by the sound of the keys, later, Ellen learned to play by ear, starting with the organ first and then the piano. She had an affinity for jazz, pop and soul, initially, but soon her passion for Gospel music blossomed. In her 20s, she began directing and playing for her church choir, completely unaware that she would still be playing, directing and ministering in song some 40 years later.
A talented singer and skilful interpreter of song, Ellen realized at the age of 16 that she’d been called to music ministry. Songwriting took hold when her father stopped allowing certain songs – ones he felt didn’t line up with scripture – to be sung in church. That decision forced Ellen to start penning her own songs, songs taken right from scripture. Ellen says that the Lord “opened up the creative part” of her mind and began giving her melodies to complement scripture. Not only did she receive amazing songs, but in the process, she became a devout student of the Bible.
Her exquisite knowledge of the word of God is apparent in Ellen’s forthcoming release. Scripture is at the very centre of her song, “The Holy City,” a track on the new release. Inspired by a series of prophetic dreams where she witnessed “the holy city” and all of its glory, the song captures the majesty and reverence of Heaven. Ellen’s performance on the song is a memorable and moving one. Those who like “The Holy City” will certainly enjoy the soft and uplifting harmonies of “Peace Be Unto You.” Ellen takes the listener back to the old-time church with the stirring track, “God Will Supply.” “Walk In the Spirit” and “I Tried Him for Myself,” the project’s lead single, are both rousing, toe-tapping Gospel songs perfect for Sunday morning. “Just Like You Lord” is certain to be a radio favourite as well. Every song on the 10-song, 13-track CD, We Owe It All To You, provides its own unique inspiration.
Recording is nothing new for Ellen. She recorded her first song in her early 20s. It began when her brother, Dr Raymond Edison, wanted to form a Gospel group; Ellen quickly became a member. True Inspiration, the new group, booked her brother’s studio, recorded several tracks and released two albums. They gained a following and were known for delivering powerful performances. Ellen remained a member of True Inspiration for 20 years before launching her solo career. Step Into Your Blessing was her debut CD release. Dropped in 2012, the project featured tracks written by Ellen and producer Michael Mindingall. It was the first time that audiences were able to witness Ellen on her own and the CD allowed the songstress to spread her musical wings. It was also the first time that Ellen was recognized by the industry for her work; the title song received four Rhythm of Gospel Award Nominations. In 2018, the Gospel Music Workshop of America held their 50th Anniversary in Detroit and celebrated with a live recording entitled Bringing It Back Home. Ellen, a member of the GMWA Detroit Chapter, was honoured when her song, “Oh King,” a stunningly beautiful worship tune that morphs into a powerful Gospel anthem, was featured on the record.
Ellen’s first project was followed by the introduction of a new group, Ellen Hayes and Harmonee. The all-female group consisted of Ellen and her three daughters, LaToya Bellafant, Cynthia Gross and Carmen Hayes, and as their name suggests, they were recognized for delivering impeccable harmonies and an unforgettable blend that can only be found in families. The ministry was an extension of the musical lineage that started with her parents, continued with her brother and transferred to her children. A wife of almost 40 years, the mother of eight and the grandmother of 20, Ellen Hayes is just getting started. Currently, she is the musician at her home church, the Word of Truth Church in Detroit, Michigan, pastored by Rufus Hayes, the same church her father started decades earlier.
Now, Ellen Hayes is set to take centre stage again with her upcoming 2022 release, We Owe It All To You. “This song was originally written in 2006 after my dad passed. Then, it was titled “I Owe it all to You” In 2020 after surviving Covid when so many friends and family members didn’t, I changed the name to “ We Owe It All To You” the reason being, none of us could have survived, come off ventilators with functional organs, and leave the hospital to carry on with our life. Our food, finances, methods of transportation, mental health, and so many other things are intact. The entire world was stumped at how to proceed. And although I thank God for the hard-working doctors and nurses, they really didn’t have a clue how to proceed. But God delivered us despite. That’s why it’s named “We Owe It All To You!” A newly minted executive board member of the National Independent Gospel Music Association, also known as NIGMA, Ellen feels like the season is right to showcase more music and to encourage the saints with new songs. And the saints are ready.