To say the new Worship Pastor at Grace on the Hill United Methodist Church in Corbin has had an interesting life is an understatement.
He’s overcome a hearing disability to excel as a professional musician. He’s a second cousin to country music legends Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle.
He toured for seven years as a stage musician for the likes of Percy Sledge and Stella Parton, among others.
“I think that I’m here now at Grace on the Hill … it’s just a God thing,” Michael Hall said only days after starting his new position at the church two weeks ago.
Hall met Grace on the Hill Pastor Weyman McGuire in Paintsville. Hall said he was serving at a church there in a part-time capacity.
McGuire thought he’d be a good fit in Corbin.
“I have a lot of experience in electronic media … podcasting and broadcasting and a lot of things like that,” Hall said. “They wanted to take the church to the next level with those kinds of things. He talked to me about it and I started pursuing it and prayed about it. Apparently, through God, this is where I am supposed to be.”
Hall said he lost 75 percent of his hearing as a toddler. His family finally figured things out when he had trouble learning to speak.
He’s never let that disability stop him musically, however. Much of his musical influence comes from his father’s side of the family. His grandmother sang in a gospel music chorus all her life, along with aunts and others.
“Music has always been a draw to me,” Hall said. “It’s relaxing. It’s soothing. When I was about eight-years-old, I got into band at school and learned to play the flute. From there, my interest just took off.”
Hall is proficient in numerous instruments including the guitar and piano. On Sundays at Grace on the Hill, he can be any number of places: playing an instrument and singing with the band, or behind the scenes running the soundboard or video equipment.
His flexibility could be attributed to life on the road as a professional musician. He graduated from high school in 1991, and said he spent about seven years playing with different performers several nights a week. One day he may be backing a country artist. The next, a Motown great like the late Percy Sledge.
Often, he had no idea who many of the other musicians were he’d be playing with. They show up, practice for a short while, and then play the gig.
“That’s pretty common,” Hall said. “Percy Sledge didn’t have a band. He’d just show up and whatever band was available, they’d just back him up.” He remembered fondly the time he got to play a show “on the front line” with Sledge because he was more adept at playing Motown music than the other members, largely country music musicians.
Married with three daughters, two college-aged and the other a sophomore in high school, Hall said the touring life, while fun, isn’t so good with a family.
“Sometimes I’ll get a phone call to play. I don’t travel by bus anymore, though. I just drive to the show and play and come back home,” Hall said.
At Grace on the Hill, Hall said he has big plans. He said the church band that plays onstage every Sunday, is already amazing and full of talented musicians and singers. He’d like to also form a choir at the church, and get the band out into the community more at events as part of an outreach effort.
“The band is just phenomenal. More people should hear them,” Hall said. “We plan on reaching out into the community within the church, but at the same time getting outside the church too. That’s a way to let people know the presence of God is in their town.”
Also in the works is a cross-platform, mobile app for the church that will help keep members and others informed about what’s going on at Grace on the Hill. He said he also plans to make it so the church can stream live broadcasts of services over the Internet at www.graceonthehill.org.