A Penns­port res­id­ent used  a pol­ished ap­proach to singing and storytelling to re­lease his de­but al­bum.

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.” 

Vis­it cd­baby.com/cd/earl­groomjr.


You can reach at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.