Women in Music 2019

Harlem Gospel Travelers Premiere 'He's On Time' Album, 'Am I Doing Enough?' Video

Jacob Blickenstaff
Harlem Gospel Travelers

Gospel music has always been part of Eli "Paperboy" Reed's musical makeup, so it wasn't a stretch for him to get involved with the New York nonprofit Gospel For Teens. Not long after, he spun off the Harlem Gospel Travelers, a quartet whose debut album He's On Time is premiering exclusively below ahead of its Oct. 11 release date.

"I love quartet music," Reed, who also sang in the Boston quartet the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers, tells Billboard. "I think male quartet leads are, like, the most important when it comes to influence. Sam Cooke came out of the Soul Stirrers. People like Jackie Wilson and Bobby Womack, they were all quartet singers. Nothing against choir music, but it never really struck me as being as emotional and fervent. I've been heavy into quartet music since I was a teenager."

Reed was introduced to Gospel For Teens by his father, through his work with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. "Back in 2014 he said, 'Why don't you come check out this gospel music program in Harlem with me?'" Reed recalls. He wound up teaching a class in quartet music, eventually finding the four young singers -- Thomas Gatling, Asher Bethune, Stephen Pedley and George Marage, all ages 19-22 -- who comprise the Harlem Gospel Travelers.

"They were the ones who showed the most interest," Reed says. "I saw them in the choir, where they were relegated to background roles, singing these tenor and baritone parts. They didn't really get a chance to show off their voices and what they do, so I brought them out of that and developed them into a group of their own." Gatling, in fact, wound up writing four of the 10 songs for He's On Time, including "Am I Doing Enough?" whose video is also premiering here.

"I'm more satisfied with this than anything else I've ever been a part of in my whole life -- from the production of it to the artwork, everything," says Reed, who's no longer teaching at Gospel For Teens and is on a "paternity leave" from music, though planning to make a new album this winter. "I think it's something that could really turn a lot of people's heads. I think they're so talented. I haven't heard anything that sounds like this record in however many years -- or ever. The sound of the group is great. These young men are all in college now and have their lives, but I hope they do more because they're just so great together."

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