By Charles Hallman
When two of his penned tunes make the top of Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs, one would naturally assume that songwriter Darius Paulk’s hit-writing career has reached its musical apex.
Vashawn Mitchell recorded and sang “Nobody Greater” to the top of the charts; the song stayed in the top 10 in 2010-2011. Earlier this summer, Marvin Sapp’s “I Win” also hit number one as well. Both songs were written by Paulk.
“I’m pleased with the way my career is going,” Paulk told the MSR in a phone interview from his Atlanta home.
Paulk admits that he didn’t expect “Nobody Greater” to become a big hit, let alone an anthem song. “I love the song, but I did not know it would take off and do as much as it did. I thank the Lord for it every single day.”
However, the hit song also brought him to court — Travis Malloy claimed that he co-wrote “Nobody Greater” and filed a suit against Paulk, EMI Christian Music Group and Sony Music Holdings in 2011 for royalties from radio airplay and music sales. Paulk, however, argued that he alone wrote it during a difficult time in his life — he lost his job, and his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.
The suit was eventually dismissed in July by a U.S. District Court judge.
“This case was in fact dismissed on May 18,” said Paulk’s publicist Bill Carpenter in a press release.
“I knew that ‘Nobody Greater’ was good for me because it was birthed out of what I was going through at the time. [It] was therapy for me,” admits Paulk. “When I write, I just write what I am inspired to write — I try to be as descriptive as possible.”
Now with the suit finally over, Paulk in August released his first digital EP, Lyrics & Melodies, now available on iTunes and other online music outlets. “It’s a real good message,” he notes. “I think it is a blessing — I’m my biggest critic, but I think it is a good combination of music that covers the whole spectrum of our [gospel] community.”
Paulk points out that one of the five songs, “He Is God,” on his first solo recording might be his favorite because just like “Nobody Greater,” the song emerged after a bad episode in his life. “A lot of people don’t know that the week after the  Stellar Awards, someone broke into my apartment while I was home and held me up at gunpoint. Thanks be to God they got scared and left, and I am still alive. The song came from that experience.
“If you close your eyes and listen to the lyrics, you can see what I am saying,” believes Paulk.
Paulk’s stepping to the microphone might be surprising for those who only know him as a songwriter, but he proudly says, “I always have been a singer. I grew up singing in the youth choir, and my voice developed faster than the other kids.”
After he moved to Atlanta as a young adult, a local minister of music advised him to try his hand at songwriting, recalls Paulk, who then was told, “If you are going to be successful in gospel music, you have to hone in that writing ability.” Along with that piece of advice, Paulk says he literally listened to every gospel singer’s record that was available “to form my ear and show me different examples and different songs and artists.
“I didn’t seriously get into writing until I was 18 or 19. The first song I’ve ever [written] and was placed on a record was ‘I’d Be Changed,’” he notes. “It is really a good message — it’s about the power of life and death…and walking in that kingdom authority. That’s one of my favorite songs. If I ever do a live recording, I would want to do that song.”
Why did the Dove and Stellar Award-nominated songwriter opt for the Internet rather than put his EP in traditional record stores? “Number one, we live in a digital world,” he responded. “To release your music digitally is a major way to get the message out and to get your music out there.”
This doesn’t mean that radio airplay is no longer a viable option, he adds. “People spend a considerable amount of time in their cars throughout the day, either driving to work or driving from work. Whatever they hear on the radio, that’s the music that falls on their ears and [they] grow to love. That’s the music they ultimately will buy.
“Radio and digital is the way you have to go now,” says the songwriter. “As a songwriter, you want your music to be heard.”
Paulk believes gospel music “should be mainstream. My vision for gospel is [to be] like when Justin Bieber sells 300,000 records in the first day. I want that to be gospel. I want our music to be the ‘it’ thing.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.