With a burgeoning songwriting career, a hit album and a single, “My Name Is Victory” climbing both the R&R and Billboard charts, things just couldn’t get much better for Jonathan Nelson, who until this year was a relative newcomer to the national gospel scene. That is until the October 21 announcement of nominees for the 24th Annual Stellar Awards.
An ecstatic Nelson landed eight, including Song of the Year, Group/Duo of the Year, Producer of the Year and Contemporary Male of the Year. Just one other artist—Marvin Sapp—received more.
“It’s incredible, especially since I feel like everybody is doing incredible work—Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Marvin Winans…” says Nelson, who once studied classical music at the Baltimore School for the Arts. “So many great projects came out this year, and I’m just excited that I was able to stay in each category that I was eligible for.”
Never mind, says Nelson that “it’s going to be a Marvin Sapp year. I’m just happy to be in the mix. This is his (Marvin’s) year you know,” Nelson continues, “and for me to be able to get just a piece of the spotlight along with him…I’m excited about that.”
It wouldn’t be the first win for Nelson who, as a songwriter, took home a Stellar in 2006 for Song of the Year for Donald Lawrence’s hit tune, “I'm Healed.” Nor is it his first nomination, having won praise and a nod for his writing and performing of lead vocals on Youth for Christ’s “The Struggle Is Over,” which spent four weeks atop Billboard's gospel singles chart.
With Nelson facing off against Sapp in two of the eight categories (including Song of the Year), he thinks his chances are pretty good at taking home an award or two, perhaps even Urban Inspirational Single of the Year for “My Name Is Victory.” He’d really like that.
In the meantime, the Integrity Music recording artist has been spending a great deal of time on the road, with the success of his debut CD, Right Now, escalating bookings to fever pitch.
Nelson, who serves as minister of music at Baltimore's Empowerment Temple A.M.E. Church, formed his backup group, dubbed Purpose, when he needed background vocals in 2000 while working with Karen Clark Sheard. They made their recording debut in 2002 with the release of an independent project Live in Baltimore: Everything You Are, which showcased Nelson’s songwriting skills more than the group itself.

“When people started to hear the songs and said they wanted to record them, and when I saw the potential of the living one could make as a songwriter, I’m like, ‘okay this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ As I got into it, I developed a group and we started singing and performing.”
As a result of the economy, Nelson’s been performing as a solo artist more often than he’d anticipated.
“At first I was nervous and I didn‘t think I could make it [without my group]. They did the background for my project. But the economy has changed everything and a lot of people are just calling for me. Now, I have adjusted to it.
“With the record company it’s like I’m a single artist. In my mind though, everywhere I go my singers are with me because they’re on my tracks,” said the Baltimore native, whose dad recently retired as pastor at the Greater Bethlehem Temple where his brother, also a great singer, now pastors.
“What I can tell you is I am enjoying the ride and have no complaints about the process.”