Music

Faith and football: Erica Campbell tells the gospel truth

The Grammy winner talks about the NFL Choir and the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration

Growing up, on any given Sunday, Grammy-winning gospel singer and radio host Erica Campbell had to do two things: go to church, and then pile on the couch at home and watch football. Dad’s rules. “No matter how we felt,” Campbell said from the room in her house that stores the awards she and her husband, producer Warryn Campbell, have collected over the course of their respective careers, “we watched football on Sunday after church.”

Surely her dad, the late pastor Eddie Aaron Atkins Jr., would be proud of how she’s spending the Big Game this weekend. One of the hottest events happening the week leading up to the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, which is the only gospel event sanctioned by the NFL for the big weekend. It’s in its 19th year — the first one happened in Miami in 1999 — and it brings out the biggest and best acts of the genre, including Gladys Knight, Yolanda Adams, The Winans, Donnie McClurkin and, of course, Mary Mary (Campbell’s duo act with her sister, Tina). The event was created by Melanie Few-Harrison, and this year’s extravaganza happened Thursday evening at the Benson Great Hall at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. A one-hour special is set to air on BET on Saturday at 11 p.m EST.

“I think it’s an amazing event, to invoke the presence and power of God, even for a football game,” said Campbell. She’s headlining the event for the first time as a solo artist. The coolest part of the concert? A choir made up of retired and current NFL players — and Campbell says they’re pretty good! “The people get up on their feet! It’s so awesome,” she said of the NFL choir. “I don’t know how long they rehearse, but by the time the show happens, they are ready!”