The story of 21:03 began with a casting call from PAJAM back in the early 2000s and has evolved into the tale of a singing and dancing gospel duo who’s set to release their fourth album on March 24th (pre-order here). Group members Torrence Greene and Evin Martin‘s newest project, Outsiders, embodies a developed sound they describe as “bold, loud, energetic, and even in its slower moments, contemplative and soulful,” but more importantly, includes a message they believe anybody can relate to.
In their below interview with Aliya Faust, 21:03 explains what it means to be an “outsider” and opens up about challenges they face as young men in and outside of the music industry. Torrence and Evin, who are also gearing up to embark on the “RV March Madness Tour” with J Moss, also share biblical lessons they’ve learned and applied over the years…
GOSPEL GOODIES: What inspired the name for your upcoming album, Outsiders?
TORRENCE: Everybody’s felt like an outsider before so we thought that everybody could identify with that. Being an outsider is not bad. Being an outsider is good. We wanted to promote that: being your individual self and not being afraid to express that. We wanted to challenge everybody to love who they are.
EVIN: The other side is, as the group 21:03, this is our fourth album and we’ve always kind of felt like we didn’t fit in a particular box. We’ve always been at times, a little too radical for the church and a little too sacred for secular music. It’s always been our sound. We’ve been in the industry now for 12 years and there isn’t another group that does what we do live or sounds like us. With that, we’ve just always felt different. And with this album, we’re just truly owning it. We’re just being comfortable in our skin and comfortable being different. The bible tells us in John (chapter 17) that we have to be in the world but not of it. And Jesus says he prays that we are kept from the evil one. So that’s what we want our supporters to identify with. There should be something different about you, that even when you’re in a dark place, you’re light. We want to encourage people to just glow and shine.
Do you guys ever feel like “outsiders” in any other situations?
TORRENCE: Most definitely. Growing up I had barriers. I’ll just say it, I’m short. I still look like I’m in high school [laughs]. Going out, partying with friends, I always feel a little awkward.
EVIN: I can agree with that. Most of my friends are in medical school or in corporate America, so when I’m with them, I look different from them too. I don’t have on my khakis or oxford shoes or polo; I may have on some harem, MC Hammer pants and a long t-shirt. I just don’t fit.
TORRENCE: Yeah, and then you have those friends that smoke and drink and curse…
I actually wanted to ask you guys about that. How do you deal with temptations as young men in the industry? Do you find yourself reacting differently because of who and what you represent in a public eye? Or is it kind of the same being a child of God in general?
EVIN: It varies. Sometimes there are situations you’re presented with where you want to yield to it, you may want to do what everybody else is doing, but because you are what you are and you do what you do, there are choices that you can’t make. Sometimes it just depends. Everyone’s poison is different. If you’re an alcoholic and someone tries to convince you with a cigarette, you don’t really care. But if somebody tries to convince you with a drink, then you may be tempted. So, being a young person and being a believer, you’re always going to be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. It’s our job to be examples, it’s our job to show love, to teach… to teach about love, grace and a merciful God, but it’s also our job not to take advantage of that. You have to sometimes take the long road because you don’t want to operate by the same standards and values as the world or even in your same field. It’s something that comes with being an “outsider.” It comes with the territory, thinking and doing things differently.
TORRENCE: To kind of piggyback off that, you have those people that are accountability partners and will put you in check. People who you can call and say ‘Well, I’m thinking about doing this and need your advice,’ and they’ll be like ‘Nah, you shouldn’t do that.’ But other than that, you have your pastors and your bishops that you can go talk to when you need to. And mainly it’s just the Word. The Word is true. It’s the truth that keeps us set. It’s our foundation. God said if you call to Him, he will hear you (Psalms 4:3). If you call Him, they say, He may not come when you want Him to, but He’ll be there right on time.
Like a friend! You guys have that old school track on Outsiders. What drove you to throw “A Friend” on the album?
EVIN: Every album, we intentionally try to throw something on there for everybody. We consider our music family-friendly, so if you’re riding in the car with your grandmom or your mom, you could put on our record. Everybody might not like the whole thing, but everybody will find something. We came across this old hymn [sings “what a friend we have in Jesus”] and just kind of expound off that: who He is to us. God is not only our Savior, but someone we can talk to. He’s someone we can depend on when no one else is there.
I was listening to some of your old stuff and I wouldn’t say you guys changed drastically, but there was a slight difference in your sound. What do you attribute the change to?
EVIN: When you first come in, your first album is almost like an experiment. You wait your whole life to be able to have the opportunity. Then you get it and you want people to like it so bad and you want to want to put your best foot forward and you’re ready, but as you age, it’s kind of like when you go to high school or college. You’re not the same person you were freshman year in your senior year. So, this is like our senior year. We’ve grown as men and as business men and we’ve grown in our walk. You hear that vocally. There’s a story behind some of that stuff.
Which song on Outsiders means the most to you both individually?
TORRENCE: There’s a song on there called “Priority” and it’s a song about making God your priority. Simple as that. Taking everything else out of the way… all the distractions, whether it be phone, email, TV, whatever, just making God number one in your life. It also has a real nice groove to it. It has a driving or cleaning up in the house groove to it [laughs]. I really love the groove.
EVIN: Mine is the same, but I’ll use another one. My second one would be “Square Circles.” The song kind of plays off the idiom that you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. I think a lot of us try to do that. We try to change people or ourselves to fit a certain mold we weren’t fit to. In the song we’re saying, just give it to Jesus because you can’t fix it yourself.
Listen to “A Friend”: