Photo by Maria Young
If Earl Groom Jr. had fulfilled his initial desire to become an architect, he would have revelled when looking skyward in planning and executing lofty designs. Though that path never materialized, he still has had ample cause to cast his eyes to the heavens thanks to his affinity for Christianity. The devout believer has honored his faith by composing “God Has a Way,” a gospel music collection that he dubs “a debut album 56 years in the making.”
“I’ve always thought that eventually one very fortunate door would open for me and that I’d be there ready to walk through it,” the Pennsport resident said not far from his Center City law firm job. “It’s not the destination but the journey that truly counts, and I have had a very educational march to where I am now.”
Groom has wed himself to the tireless promotion of the seven-track homage to his maker since its release last May. Recent regard for the songs and their availability through such titans as CD Baby, iTunes and Spotify have helped to reinforce his mission to “break all the rules, especially how old you got to be to be a superstar.”
“People can beat themselves up over wondering when it’s going to be their time,” the soon-to-be-57-year-old said. “That’s futile, though, because you can end up losing sight of all the wonderful things that happen to you each day. We have what we’d like to accomplish, and
then we have God saying it’s his will that’s going to move us at the right moment.”
Through the impressive record — which he dedicated to his mother, Ethel M. Groom, who died in 1998 — the confident chronicler explores the virtue of writing “from the inside out.” Groom believes everyone will identify with at least one element of the album’s contents. Enamored with the thought of reaching new heights through music, Groom finds it apt that he has looked to his allegiance to religion to scale any barriers to success.
“I wake up each day, and that’s a miracle, right?” he said. “People often lack perspective with respect to what they have, and I’m just trying to prove that if you persist, you’re going to have fruits come from your labors.”
As his efforts have begun to bear rewards, Groom has grown even more fond of the care and consideration that one must give to a passion, noting the constant pursuit of a goal will make the actualization of it that much more amazing. With his age as proof of his patience, he looks forward to pushing the thinking that age is just a number and that, as he said twice in explaining his quest for stardom, the cream always rises to the top.
“You must, must, must, must, must believe in yourself,” Groom said of never wavering from the possibilities inherent within a dream. “And when you find the means to give that vision even more power and direction, don’t you dare think about lapsing into old ways of thinking about whether it’s all worth it. You owe it to yourself to know that you’re on the road to greatness through God.”
The Jersey City native said that as the youngest of three children, he always wanted the lion’s share of attention to go to him, with music eventually replacing architectural interests as that which could build his esteem and cause a few curious ears to bend his way. Realizing as a high school sophomore that tunes would help to tout his talent, he set himself to wondering how he could situate himself in the creative universe, with Los Angeles eventually proving an irresistible lure.
“It can be so time-consuming to find out what is right for you,” Groom said of the struggle to gain stability in professional pursuits, friendships, and relationships. His 15-year West Coast residency yielded him acting opportunities as well. .
“For me, I think we’re all on a little roller coaster ride known as life, and you have to be very discerning as you apply yourself to situations and fight through predicaments.”
Music will forever be the majestic means for the performer to be a diligent deliverer of positive messages and has allowed him to land gigs for, among others, the Los Angeles-based Shrine Auditorium and The Wiltern, the New York-situated 13th Street Theatre, and Philadelphia destinations Broad Street Ministry, Chris’ Jazz Cafe, The Raven Lounge, and World Cafe Live. While those sites have helped him to actualize his childhood dream of having ample attention come his way, Groom has realized their greater benefit, namely, the opportunity to give praise for his lot in life.
“It’s great to convey your personal journey and realizations through songs,” he said. “I’m especially blown away by my chances to try to comfort people no matter their situation. That’s a natural by-product, I’d say, of writing from the heart. We all know the right thing to do, of that I’m sure, and it’s those detours that get us in trouble. If music can be a reminder that you got to go on, you know I’ll be opening my mouth until the day I die.”
Whenever he utters heartfelt encouragement, Groom figures to find inspiration for future releases, as he noted his catalog is “quite extensive.” Not looking to rush beyond this brainchild, he considers “God Has a Way” a celebration of the wonders of working on oneself in the search for growth. He feels, creatively, that this is his “Thriller,” a reference to Michael Jackson’s landmark 1982 release. Having called South Philly home for a considerable time, he appreciates its tight-knit nature and certainly could see observations made from his time here finding their way into his work.
“No matter where you find inspiration, run with it,” Groom said. “Let yourself be the one who determines how much you invest in your calling. Look at me. Fifty-six years old, and I’m not giving up on anything.”