Clifton Ross III hails from Detroit. He is an alum of Howard University where he earned a Bachelor of Music. He is a gifted musician, singer and teacher. He is an alum of Detroit’s Mosaic Youth Theater and he is the former musical director of the Howard Gospel Choir of Howard University. Currently he is one of the Musical Directors at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Maryland where his pastors are Drs. Grainger and JoAnn Browning. and the Minister of Music is gospel music legend and choir master, Ricky Dillard. Many people know Clifton from season 2 of BET’s Sunday Best season and most recently he was one of the top three finalists during season 8, theBET Sunday All Star season.
We got the opportunity to catch up with Cliff, let's see what he had to say…
KingdomSoldNYC: Many know you as Clifton Ross III, the Sunday Best All Star contestant but seriously, real quick give us some insight to who Clifton is, who do you describe yourself as?
Cliff: Clifton, is a big ball of fun. I love positive energy so I am always conscious of what type of energy I am bringing in the room. I love to laugh. I love to be around family and friends. I love to cook. I love to sit at home and watch TV. I love to sleep. (laughs)
KingdomSoldNYC: So life is a little different for you now because you're out traveling?
Cliff: Yes life is definitely different! I’m traveling more which I love! I also get to meet people who watched the show and that’s always a great moment; lots of hugs and pictures! But I enjoy it and I believe it’s my assignment. I also have the privilege of traveling and singing background vocals for Vashawn Mitchell and Kurt Carr. And when I’m not traveling, I’m just relaxing and taking time for myself. I love spending time with me.
KingdomSoldNYC: I'm the type of person that when I see people on TV I wonder, what they are like in real life and what kind of personality do they have. You are everything that I guessed. Hearing you say that you like fun and you're a big bubble of energy, you're describing what I guessed.
Cliff: That's good, you're not the first person to say that. I met this one lady at the Kennedy Center and she said to me you are exactly how you are on TV. Oh my God you’re so nice! I laughed and said thank you. I really think it’s important to be kind to people you never know how you’re energy can bless someone.
KingdomSoldNYC: Well you know what... I think it's good to know that there are still down to earth people that regardless of being on TV & having great opportunities, they're still down to earth, people persons, relaxed and very okay with simply talking to people and not acting stuck up. These days and times people are very much so into what they're doing and just finding humble down to earth people is scarce. So it's very refreshing
Cliff: Well thank you, I believe in consistency. I don’t want someone to meet me one day and then another day when we encounter each other, I’m not the same. I just don’t feel like that’s right. My parents always taught us to remember where we’ve come from and know that you’re standing on someone else’s shoulders. So always pay it forward. Sometimes it will be with kindness. But always – pay it forward in some way.
KingdomSoldNYC: That’s awesome! You mentioned family. Tell us a little more about that. See you’re Clifton Ross the Third! (laughs)
Cliff: I am Clifton Ross III and I’m named after my father (Clifton Ross Jr.) and my father is named after my grandfather (Clifton Ross III Sr.). I love my name. I love who I represent and I am proud to carry my father’s name. My family is my strength --- my parents have always been there and they've always pushed us to chase after our dreams and this helped me to pursue what was in my heart. Music has always been in my life. My father plays the harmonica, percussion and he used to tap dance when he was younger. My mother sings and now she makes jewelry. My oldest sister Kim writes poetry and my sister Candice plays percussion, sings, acts, plays the guitar and I’m the baby (laughs). I am so grateful for my family. Their love and support has shaped me into the person that many people met on the BET Sunday Best stage.
KingdomSoldNYC: Yes, The Sunday Best stage. You made it to Sunday Best All Stars Top 3, Describe what life has been like since then...
Cliff: This is really an awesome season in my life. The Dean of the Chapel at Howard University always shares this quote that I carry with me ---- ‘seek to serve and you will run into greatness along the way’. I’m young, but I’ve had many experiences that have allowed me to serve. And these experiences have really shaped me and helped me to not only develop my craft but it’s helped me to sow seeds that I’m reaping the benefits of right now, in this season. Serving is a sacrifice but it is worth it and it’s required. And looking back…I am just so grateful.
'KingdomSoldNYC: Growing up did you think about being here or were you just serving along the way and stumbled into it as things started happening?
Cliff: I always wanted to sing. Singing became more important to me my last year at Southfield High School. I joinedthe Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit and we traveled nationally and internationally and that experience was like home for me. It pushed me to pursue music at Howard University and it was one of the best decisions of my life. When you’re in the moment you don’t realize how each experience prepares you for your journey but you get indicators along the way. I couldn’t see the entire path and even now I still wonder what’s ahead, but I believe God and He’s always there guiding us along the way.
KingdomSoldNYC: Well you are making strides in the right direction, It is a pleasure to see people’s success. Just talking to you makes me even more excited about what God is doing in your life. Again you see people from different walks of life, different backgrounds, different ambitions but when they have the right attitude, the right spirit, the right focus, like you said the mindset of serving because you love God and you love to do it. You see It’s so easy to get into feelings but to hear you say in spite of, you remained focused and continued to serving! You’ve put in your years of service, your respectful and you’ve paid homage. So these are the results your yielding now and this is only the beginning of Clifton Ross III. We are really excited to see what is to come!
Cliff: Thank you, it’s a blessing to be a blessing to people by just being myself. I don’t take that for granted. I’m learning that a lot of people are watching me and of course that comes with a certain weight but that comes with the assignment. I do my best to make the best decisions I can. You can’t control people's thoughts about what you do but you can do your best to be a light.
KingdomSoldNYC: How did you find the Sunday best experience? What was it like...
Cliff: Competing on television brings on a rush of emotions...excitement, fear, anxiety, etc --- all at once. Standing on the Sunday Best stage is like a master class moment. You have to be able to receive the critiques from the judges and apply it quickly. Every performance is not your best performance but you have to accept it and keep moving. No matter what, I always put my heart into the moment and my prayer was that people could feel God through me. Two minutes on a stage is not your journey, it’s just one piece of it.
KingdomSoldNYC: You was actually on Sunday Best before…
Cliff: Yes I was there for season 2, that was 6 years ago.
KingdomSoldNYC: That’s right, How would you compare the 2?
Cliff: When I got the call to return to Sunday Best the second time, I felt ready. I was not the same person that competed during season 2. In the past 6 years I graduated from Howard, I grew as a person and as an artist – I’d evolved. My mindset was different. I was more focused and confident in my assignment. I was not consumed by fear. If you had asked me about my assignment 6 years ago it would not have been the same as today. During this season of Sunday Best, every episode was a different challenge. The entire season was about balance for me. I was meditating and praying often; I needed to stay centered. My prayer was always --- Lord let people feel my heart. At the end of the day I believe that what matters most is what comes from the heart.
KingdomSoldNYC: We saw a progression from your performances each week? From the 1st episode to the top 3. What do you have to say about that?
Cliff: Every song required a different approach and that was a challenge for me each week. If people noticed growth or felt that I evolved well...hallelujah (laughs).
KingdomSoldNYC: Listening to you, I’m wondering if it was growth or if it was that you were prepared and we simply saw a different side of you being in your element.
Cliff: I think it’s a mixture of both. I think what people watched how all of the contestants took the criticism and how he we took the meat from the bone and applied it to make it our own. I listened and tried to apply everything that was shared with me.
KingdomSoldNYC: Kim of course is the coach on the show. There is this impression that she’s a tough coach and if we go back to previous episodes we will see that she has been dished some disrespect because of her sternness, so to speak. I want to flip it a lil and focus on the positive. What was the best advice she gave you while being on the show?
Cliff: When I was prepping for the song “War Cry” Kim Burrell told me to be the GENERAL! I remember thinking --- if I was a General how would I act? How would I walk? What’s my energy like? Kim’s Even now when I’m preparing to minister I think – what kind of energy should I bring to this song? What’s my role? Her advice shifted my perspective. Kim’s I wish you the best comment is one that most people remember. And I know that some people felt that she was being mean. In the moment, it was difficult to hear but it pushed me. As the show went on and we spent more time together in rehearsals she was so kind and so supportive. I learned so much from her and I appreciate her so much.
KingdomSoldNYC: That’s the thing about TV, we only see a glimpse of what the producers choose to show us. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, we don’t know what conversations you and Kim had before or even after- we see a glimpse of a moment.
Cliff: Exactly and she told me that she was glad that we got a chance to have one on one rehearsals because she got a chance to experience my heart. And that was my prayer throughout the entire show. I wanted people to connect with my heart. And it’s an even greater blessing to talk to people who watched the show and hear them say that they really connected with me because they felt my heart; it’s literally my prayers answered.
KingdomSoldNYC: So what’s next for you Cliff?
Cliff: I am so proud to be releasing my EP this year, these are songs that…
KingdomSoldNYC: Wait this year, we have few months left Bro
Cliff: Yup! Our goal is to release it this year. I have a great team that worked with me to make this happen. It really makes a difference when you have a team that you can trust; a team that knows your heart and your sound. I believe in every song on this EP and not just because it's my EP. These are songs that I’ve lived with; every song has helped me on my journey and I believe that it was important that before I release music that God shared with me, it needed to reach me first. And I know that God didn’t just intend for the music to reach me --- this EP has music that has the capacity to reach everyone who is open to receive it. One of my favorite songs is called I’ll Wait and it speaks to our posture during our waiting period – while God is fulfilling his promise through us. We choose our posture. We can wait in anger or we can wait with peace. When we wait peacefully we will find ourselves aligned with His will instead of our own. When this song came to me I was in a state of surrender and I felt vulnerable but I had no other choice but to wait peacefully. I am so glad that it is finally time to release what God has poured into me….I really am.
KingdomSoldNYC: I haven’t heard the song as yet, but the message from what you are telling me resonates...
Cliff: Absolutely. We all go through moments when we can see the vision but maybe it’s not unfolding the way that we imagined. We want it to happen overnight but we have to commit to journeying through the moment. At times it gets discouraging and frustrating and we’re human – we feel all of this, if we’re honest. But as soon as we work through our feelings we need to check our posture. We need to find our center and go back to what we know to be true – God has never changed His mind about us.
KingdomSoldNYC: “He Never Changed His Mind” did you write that?
Cliff: Warren Jones wrote that record. He is apart of a band called The Gideon Band. I had a writing session and we were actually at the end of the session and Warren shared that he had a song. So he sat down and played it and by the end everyone in the room was silent --- we felt it. And it was just one of those moments --- we knew it belonged on the EP. The lyrics are very simple but powerful. You know when someone's heart stops in the hospital and they have to get the defibrillator to charge it back to life? This song shocks you back to where you need to be. Before the creation of the world, He knew who you would be. Even in our lowest moments, He was there with us. We all have moments when we want to give up or we lose hope but He never changes his position about us. God’s love for us --- His will --- His commitment to us --- it never changes. And He reaches for us --- He whispers to us --- I’ve never changed my mind about you. I never stopped believing in you. Do what I’ve called you to do and go where I’ve assigned you to go. Finish. And no matter how old you are or where you are in your journey, this encouragement is needed. We need to be reminded that God is with us.
KingdomSoldNYC: I love the song, I love the lyrics, I’ve listened to it!!! I love to listen to song that sounds like it has been through the birthing process and literally pushed out of someone's spirit. So I love the song, I listen to it, It’s been an encouragement and I’ve added it to my morning playlist. So thank you!
Cliff: Are you serious? Oh wow…!!
KingdomSoldNYC: Yes! Like you said it has a shock effect and reminds you of where your mind needs to be.
Cliff: Oh my God, you’ve really blessed me. I’m excited to release new music but I am also nervous. It’s like it’s my baby in a way. And I wonder --- will people get it? Will it stretch them? Lots of thoughts and emotions and it's normal, I get it. But my prayer is that it reaches everyone who needs to hear it.
KingdomSoldNYC: Cliff, it’s been great talking with you. Where can we keep up to date with all that you're doing?
Cliff: You can visit me on social media – facebook, Instagram, twitter and periscope at CLIFTONROSSIII. You can visit me on www.cliftonrossiii.com for updates also. If you want me to come to your city you can email me at email@example.com. I have a vocal empowerment series called Empower Your Voice which was birthed out of my insecurity of teaching. I didn’t want to teach but people kept asking me, how do you sing? Or how do you hit this note? So I finally stopped running and started reaching for the answers. When I first started it was mostly geared towards singers but as the series has grown I’ve also spent a lot of time dealing with the mental and spiritual element of sharing your gift (no matter what it is) because this has a HUGE impact on us. I believe you can evolve as a singer but in order to do so you must evolve as a person because insecurities tend to spill out on stage and if we don’t confront them we can’t grow. We have to face them. And that’s a personal moment that everyone has to address within and once you face what’s bothering you, you will grow. So I encourage everyone to check out Empower Your Voice even if you aren’t a singer. Check it out at: youtube.com/cliross
KingdomSoldNYC: Anything your want to say promo, shout out, encouraging word...anything
Cliff: Keep believing! Keep waiting on the promises of God in your life but make sure your posture is one of peace. Remember that God NEVER changed His mind about you. Just. Keep. Going.
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